Life stages of the mealworm beetle in my hand – one larva, two pupae and one adult
Late winter and early spring are good seasons to attract desirable bird species to your yard. Birds are not brooding eggs yet because they need to wait until later in spring when there is enough insect food to feed their young. However, they are now engaged in, well, getting engaged! In other words many birds are scouting out nest sites and selecting mates if they haven’t done that already. Some of the most sought-after backyard bird species are heavy insect eaters. Raising live mealworms is so easy, I started by accident!
Perennial is a non-profit community workshop and store with the mission of building a creative culture of sustainability and turning discarded items into valuable resources. As an artist and craftsperson who already is enthusiastic about using recycled materials, I was delighted when my friend Mary (pictured at top left) invited me to meet her there and try out one of the community workshop sessions.
I met Mary at a Creative Arts Fellowship last year and got to know her better at some subsequent events. Mary’s art and mine have a lot in common – we both like upcyling materials and taking apart old jewelry to make new. I enjoyed teaching a class with Mary recently at one of her Women’s Upcycled Jewelry Jams. I’m looking forward to more opportunities for Mary and I to collaborate. A gifted artist and teacher, Mary creates under the name Sanctified Studios.
I knew I’d love Perennial after being in there for about two minutes! Seeing all the nice work space, supplies and tools was exciting but what really sold me was the console stereo! Clearly my retro-loving, thrift-shopping, dumpster-diving self was going to feel comfortable here.
At my first work session I cut up some wood for an upcoming class I’m going to be teaching on building garden pollinator houses. Then I put together a wood tray that I’ll be finishing and writing about later.
You can become a member of Perennial to access the work space and use the tools when they hold open sessions. Different levels of membership also give you discounts on classes and other events. Perennial accepts donations of materials. You can trade or purchase some of the materials for what you think is a fair market value. They also make craft kits that are for sale in the shop.
Art and crafting can often be lonely activities. Working around other artists is really healthy for social interaction and for the stimulation of being around new ideas. I’m looking forward to many happy times while I enjoy my new membership!
I’m a volunteer at the Litzinger Road Ecology Center in Ladue. Volunteers and on some occasions the public are invited to educational events on the premises. I recently attended a session for volunteers to learn about why the prairie sections at the center are periodically burned and an introduction about how to start a fire, control the fire, and perform the burn safely.
The Lower Meramec River, which runs from Sullivan, MO to the Mississippi River, is not one of the most popular sections to paddle. If you enjoy lake paddling or exploring large rivers, you might want to take another look at the Lower Meramec. I paddled two sections recently and enjoyed it tremendously.
On August 27, 2016 I joined some other volunteers to participate in Operation Clean Stream, sponsored by the Open Space Council. On this day there were several locations we could pick from. I brought my own kayak this time so I chose a route that was not serviced by an outfitter.
I checked in at Castlewood State Park in Wildwood and met a great group of people at the put-in point on the beach. This fun and hard-working group of volunteers and I headed downstream toward our eventual takeout point at Green Tree Park in Kirkwood.
At one point I had to paddle upstream for awhile to go back to that sandbar because I thought I had lost an item there. It turned out I hadn’t lost it but I did learn one thing – it’s pretty easy to paddle upstream (perhaps up to Route 66 State Park?) so it’s possible to go for a solo paddling outing from here without worrying about a shuttle. Just paddle upstream for awhile then downstream again to get back to your vehicle.
Taking photos like those above could be hazardous to your safety if you are not careful! The current is pretty swift here so I probably should have concentrated on steering the kayak. It was pretty awesome to see all the logs stuck in and on the bridge from the Flood of 2015 which was of historic proportions – can you believe the water got that high? This bridge is not far from Simpson Lake, where I participated in flood cleanup in February.
I’m pictured at the left with Eric and Kim. On the right are Simon and Tim at the takeout point at Greentree Park, displaying part of our haul. It’s only about a six mile float from Castlewood State Park to Greentree, but it took us a good part of the day because we stopped a lot for trash. Trying to retrieve trash from a boat in a current will really test your paddling skills – you have to be able to maneuver in and out of tight spots, enter and exit frequently without tipping, be able to approach and dock alongside obstacles safely and have a good idea how far over you can lean to grab something. You’ll exercise different parts of your body than you’re used to – a great workout!
On August 14, 2016 I joined a number of other paddle sports enthusiasts at Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort in Leasburg, MO for a day of cleaning trash from the local streams as part of Operation Clean Stream. We had our choice of different route lengths. I selected the 9 mile route which placed me with a few recreational floaters on the Bluffs section of the Meramec River. Other volunteers who opted for shorter routes were taken to put-in points on the Courtois and Huzzah rivers. Ozark Outdoors provided breakfast, trash bags, vessels, paddling gear and transportation. At the end of the day we dropped off our trash and equipment on the beach at the resort. Since I was the only volunteer to choose the long route, I was one of the last if not THE last to finish.
It rained for nearly the entire day, which I didn’t find to be a bad experience at all. My nylon rain poncho eventually soaked through but it was warm enough for me not to get cold and my torso was warmed by my life jacket. The rain was quite soothing and beautiful and it’s nice to see the river in different conditions. Rainy weather proved to be no impediment to picking up trash, in a way it made it a little more pleasant because at least the trash was fairly clean! Every time I stopped to clean up a sandbar I had to bail out the canoe with a Gatorade bottle that I found but that was no big deal. I didn’t bring my phone because it doesn’t hold a charge very well these days so my only photo of the day is of the trash pile (at the end of this article) when I was able to recharge the phone enough to get a picture. The Ozark Outdoors Facebook Page has some photos of the event.
The Bluffs section is very scenic and I recommend it for a great float. I have floated that stretch before but did not use the same outfitter so my put in and take out points were not the same. Ozark Outdoors used land they own for both so I’m not exactly sure where the put-in point is on the map at the beginning of this article. It was at the former site of a resort called The Bluffs which no longer exists.
Ozark Outdoors is practically right across the river from Onondaga Cave State Park. If you’re camping at the park, the resort has a well-stocked store if you need to make a run for more provisions. The resort is large and has a lot of services – cabins, camping, pay showers, ample restrooms, canoe and kayak rental and more. The staff seemed to be organized, friendly and committed to promoting responsible enjoyment of our streams.
Build an attractive garden home out of wood for native bees and other valuable pollinating insects. We will paint our homes to make them pretty and decorate some of the surfaces with stencils. All materials except the bamboo segments shown in the picture will be included. The wood will be cut ahead of time. The skills you will use in the class are: sanding, nailing, painting and stenciling. You will be instructed on what kinds of materials to fill the house with. The bamboo shown in the picture is one option you can use but there are others.
Class Title: Build a Pollinator House When: June 04, 2016 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm Where: Studio:art 7403 Manchester Rd., Maplewood, MO 63143 Map & Directions Price: $40.00.
Are you interested in celebrating holidays in a more eco-friendly manner? I hope you can join me for my next class at my new Studio! Learn rubber stamping and other paper craft techniques as we make Biodegradeable Easter Baskets. We will use plantable seed paper and other compostable materials to make Easter baskets that you can bury in the garden after use! If growing conditions are right you may be able to grow some flowers too! Supplies are included in the class price.
I will have paper, cardstock, seed paper, templates, rubber stamps, ink, stamp pads, paper cutters, stamp mounting blocks, tape, glue and other tools and supplies available for you to use during the class. If you have any of the following tools or supplies, it would be helpful to bring them – there will be less wait to use tools if participants bring some – but it’s not a requirement. If you bring tools please mark them to indicate ownership.
Optional tool and supply list:
Clean scrap paper
Stamping ink pads and re-inkers
Acrylic stamp mounting blocks
Small hole punch
If you have any questions about the class please feel free to contact me.
If you choose to pay ahead of time to get the discount for pre-paying, I will send you a PayPal invoice via email. Alternately if you prefer to pay by Square I can take your information over the phone. Credit card processing at the studio will be with Square. Beginners are welcome. Children under 18 must be enrolled with a parent as I think parents are best able to judge their child’s ability level and what tools they should be allowed to use.
Supplies for the class are included in the class price. I will have some paper crafting supplies available for purchase the day of the class in case you see anything you want to add to your stash but you will not need to purchase anything additional to make the class project.
As was decided at the November 17 board meeting, I attended the Building and Landscaping Committee Meeting on December 9 to explain my garden plan in detail and answer questions. The committee as a whole determined that I was following the by-laws and previous decisions by the board so I was to continue my plan with the compromises we agreed to worked in. The person who complained about my garden is to get a letter saying I’m managing my garden in accordance with the board and the by-laws and they can manage their own garden the way they like it. The landscapers came around for another round of leaf removal in late December and once again skipped my garden as agreed and I am very happy!
On January 1st and 3rd, I applied 20 more bags of mulch, bringing the total number of bags of mulch I’ve applied this season to 82. This time I went to the Clayton mulch pile where they have shredded leaf mulch available for the taking. It’s darker in color than the wood chip mulch I’ve been using, so I’m hoping topping the beds off with a darker layer will help my garden blend in a little bit with the neighboring areas which have not been mulched yet (that’s usually done in February and only every other year) and have only bare soil showing.
I do think the results are an improvement as you see here:
Comments from others have given me some ideas and I think the results are better than if I had not had any feedback – so far the collaboration and cooperation is resulting in a more attractive garden than if we had gone all my way or all their way. This is how it should work, how I hoped it would work and is the reason I engaged management at each step. If I can successfully pull off a sustainable garden in a condo complex, many others might learn from my experiment how to go about it. Many people all over the country who want to garden in a way that benefits the environment are dealing with the same challenges. Although I am not trying to grow food like the people in the article I can relate to some of the difficulties – for example getting permission for something according to the by-laws then getting threatened with punishment for doing it, which has happened to me more than once. Many organizations and governments are working at cross-purposes and giving their citizens mixed messages and not communicating effectively with each other or the people they are supposed to serve and the citizens suffer as a result. I think too many large organizations see their constituents or customers as subjects. The communication situation in my case has improved greatly and I’m optimistic about the future.
I’ve considered removing more of the liriope since it is not a plant native to Missouri and I want to have more native plants, but I changed my mind because liriope is all over the entire complex and having some in my garden will help with visual continuity. I’ll just keep planting around it and thinning it now and then to keep it in check. Some of the feedback I got indicated that the garden doesn’t so much look bad in their opinion as it looks different and that bothers some people. Looking different was definitely my goal because I don’t think the rest of the complex is as attractive as many other people think but since I know what a healthy garden is supposed to look like I’m seeing it in a completely different way than most people and I do realize that. To me a healthy garden is a beautiful garden, to others an unhealthy garden might be more attractive because they don’t understand what they are seeing. I think blending it in a bit better will help.
I didn’t have enough mulch this time around to cover the path area in the back as well as the planting beds, so my next step in the garden will be to get some more wood chip mulch to cover the path areas. The back garden in particular tends to look a little chaotic at times because my goal is to leave some of the dead plants standing through winter to provide habitat for wildlife and to keep the garden healthy. I think the contrasting color path area does help the appearance because it makes it look a little more ordered.
Once that is done, the next aesthetic issue I would like to address in the garden is that white pipe cap sticking up. I have an idea for a way to conceal that and another cap that is nearby that is not shown in these pictures. I’ll write about what I plan to with that later, and we’ll see if the condo association approves it.
In addition to mulching to cover up the fallen leaves in the planting beds, I applied more fertilizer and raked up the front yard. I’m not required to care for the grassy areas – the landscapers remove the leaves periodically – but it’s in my best interest to rake the area around my garden because when the grassy areas look messy my garden gets blamed. It’s understandable that people don’t distinguish between the parts I maintain and the parts the association maintains – how would they know? It looks like one unit and I’m going to start treating it as such. The leaf blowers the landscapers use leave some of the twigs behind and it does look better with the twigs raked up as well. I used what I raked up to help build up a small raised bed where I hope to grow something later.
These photos show spots near my unit that are not part of my garden that are suffering from not being mulched – with all the rain we’ve had lately in the St. Louis area (which I’m sure you heard about in the news!) erosion can be a problem. My garden area did not have erosion at all because it was well mulched. I’ve gone through a lot of expense and time over the last 11 years building up better soil in the planting beds – I don’t want it to go down the drain!
I went to the board meeting on 11/17/15 to explain my garden management plan. The plan had been agreed to back in February, but there had allegedly been a complaint about it so I thought I’d better explain to the board what the plan was and how I planned to deal with the complaint. I’m not allowed to know who made it so I have to take their word for it that it happened at all. Also I requested a copy of the complaint with the personal information blocked out and I was told I’d get it but I don’t have it yet, so I’m skeptical about whether it exists at all.
It seems that one board member is bitter and resentful that I even have a garden at all, she apparently thinks I don’t deserve “special treatment”. It seems likely that no matter how I manage my garden she will be unhappy that it exists. I did not know this until the meeting but apparently gardening permits are no longer issued at the complex. I got mine in January 2005 so unless the board votes otherwise it seems my garden along with several others is “grandfathered in”. To be angry with me over this doesn’t seem like a very fair attitude to me because the only reason I even got the idea to start a garden here was that the association used to advertise in the newsletter to come to the office and get a permit to start a garden. In other words, I was invited. You can’t rely on the word of the management about too many things, they’ve followed through on several of their agreements with me but have blown off several others. Some of this is no doubt because of the large size of the complex but it’s difficult to rely on their word for anything. If you rely on what they say you are likely to get attacked for it later, even you have it in writing. Some of the people who work here are wonderful to deal with and some give you the impression that they’d be happier if you left and never came back. That is why I would not advise anyone to move here – unless you enjoy conflict and stress. Otherwise there are a lot of good things about it.
Unit owners are only allowed a short time to speak, there is a timer that goes off when your time is up. People are allowed to make anonymous complaints about you but if you want to defend yourself you have to go on the record which I don’t mind doing but I sure wish the alleged detractors if they exist were man or woman enough to do the same. The PowerPoint presentation I had prepared was far too detailed to deal with in the time allowed so I requested to present it at the Building and Landscape committee meeting on December 9 and that request was granted. In the meantime, I suggested a couple of compromises on the North and West sides of the building to make the garden blend in a little better with the rest of the complex which were accepted for now. With those small adjustments I’m to proceed with my plan until the Dec. 9 meeting. What will happen after that I don’t know. The management has a copy of my plan along with my contact information and has my permission to share that information with anyone who would like to talk to me about the garden. I have strong ideas about how I want to manage the garden but I also have strong ideas about not causing problems for my neighbors. If a compromise can be reached I want to try it and not just give up. Some things ARE negotiable. My garden has become habitat to lots of delightful creatures since I started it and is also habitat for at least one endangered species – the Monarch Butterfly. For them, I want to try to keep it going.
On November 19 the leaf blower guys came around again and this time they confirmed with me that I wanted them to skip my garden and I would manage the leaves myself. I confirmed that was the case and sent an email to the condo association and the landscaping company to thank them profusely for their cooperation.
On November 23, I applied 20 more bags of mulch to cover the leaves that had fallen since the last mulch application. That was not enough to do the whole job so I did the North and West sides first which are visible from the street. I’ll do the rest at the earliest opportunity – probably today. I also applied some more blood and bone meal fertilizer and the last of my oat seeds which I’m using as a cover crop.
November 24 – 20 more bags of mulch completed the job, for now.
I’m fortunate that I’m allowed to garden in the condo community where I live. My garden has been a tremendous source of pleasure and personal fulfillment for the last 11 years. It’s also been a source of occasional frustration. I realize that my gardening style, while common in some circles, is a bit avant-garde for a community where landscapers who don’t use sustainable practices do most of the garden work.
Any time people do something different there is an adjustment period and some conflicts. When you garden in a community others’ needs have to be taken into consideration. I’ve found that so far that any challenges that come up can be resolved satisfactorily with open communication and creative compromises. I think all gardens are experimental and frustrating to a degree, in my opinion anyone who sticks with gardening a long time accepts this as part of the deal.
My garden is on a really difficult site. When I started the soil was almost pure clay. I have no areas of full sun. I have building shade. I’m surrounded by huge oak trees – they are beautiful and I love them but gardening beneath them is far from easy. Human interference is by far the biggest obstacle to having a good garden at this site. Most people probably would have given up on this project years ago but I’ve gained so much knowledge along the way that I will never regret it. I hope others will benefit from what I’ve learned also by reading about what I’ve done.
2015 has been the most promising season yet, up until what I hope is a minor setback a few days ago. I don’t want it to escalate so I’m going to give a presentation to the board this evening as I understand there are one or more new members. What will the outcome be? Check this space to find out!
View the presentation here (if you don’t know the back story it’s in there):