Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pipeline Trail Bus Tour

“We should all be allowed to have exposure to nature and nice things--not only those who can afford it.” Elizabeth Seidl, Coordinator of Pipeline Trail Crown Point Action Planning Team.

Elizabeth Seidl describes herself as a “listener.”
“I’ll hear something, other people’s suggestions; if there is a problem.” That’s how this interior designer and resident of Crown Point neighborhood got the idea of reinvigorating the Pipeline Trail last summer to a place of beauty and recreation for everyone.

After organizing a “Jane’s Walk” along the trail last spring (Jane Jacob was a sustainable urban planner) Seidl was introduced to the idea of planting milkweed. “I went home and learned about the problem with declining pollinator populations.”
The vision fell into place at this point.

The 5km-long pipeline trail running from Main at Ottawa, all the way to Woodward Museum of Steam and Technology is important: Not only is there a history of water, but there is also a story to be told about what was here even before that, “And we are bringing some of that back,” Seidl enthuses.

A few other people shared the vision and together, in less than a year’s time, got things rolling in and key stakeholders conversing with one another.
Photo credit-seam Hurley.

Some of these players include the Pollinator Paradise Project (PPP), who are now in the midst of working with the newly formed Pipeline Trail Crown Point Action Planning Team—the group that emerged in order to naturalize the trail and make it “a beautiful place in which to linger,” as Seidl puts it.
“I randomly discovered the PPP and connected with Jen Baker (HNC). We submitted a proposal together for a neighbourhood action grant and got it.”

Over the weekend, in order to move forward on the revitalizing trail project, many of the players, including City of Hamilton landscape and traffic staff, rode an HSR chartered bus to examine critical areas of the trail: What are some of the obstacles to pedestrian traffic (for example, there is an industrial area that is impossible for pedestrians to go through)? What are the challenges?

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Morning with Bev Wagar (or Creating Pollinator Paradise in our City).

It’s a frisky winter morning outdoors in Bev Wagar’s east Hamilton garden.
Wagley, the mutt is tearing around the modest-sized yard but this Master Gardener’s not worried. “I don’t clean up my gardens in the fall,” Wagar says, “because spent leaves provide protection from the temperatures. And you have to clean up in the spring, besides.”

I’m here for a first hand demonstration on how to winter sow native plants so that I can blog about it for the Pollinator Paradise Project (Hamilton Naturalist Club and Environment Hamilton). This is a project that aims to feed pollinators such as bees and butterflies by creating habitat, and winter sowing—growing seeds in clear, mini greenhouses outdoors—is part of the process.

It might seem ironic that an urban centre like Hamilton, maligned and polluted as it is, can actually be a haven for pollinators; but with neonicotinoids in the fields, loss of habitat and fragmentation of rural lands, cities could be our best bet for opportunities to feed these helpful critters (and our local food security too).

Wagar points out the baby shoots that are growing in the makeshift greenhouses she’s made out of recycled plastic containers. The idea is to duplicate in a controlled way, what nature does when plants drop their seeds in the fall; known as “cold-moist stratification,” freezing temperatures and fluctuating night time temperatures break the seed's dormancy.

The eventual plants will likely be donated to the Pollinator Paradise Project’s east Hamilton Crownpoint partners with the Pipeline Trail—a swath of green space along a former watermain.
As we walk around, Wagar reams of exotic sounding names of plants, and I try to keep up, jotting down how I think they might be spelled. Her obvious delight in a garden she is able to visualize months ahead, at spring’s warm embrace is contagious. I’m catching the buzz.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A family's growing connection to the Monarch Butterfly.

“I like the feeling of them on my hand, and just looking at them,” says Sean Melanson (9). “They’re so beautiful.”

Sean is talking about the monarch butterflies he helps raise with his family, out of concern for declining populations (for reasons associated with pesticide use and loss of habitat).

“They are an endangered species. If they go extinct that will be bad,” Sean’s older brother, Calvin (11) comments.
Four years ago, parents, Sunila and Devin started trying to encourage pollinators on their property by planting 36 “common milkweed” plants.  Not surprisingly, their action sparked an interest in the boys around monarch health.

The Melansons take being in nature seriously. Together they camp, hike, and cycle, taking every opportunity to explore and identify the species of whatever the area they travel to.

“We have always tried to nurture the kids sense of wonder,” says Devin. “Even as toddlers, we encouraged them to see what native flowers they could find.”

The family visited the Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge and got a book on how to raise monarch.

In the second year of the project, the family purchased two-dozen eggs from a certified breeder in Peterborough because no monarchs came that summer.

Last summer, the family deepened their commitment to raising monarchs by nurturing even more of them.

The boys would check daily to see if the females had laid eggs on the leaves of the milkweed plants.

Once a sesame seed sized egg is spotted, the leaf of the plant is cut and put into a container in moist conditions until the egg becomes a caterpillar. The caterpillar is then carried in a larger container where it will keep eating milkweed leaves until it forms a chrysalis.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

#BeesMatter? Not to pesticide lobby groups.

There has been a bit of confusion caused by a pesticide lobby funded “open letter to Ontarians” published a couple times this week as a full-page ad in all the major newspapers, pretending that they care about bees. The letter is written on behalf of Ontario Farmers and agricultural industries like Croplife.

Yeah right. There is no concern but the bottom line--and that is making a profit.

Catherine Porter has written a great response to this nonsense in today's Toronto Star .

 The Ontario Beekeepers Association has much to say about this deception--and they should know about bees and bee health better than anyone else. Here's an excerpt from their Media Release of Feb 2nd:

Let’s compare what the ad claims to what beekeepers know to be true:
The ad claims: “Honey bee colonies are up almost 60% since 2003, when the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments were introduced.” 

Last winter Ontario beekeepers lost 58% of their hives. The number of honey bee colonies (measured in mid summer) does not reflect the large number of colonies lost each winter, nor does it reflect the 30,000 queens or nearly 20,000 bee packages that beekeepers had to purchase to replace the unusually high number of colonies that failed in the winter and spring. We also want to stress that although honey bee colonies can be managed by beekeepers to sustain their numbers, reports indicate serious declines among wild bees and other pollinators. 
The ad claims:” Honey production has increased by 29% in the past year and Ontario has a successful honey beekeeping industry which earned $30 million in 2014.”