Photo and article by Donna Iverson
Three seed catalogs arrived in December, and one of them offered a seed packet labeled “honey bee garden.” I purchased the “honey bee garden” seed packet, aiming to grow some new flowers for the bees, come next summer
This past summer, my community garden bed was divided in half ..half for the bees and half for me.The half for me was planted with salad greens, like lettuce, chives, arugula, and radishes. In the other half, I grew sunflowers and calendula, flowers attractive to pollinators. Both me and the bees ate well with daily foraging.
When the seed packet arrived, I looked at the list of flowering seeds inside, and decided to do a little research on them. The list was long including aster, coneflower, hyssop, cosmos, poppies, clover, and forget-me-nots.
Googling “bees,” a YouTube link appeared featuring a TED talk by Nicholas Dorian. The talk was entitled, “We’re saving the wrong bees.”Native bees are under threat due to a loss of habitat and use of insecticides, while honey bees are doing just fine,” he says. Dorian’s notes that honey bees are domesticated, live in hive colonies, and are raised by humans. Native bees are one their own, wild, solitary, and endangered.
After listening to Dorian’s TED talk, I decided to plant food for native bees. Bees with names like leaf-cutter, carpenter bees, squash bees, sweat bees, miner bees and the ubiquitous bumble bee.
So what plants do native bees prefer? Turns out, they are often specialized and not generalists like the honey bees. For example, the squash bee is attracted to squash blossoms. Doing a little more research, I found that all bees prefer plants native to their environment. Luckily, the seed packet contained mostly native plants. Bees also prefer simple flowers, not complex structures, and prefer flower colors of blue, purple, white and yellow.
Besides planting native flowers, what else can gardeners do to attract native bees? Among the most important are leaving leaves over winter, and perhaps a dead log to provide habitat. Discontinue the use of pesticides and leave a little open ground for them to dig nests for their young.
Bees are important to our own survival. The vast majority of plants we need for food rely on pollination, especially by bees,” according to Friends of the Earth. Bees pollinate 35% of our food, while 75% of plant species require an insect to pollinate them.
The Honey Bee Garden seed packet is available at https://www.seedsavers.org where you can request a free garden catalog.
Photo and article by Donna Iverson
Recently, the Old Farmer's Almanac ran an article on plants of the winter solstice. They include Yew, Oak, Pine, Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe. These trees and plants were used in ceremonies at the winter solstice by the ancient Greeks, Druids, Celts and Norse.
Ceremonies included burning a Yule log, retelling tales of the Holly King and his reindeer, and making kissing balls of holly and mistletoe. The kissing balls were hung and couples were required to kiss when passing under one.
Today, mistletoe can still be found during the holiday season adorning entrance ways. Symbolizing life, it is an evergreen that retains its green color all year.
In the wild, it provides food and shelter for birds and animals, such as house wrens, chickadees, and mourning doves. Squirrels also nest in its foliage. It also provides food for pollinators like butterflies and bees. Its berries are mostly white but can be red or pink depending on the species.
Mistletoe is native to North America and Canada. A parasite, it attaches itself high in the branches of trees and bushes, especially the Oak tree. Mistletoe foliage can grow to five feet wide and weigh 50 pounds. It does not kill its host tree but can cause damage to its branches. Mistletoe in trees look like baskets, and have been called “witches brooms” and thought to ward off evil spirits.
There are over a thousand species of Mistletoe, which belongs to the genus Phoradendron. Its common names include the tree thief, kiss and go, and the healing plant. While toxic if eaten, it was nevertheless used in ancient times as a tonic for menstrual cramps, spleen disorders, epilepsy, and ulcers. Today scientists are studying its properties as a possible cure for colon cancer.
While bird droppings are the way that mistletoe is usually propagated, you can grow it yourself. Mash the berries into the bark of a healthy tree, especially oak, and it will migrate through the tree's circulatory system and establish itself in the tree’s branches. For more details on growing your own Mistletoe, checkout:
Winter Reading, New Young Adult Book Club, Healthy Living, & More at Fremont Library in January
The Fremont Area District Library is planning to host several fun and educational events in January for the whole family. These events are FREE, as always.
The Winter Reading Challenge for all ages is back this year beginning January 2nd, and runs through March 3rd. Children can sign up in the Children’s Department and teens and adults can sign up at the Reference Desk. Each age group will get a reading log with a challenge to complete, and when finished, you can bring it in for a prize. Teens will also be entered into raffle drawings for each book read. Winter Reading is generously sponsored by Koffee Kuppe and Friends of the Fremont Area District Library.
Storytimes will begin again and run from January 18th-April 13th. Toddler Storytime, for babies and toddlers up to age 3, will be held on Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m., and Family Storytime for children up to age 5 will be held on Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. A special Snowman Saturday Storytime, for children up to age 5 will be on January 28th at 11:00 a.m. in the Community Room in partnership with the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce’s Cabin Fever events. We’ll also be showing Disenchanted (PG; 119 min) as our Afternoon Movie on Thursday, January 26th at 3:30 p.m. Snacks will be served, and all are welcome.
We’ll show the new Elvis movie for our Movie Monday on January 9th at 2:00 p.m. (PG-13; 159 min). Snacks will be provided. Junk Journaling for ages 10 and up will take place on Thursday, January 12th anytime between 6:00-8:00 p.m. This is a scrapbooking and journal hybrid. Use up what you have and supplement with found, recycled, repurposed and thrifted items. Materials provided.
A presentation on Healthy Living for Your Brain and Body for adults of any age will take place on Wednesday, January 11th at 2:00 p.m. Learn 7 tips for keeping your brain and body healthy based on the latest research. Includes a 4-page participant workbook to help you create your own plan for healthy aging, presented by the Alzheimer's Association.
The Wednesday Readers Book Group will meet on Monday, January 9th at 7:00 p.m. to discuss Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare. The Non-Fiction Book Discussion will meet on Monday, January 16th at 6:00 p.m. to discuss Midnight Rising by Tony Horowitz. The Daytime Book Group will meet on Thursday, January 26th at 12:30 p.m. to discuss Radium Girls by Kate Moore. Plus, we are starting a brand new book group for both high schoolers and adults called the Young Adult Book Club. This group will be reading young adult books, and the first meeting will include free pizza! Please call 231-928-0256 or see the Reference Desk to let them know you plan to attend so we can order the right amount of pizza for the first meeting on January 31st at 3:30 p.m. by the North Fireplace where we will discuss details of the book club. Anyone is welcome to join these book groups. Books for these groups are available at the library’s front desk ahead of the meeting if you’d like to check out a copy and join the group.
For more information about any of these events, please contact the library at 231-924-3480 or visit www.fremontlibrary.net.
Learn about Michigan’s inland lakes online from MSU Extension
Registration for the award-winning Michigan State University Extension Introduction to Lakes Online course is now open! This six-week online course kicks-off January 10th and is designed for anyone interested in inland lakes, including concerned citizens, decision makers, local leaders, resource professionals, and lakefront property owners. Course topics include lake ecology, watershed management, shoreline protection, aquatic plants, Michigan water law, and community engagement.
These topics are explored via video lectures, interactive activities, and discussion forums. Additional resources are also provided for those looking to dive deeper into a topic. Participants communicate with each other and instructors through lively discussion forums and biweekly Ask-an-Expert webinars which include guests from outside organizations such as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.
Registration is open now through January 8, 2023. The cost of the course is $115 per person. Register by December 19, 2022 for an early bird price of $95 per person. A limited number of scholarships are available.
A certificate of completion is awarded to those who complete the course. Participants can also receive 16 Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Pesticide Applicator Re-Certification credits and credits in the MSU Extension Master Citizen Planner, Master Gardener, and Master Naturalist programs.
Learn more and register at www.canr.msu.edu/lakesonline.
Photo and article by Donna Iverson
Want more butterflies in your garden or yard? Consider creating a Monarch Waystation.
It can be as big or small as you like, although an ideal size is about 100 square feet, according to monarchwatch.org But even a small strip about 5 feet by 10 feet along a walkway would work.
What is needed to meet the requirements for a Monarch Waystation?
Annual flowers that provide nectar for the Monarch butterfly include marigolds, zinnias and lantana. Perennial flowers include native plants such as bee balm, Black-eyed Susans, coreopsis, aster, phlox, coneflower, and sedums.
As of a year ago, the country had 41,546 Monarch Waystations, according to monarchwatch.org. There are hundreds of them in West Michigan. If you would like a certified Monarch Waystation, this website offers downloadable application forms. There is a $16 charge for certification, which includes a sign to post on your property.
A sign might be helpful if you have decided to plant a more informal native garden that attracts pollinators and other wildlife. If your property is posted as a butterfly sanctuary, neighbors who prefer more tidy yards might be appeased.
For more information on Monarchs, check out the National Wildlife Federation at nwf.org/Monarchs. Or better yet, visit your local library.