Categories
Backyard Wildlife Gardening Good Eating Sustainability

What is Eating My Mustard Greens?

What is Eating My Mustard Greens?

by Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann

At my old garden, I was only allowed to grow vegetables on my small deck – I lived in a condo. My deck was in part shade so between lack of space and lack of sun I could only manage to grow a small amount of cherry tomatoes and a sad number of potatoes. Otherwise I stuck to ornamentals, herbs and wildflowers which I could get away with planting in the ground while enjoying a reasonable selection of plants that would grow in part shade.

When I got married and moved into a house in 2018, I started collecting vegetable seeds at seed swaps for my new garden which has plenty of sun. I had to do a lot of planting in a hurry so I just planted the seeds I had in the hopes that I would get a few vegetables and save a few seeds for the following year.

Lots of cherry tomatoes I’ve been having really good luck again with cherry tomatoes and I’m now addicted to growing leafy green vegetables so I can have fresh tasty salads that I pick myself. A few of the plants have really been chewed on by pests which is not a surprise because I don’t use pesticides. In my haste I made no effort to try companion planting to chase some of the pests away. Most herbs are not bothered much by pests so since I’m pretty new to growing vegetables I’m seeing a lot of creatures that I haven’t seen before.

Fresh picked salad with cherry tomatoes, dill, arugula, chives, romaine, mustard greens, edible flowers and wild greens.
Fresh picked salad from the backyard with cherry tomatoes, dill, arugula, chives, romaine, mustard greens, edible flowers and wild greens.

I had some Evergestis rimosalis (Cross-striped cabbageworm) on my mustard greens and some Pieris rapae (Imported cabbageworm) on my collards. I’m interested in invertebrate conservation and providing food to wild birds, so in the quest to get some vegetables I can eat I’m not going to apply poisons. I might start an additional bed of these vegetables in my fall garden and protect them with a row cover and some companion planting.

Hornworm caterpillar with parasitic wasp cocoons.I’m familiar with these little white blobs on this tomato or tobacco hornworm – those are the cocoons of tiny parasitic wasps that feed on caterpillars. The lifestyle of some of these tiny wasps is pretty horrific, and I’m saying that as a big fan of invertebrates in general! Some of them use plants as a host and some use other insects. Tiny parasitic wasps lay eggs on the bodies of caterpillars. When the tiny wasp larvae hatch, they feed on the caterpillar while it’s still alive. When they emerge they weave white cocoons where they stay until they hatch into adult wasps. The caterpillar they have been feeding on is eventually doomed though it might not die right away.

Even though their lifestyle kind of turns my stomach, these wasps are beneficial so I’m going to put this caterpillar back out in the garden. When the adults emerge they can continue their work of preying on garden pests. If you are going to destroy any caterpillars, it’s recommended that you leave the parasite-infested ones in the garden to add to nature’s arsenal of natural controls. The adult wasps of this type are not social and they do not sting. Some of the adults are so small I’m not even sure what kind I have in the garden. I have swarms of tiny and medium sized insects all over my masses of herbs that are in flower, such as Dill, Garlic Chives, Peppermint, Bronze Fennel and more. Herbs that get clusters of small flowers are worth growing just to get into your garden all the beneficial insects that are attracted to them.

Categories
Gardening Sustainability

How Much is a Tree Worth?

How Much is a Tree Worth?

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

On a hot afternoon at our Ladue store a couple of weeks ago, we had a power outage that affected our store and a lot of the surrounding neighborhoods. The next afternoon at my condo my neighborhood had the first power outage I’ve experienced in my 14 years living there. According to updates from an Alderman in my city who was in contact with Ameren Missouri, there was extra load on some stations due to storm damage from a couple of days earlier. The combination of the extra demand with the heat was too much for some of the stations to handle. Someone more technical than me can probably explain it better or understand it better, but what I get from this is that hot temperatures can stress an already stressed system to the point of failure. This is a good time to reflect on a group of living things that often seem so permanent and indestructible that we sometimes don’t give them the respect and care that they deserve – trees!

When we are managing our landscapes or contracting for services, we have to make decisions about how much money to invest in trees. How much do we want to spend to buy the specimens? How much effort do we want to put in selecting, planting, establishing and maintaining the tree? Should we spend the money to get it pruned correctly by an expert or to treat a disease or pest? If we decide we don’t want it, how much will it cost to remove?

Those decisions will become easier to make if you know the actual economic benefit of your tree. According the Treekeepers Comprehensive Introductory Course handbook, “planted in the proper location, trees can reduce energy demand by as much as 50%”. The recent power outages I experienced occurred at approximately 3:15 pm and 5:30 pm respectively. Those are often very hot times of the day so it seems likely that air conditioning was one of the factors contributing to the high demand. You will notice that the air is noticeably cooler in the vicinity of trees – that is because water evaporates from the leaves of trees and the change from water to water vapor uses up heat energy from the air.

Just for fun, I ran a test on an oak tree that is at the corner of my condo to see what the value of it is in hard cash terms. I used a really useful tool called i-Tree Design. Here is a screenshot showing some of the benefits of this tree over a 10 year period.

Monetary value of a large oak tree

You can run tests using your own property as an example with different sizes and species of trees. The tool will even show you spots on your property where trees will have the most and least benefit. It’s lots of fun and very enlightening!

Out of curiosity I ran a calculation on the Rose of Sharon tree I planted near my deck. According to the i-Tree Design tool, the economic value of that tree is $174 over 10 years. Maybe that doesn’t sound impressive at first, but consider that the tree itself was free – it came from a seedling that I transplanted from my parents’ yard. I spent about five minutes planting it and when it was tiny I probably watered it a few extra times during the first couple of weeks. It has required little care since then – the only thing I remember doing with it is mulching it and weeding out it’s extra seedlings that I didn’t want. The tree is small enough that I could remove it myself for no cost if it came to that. Economic benefits are not even the reason I planted the tree in the first place – I wanted to look at the beautiful flowers and enjoy watching the wildlife that I knew would come to feed on the flowers and seeds. It attracts a steady parade of butterflies, hummingbirds, finches, other birds and various bee species for months on end. If I had PAID $174 for the tree I probably would consider it money well spent.

If you plant the right tree in the right place and care for it correctly, you will cut down your energy usage. You also may help reduce the demand on electrical equipment in your neighborhood and prevent power outages. A power outage is often just a minor inconvenience, but under certain circumstances and to vulnerable people an outage can be costly and dangerous. If you plant trees and invest in their establishment and care, it is possible for your tree investment to pay for itself and make life better for your community at the same time. All you need is the right information – I hope the resources I’m sharing will help you to get it.

iTree Design Application
http://design.itreetools.org/

Forest ReLeaf of Missouri
http://moreleaf.org/

Missouri Community Forestry Council Tree Care Blog
http://www.mocommunitytrees.org/blog1/

Missouri Department of Conservation Tree Care Videos and Documents
https://mdc.mo.gov/trees-plants/tree-care

Categories
Backyard Wildlife DIY Gardening Sustainability Upcycling Ways With Wood

Upcoming DIY Class at Schnarr’s: Build a Pollinator House on May 17


Three wood pollinator houses with stenciled decoration


Pollinator houses on display on endcap

As part of the series of DIY Classes at Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves, Carolyn Hasenfratz will be teaching you how to make, decorate and fill a Pollinator House for your garden. Such houses are sometimes called Bee Houses or Bug Houses. They provide nesting and hibernating space for beneficial insects that bring life, color, pollinating services and natural pest control for your garden. We’ll have paint and stencils available for you to play with so you can give your house a personal touch.

Space in this class is limited to four people and the cost is only $20 per person including materials. Class time is 5:30 pm on May 17, 2018. Register now at this link:
Build a Pollinator House

If you can’t make it to the class, we have instructions for making two styles of pollinator houses published on the Schnarr’s blog:
Making a Pollinator House – Part 1
Making a Pollinator House – Part 2

Stop by Schnarr’s in Webster to see some of Carolyn’s prototype pollinator houses on display. These samples are for sale in case you’d prefer to buy one rather than make your own.

Categories
Gardening Sustainability

Tips for Removing Invasive Honeysuckle

Tips for Removing Invasive Honeysuckle

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

Honeysuckle is one of the last plants to drop leaves in the fall, and one of the first plants to get leaves in the spring. This makes it quite pretty to look at sometimes. A recent photo from Emmenegger Nature Park shows the light green leaves on honeysuckle growing in the understory of a forest in late November.

Honeysuckle at Emmanegger Nature Park

Unfortunately this characteristic also gives honeysuckle an advantage over other plants. Since many species of honeysuckle are not native and reseed readily, Honeysuckle can be a danger to native plants and plant diversity. Many organizations that are involved with environmental stewardship sponsor volunteer Honeysuckle removal days. I spent a couple of days volunteering recently to remove invasive Honeysuckle from Emmenegger Nature Park in Kirkwood and Litzinger Road Ecology Center in Ladue. If you remove invasive Honeysuckle from your own property you can help stop the spread to other areas. Birds really love to eat the berries and spread the seeds around to places where Honeysuckle is not wanted.

How to Identify Honeysuckle
If you need help with identification, it is very useful to participate in one or two group cleanups so that experts can show you what to look for. After an hour or two of practice you’ll be spotting it everywhere with little effort! Fall is an ideal time for removal because the leaves, being one of the last to persist in the forest, make identification easier.

Look for:
Opposite leaves
Red berries in the fall
Leaves can be green, yellowish, or red/brown depending on the time of year. You may even see it with different colored leaves on the same property on the same day.
Stems are hollow once it gets large enough – snip off a piece to check
Once stems get large enough the bark appears very groovy

Honeysuckle leaves in brown fall color

If you’re not sure whether your honeysuckle is a undesirable invasive type, you can get help with identification at Missouri Botanical Garden.

How to Remove Honeysuckle
If the plant is small enough, you may be able to just pull it out. Make sure to get the center root clump around the stem or it may grow back. It’s not necessary to get every little piece of root out.
If you can remove the root material from the premises after it’s pulled, do so. If that is not possible hang the plant in a tree off the ground so the roots dry out and die. If you leave the plant on the ground, it may regrow from the roots.
If the plant is too big to pull, dig it out if you can without damaging other plants or causing excessive disturbance of the soil.
If digging is not practical, saw the trunk off as close to the ground as you can. Treat the stub with a 20% solution of glyphosate herbicide. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. You can apply it with a bottle that features a dauber attachment, such as a shoe polish bottle or a bingo marker. Or you can spray the glyphosate on the trunk stub. Clearly label bottles, store safely and observe all precautions. You can add dye to the solution to help you keep track of where you have already applied herbicide.
If you can’t remove all the branches from the property, cut them up into smaller pieces so that they lie flat on the ground. Contact with the ground will help the branches decompose faster.
Useful tools to have on hand are a small shovel, a pruning saw, hand pruners and loppers.

You can save yourself a lot of work over time by patrolling your property regularly and removing the Honeysuckle plants while they are still small enough to pull out easily. Once the bushes get to full size, they can still be removed but the job is a lot more labor intensive.

Honeysuckle next to a bottle of herbicide in a shoe polish bottle

Safety precautions
Wear eye protection, gloves, long sleeves and long pants. You need to protect yourself from scratches, pokes in the eye and chemicals.
Wear work boots or hiking boots with good ankle support – in the woods it’s easy to step in a hole or slip on an uneven surface.
Wear safety orange in case you are in or near a hunting area without realizing it.
Mark your tools with orange tape or paint, because they are easy to lose among the fall leaves on the ground.

After the Honeysuckle is gone, your woods might look a little bare. Don’t worry, there are native plants that can fill the gap and make a healthy as well as lovely contribution to the ecology of your property. Consider planting some of these species instead of Honeysuckle: Some recommended alternatives to bush honeysuckle and other exotic shrubs.

Here is some more information about Honeysuckle:
Bush Honeysuckle
Honeysuckles: For Better or For Worse – There are some species of Honeysuckle that are nice to have – read about them here.

Categories
DIY Sustainability Upcycling

Decorate Gift Packages with Stencils and Chalk

Decorate Gift Packages with Stencils and Chalk

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

Decorate Gift Packages with Stencils and Chalk

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to make your own stencils from recycled food container lids and use them to decorate personalized gift packages. Many of the stencil designs I used in my demo were traced from nostalgic Christmas cookie cutters that were passed down to me from parents and grandparents. They bring back a lot of happy memories of doing holiday crafts and baking with my Mom. Most of the time making things in preparation for the Holiday was more fun for me than the actual event!

I designed this project to be something you can do with kids, but I think anyone who enjoys being a little bit playful and making eco-friendly packaging would enjoy this – I know that I had a great time!

Part 1 – Making the Stencils

Tools and Materials – *indicates available at Schnarr’s
Self-healing cutting mat
*X-acto knife or craft knife and blades
*Sharpie marker
Cookie cutters
*Pencil
Cleaned plastic food container lids
*Scissors

1. Take an old plastic food container lid and cut off the rim.

2. Choose a cookie cuttter or some other object to use as a template and trace around it with pencil on a piece of paper. Or if you have no such object, draw a simple shape of your choice.

3. Place the food lid piece over the drawing and trace the outline with a permanent marker. Cut out the shape with a craft knife, scissors, or some combination of the two.

 

Part 2 – Applying Chalkboard Paint to the Paper

Tools and Materials – *indicates available at Schnarr’s
*Kraft paper or the backs of recycled grocery bags
*Chalkboard paint
*Small sponges
*Painter’s tape or *masking tape
Cleaned plastic food container lids

1. If you are using the backs of recycled grocery bags, you can get a lot of the folds and wrinkles out of them first by ironing them between pieces of clean scrap paper. Spread paper down on your work surface and tape edges to hold in place.

2. Dab some chalkboard paint onto an old food lid and dip a small sponge into it. Place your stencil on the paper and tape down if necessary to hold it steady. Dab the sponge gently inside the cutout area and slowly apply the paint. Increase the amount of pressure and paint if necessary to get full coverage. If you apply the paint gently and gradually, you can avoid applying too much and having it bleed under the stencil.

Here I am stencling chalkboard paint onto the kraft paper. I recommend that you apply the chalk after wrapping the package, but in this demo I drew with chalk on some of the shapes while I was still stenciling so that people would see the possibilities of the chalkboard paint.

3. Lift stencil straight up to avoid smearing and repeat until the whole piece of paper is covered to your satisfaction. Let the paper dry.

4. Wrap the package after the paint is dry.

 

Part 3 – Adding More Decoration

Tools and Materials – *indicates available at Schnarr’s
Colored chalk
Stickers
*Markers
*Ribbon
*Baker’s twine or decorative string
*Bows
*Gift tags
Spray fixative (optional)

 

Here is a selection of wrapped boxes and decorating materials to give you an idea of how you can combine markers, stickers, ribbon, twine and tags with your chalked designs.

Tip: If your package is going to get handled a lot before presenting, you can spray your chalk work with spray fixative to protect it. Spray fixative is a product artists sometimes use to protect pencil, chalk, pastel and other media that might smear, and it is available at art supply stores.

Drawing with both markers and chalk is great fun!

 

On this sample, I sponged the chalkboard paint around a cutout star that was left over when I made a six-pointed star stencil. Combined with royal blue marker drawn through another stencil and light blue chalk I made a Hanukkah design.

Part 4 – Making Gift Tags

Tools and Materials – *indicates available at Schnarr’s
Scrap chipboard or cardstock
*Chalkboard paint
*Paintbrush
Stencils
*Scissors
*Pencil
*Ribbon
*Baker’s twine or decorative string
Hole punch
Spray fixative (optional)

It’s easy to make chalkboard gift tags to go along with your chalk-enhanced gift packages.

1. Paint some chalkboard paint onto one side of some scrap chipboard or card stock and let dry.

2. Use your stencils to trace shapes onto the unpainted side with pencil and cut out. You can make your tags tag-shaped or any other shape you like that fits your theme.

3. Punch a hole at the top of your tag and attach a piece of ribbon or twine using a lark’s head knot.

4. Use chalk to write on the tag and protect with spray fixative if necessary.

Categories
Sustainability Upcycling

Old Webster Fall Art Walk Opens Friday!

Starting on Friday, October 6th, Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves in the Old Webster Business District will host artist and Schnarr’s employee Carolyn Hasenfratz during the Old Webster Fall Art Walk. You can see all different kinds of artwork in various businesses by taking a self-guided walking tour in the area.

On Saturday October 7 and Saturday October 14 from 12-4 pm, Carolyn will be at Schnarr’s in Webster demonstrating art projects you can do with items from a hardware store. On the 7th there will be a demonstration of Stamping and Printing with Found Objects and on the 14th Carolyn will make fall greeting cards while you watch. Carolyn’s display will be viewable when the store is open from October 6 through October 15. Stop by to see examples of things she has made from repurposed and recycled materials such as distressed wood, salvaged hardware, reclaimed ceramic tiles, scrap fabric and much more.

For more information about the Art Walk, go to: https://oldwebsterartwalk.com/

Categories
DIY Sustainability Upcycling

Stamping and Printing with Found Objects

Stamping and Printing with Found Objects

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

Create a piece of original artwork while learning how to print with found objects. You’ll also learn some basic monoprinting techniques while creating a background for your composition.

Materials and Supplies
Masa printmaking paper
*Scrap plexiglass
*Scrap wood blocks
Scrap chipboard
Scrap mesh
Scrap textured wallpaper
*Acrylic varnish
Used mailing envelopes lined with bubble wrap
*Thumbtacks
Baren (printmaking tool sold at art supply stores)
Printing registration frame (can be built from instructions online)
Small tabletop printing press (sold at art supply stores)
Brayers – hard and soft (sold at art supply stores)
Dye-based rubber stamping ink
*Acrylic paint
Palette knife
Pie plate or other cleaned shallow food container
*Small sponge pieces
*Water container
*Ball point pens
*Rags for cleanup
*Double sided tape
*Painters tape
*Craft/X-acto knife and blades
*Cork pieces
Scrap paper
*Scissors
Recycled plastic file folders
Heat tool (optional)
5 x 7 inch wood blocks

Cut out a piece of scrap paper 8 x 10 inches. In this middle of this page, draw a 5 x 7 inch rectangle. This will be a guide to use while designing and printing.

Cut out a few pieces of scrap chipboard the size of the inner rectangle in your schematic, 5 x 7 inches. Using a white glue or wood glue, glue some scrap materials to the front such as mesh placemats, mesh from food packaging or textured wallpaper scraps. After glue is dry, coat the textured surface with acrylic varnish and let dry. This is for durability and so the ink washes off after printing. Trim around the chipboard if needed.

From Masa printmaking paper or some other printmaking paper of your choice, Cut some 8 x 10 inch sheets and some 5 x 7 inch sheets.

Squirt some light-colored dye-based ink onto a piece of plexiglass. You can use one color or a blend of multiple colors. Roll out an area of color with a brayer that is at least as big as the smaller of your two pieces of paper. If you use plexiglass as a temporary palette and work surface as I did in part of my demo, you can put your schematic drawing under the plexiglass to use as a guide.

Tip: if you use waterproof dye-based ink, you can apply water based media to your design later without smearing or blending the ink.

If you color the image in some way after printing, it is called a hand-colored print. If you have interest, experiment with painting and drawing media, stamping, stenciling or collage to turn your print into a mixed media piece.

Cut out a shape of your choice from a piece of bubble-wrap lined envelope. Place this shape down on your area of color. Roll over the back of it with a brayer. Lift bubble wrap and set aside with ink still on it. Do not clean the bubble wrap yet.

Take one of your  5 x 7 inch pieces of paper and place it face down on the inked area. The rougher side of Masa paper is considered the face but you can try both sides if you want to see which effect you like better.

Take one of the 8 x 10 inch pieces of paper and place it face down over the back of the first piece of paper. Put a piece of scrap paper over all and rub with the baren. Lift up your paper pieces. You should now have one small piece with a monoprinted background design on it and a larger piece with a white space in the middle of a monoprinted frame.

This picture shows a printmaking tool called a baren. It’s used to rub the back of the paper to help the ink transfer to the front of the paper evenly.

The texture of the bubble wrap has been transferred onto the background piece. This is just one way you can make marks in ink that’s been rolled out on a plate. You can draw into it with a rubber stylus, press rubber stamps into it and experiment with a myriad of found objects to see what kinds of marks they make in the ink. A monoprint is a one-off – you don’t have to worry about trying to duplicate it to make an edition.

Tip – you can also use pigment rubber stamping ink or block printing ink for printing. You can get finer details and markings with pigment stamping ink than with dye-based ink. Pigment ink will take longer to dry, however, perhaps several days unless you speed up the drying with a heat tool.

Take another blank piece of paper and place your inked up bubble wrap on it ink side down to the paper. Roll over the back of the bubble wrap piece with a brayer and lift up.

At this stage we have three pieces of paper with different areas printed. Add additional layers of colors and designs. Use increasingly darker colors for subsequent layers to add depth to your piece. To make your design more lively I recommend letting a little bit of white show through in one or more spots as you add layers.

Use a brayer to roll out a slightly darker color of your choice. Choose one of the four blocks of wood with a texture plate taped to the front. Roll some color onto one of the texture plates. To lift ink up, roll fast – to lay ink down, roll slow. Roll in different directions to help get an even application of ink over the whole design.

Tip – do test prints on scrap paper to get a feel for how much ink you need before doing a “good” print.

Cut out a shape of your choice from a piece of recycled plastic folder. Use this piece of plastic as a mask if you want to leave any areas unprinted. Slip the mask between printing block and paper when it’s time to print.

How can you print with an inked design mounted on a wood block? Here are some methods to try.

A. By “stamping” with the block – put a stack of old newspaper or scrap paper on your work surface so it has a little “give” – you’ll get a better print that way. Press your block straight down on the paper and apply as much pressure as you can without moving the block. Take care to apply pressure to the edges and center of the block. Lift straight up.

B. With a tabletop printing press – the model shown was purchased from an art supply company.

C. With a block printing frame – you can made one for yourself with wood and a big clipboard clip – the ruler built into my sample is optional. These frames are terrific for block print registration and keeping your print from moving while rubbing. Look online for plans if you want to build one. Rub the back of your print with a large spoon or a baren to transfer the ink to the paper. Take care to rub all parts and pay special attention to the middle or edges since those areas tend to get missed.

Another way of making a design from a recycled item is to take a piece of scrap foam from a cleaned food tray and cut it to a shape of your choice. Draw into the foam with a ball point pen, keeping in mind that whatever lines you draw will be a negative space that won’t print. Tape this shape to a wood block with double sided tape. Ink the shape and print with the method of your choice.

A very simple way of printing is to take a piece of cork and draw a simple design on it. Cut around it with a craft knife to make a stamp.

Stamp cutting safety tips:

  • Aim knife blade away from yourself while cutting
  • Use sharp blades to decrease chance of blade slipping

To print with a cork stamp, place a small, slightly damp sponge on a pie plate or in an old lid. Mix up a little acrylic paint of your choice and dab some on the sponge with a palette knife. Acrylic paint is usually fairly opaque unless it is diluted. Small stamps applied with opaque paint are a great way to add a finishing touch to a print made with translucent inks. Press your cork stamp into the sponge and to some test prints on scrap paper. Stamp your cork stamp on your prints.

Tip – Rubber erasers and rubber carving material are also good for making your own stamps. Read my tutorial for instructions – http://www.limegreennews.com/howcarv.html

For more printmaking tips, see my Pinterest board. It includes a link to building a block printing registration frame: https://www.pinterest.com/chasenfratz/printmaking/

Categories
DIY Sustainability Upcycling

Make Laundry Detergent From Soap Bar Scraps

Make laundry soap from bar soap scrapsWhen a bar of soap gets worn down and is near the end of its usefulness, it’s considerably less appealing than when it was new. The scent has faded, it’s brittle or soggy – time to throw it out, right? Do you have some soap bars you don’t like? Do you have a collection of little motel soaps that you don’t know what to do with? You could throw these soaps out, but I prefer to save up my soap scraps and make them into laundry soap. It’s fun to do and probably uses supplies and equipment that you already have on hand or can obtain for little cost.

What You’ll Need
* = available at Schnarr’s
Small bucket with lid*
Stick blender
Knife*
Cutting board*
Borax*
Soap bar scraps
Measuring cups*

Instructions

  1. Put one cup dry Borax into the bucket.
  2. Cut up soaps and add 2 cups soap pieces to the bucket.
  3. Add 6 cups of water.
  4. Blend all well with the stick blender. If you have more soap pieces and room in the bucket, add more ingredients in the same proportions until your bucket is about 2/3 full. After blending well, let the mixture sit for awhile and see if the liquid thickens. If so add more water until it’s roughly the consistency of liquid laundry detergent.
  5. Use 1 cup of the new mixture per load of laundry.
Categories
Backyard Wildlife Gardening Outdoor Fun Sustainability

Aquatic Macro Invertebrates at Litzinger Road Ecology Center

Aquatic Macro Invertebrates at Litzinger Road Ecology Center

Aquatic Macro Invertebrates are animals without a backbone that live in water and can be seen with the naked eye. I’ve had an interest in these creatures ever since I can remember. When I was young I caught a variety of water invertebrates such as water beetles, clams, crawdads and snails and attempted to maintain them in my aquariums. I was thrilled when my brother’s aquarium started to grow hydra even though they predate on tiny fish, because I’d read about them but never thought I’d see any. I currently have small colonies of freshwater shrimp in three of my aquariums. Many aquatic invertebrates are insects that live part of their life cycles in water but have an adult flying stage.

When the Litzinger Road Ecology Center offered a training workshop for volunteers on how Aquatic Macro Invertebrates are used to monitor water quality, of course I had to attend. Master Naturalist and Stream Team member Cliff Parmer taught us some Aquatic Entomology facts then we went outside to Deer Creek to learn how to take a scientific sample of water invertebrates.

sampling aquatic invertebrates
Volunteer collectors chose two spots in the stream for collecting samples – one in a riffle, and one in a calm area. The stream bottom was disturbed while a seine caught the small animals that were swept downstream.

 

collecting water invertebrates
We examined the contents of the seine for small invertebrates which we placed in ice cube trays filled with stream water.

 

aquatic invertebrates in Deer Creek
Here are some of our finds – there is a nice leech in there (yuck). One of the animals in the right tray is a Mayfly nymph – something I was happy to see because the purpose of sampling is to check water quality. Mayfly nymphs are one of the animals found only in healthier streams. Stream team sample findings are reported to the Missouri Department of Conservation so they can use the data to check stream health.

 

identifying aquatic invertebrates
Although macro invertebrates can be seen with the naked eye, a microscope is useful to see small details to help identify each species. We were provided with identification charts to show us what to look for.

 

Mother crawdad with babies under the tail
I used my childhood crawdad catching skills to hand-catch the most “Macro” invertebrate of the day – a large mother crawdad with tiny babies clinging to the underside of her tail. We released all the animals back into the water after we had a look at them.

If your garden has a water feature, at some point you may encounter aquatic invertebrates. A common example is the mosquito, very undesirable and needs to be eliminated. A strain of BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) will kill mosquitoes without harming any other life forms (except some gnats, which I don’t think anyone will be sad about – except maybe hummingbirds which eat them). Most other aquatic invertebrates are harmless or downright beneficial. For example, dragonflies live the first stages of their lives in water and are one of the best predators of mosquito larvae. When dragonflies emerge as flying adults they have a voracious appetite for adult flying mosquitoes – they also add beauty and color to the garden. Others, like caddisfly larvae or water beetles are not exactly beautiful in a conventional sense but have interesting lifestyles that are fun to observe and study.

Even if your garden does not include a water feature, there are ways that your garden can impact aquatic invertebrates. Water that runs off your garden and yard into a storm sewer is eventually released into natural bodies of water. If you can keep excess pesticides and fertilizer out of storm runoff you can help invertebrates to survive. Excess fertilizer harms invertebrates by causing algae blooms that reduce oxygen in the water and kill off more sensitive animals. Life forms higher up on the food chain such as fish and birds depend on a steady supply of invertebrates for food.

If your property is adjacent to a body of water, you can further aid the water quality by implementing a riparian corridor or creek corridor vegetative buffer. Such a corridor does many things for water quality, including temperature regulation. By cooling the water, streamside vegetation helps maintain higher oxygen levels in the water.

Backyard wildlife increases my enjoyment of the outdoors and my garden. If you feel the same way, an appreciation for small but vital water animals can be rewarding!

Categories
Gardening Lawns Sustainability

MSD’s Project Clear and Our Local Water Issues

MSD’s Project Clear and Our Local Water Issues

by Carolyn Hasenfratz

The Metropolitan Sewer District has been working hard on outreach to inform the public about Project Clear. In their own words, Project Clear is the “planning, design and construction of MSD’s initiative to improve water quality and alleviate many wastewater concerns in the St. Louis region.” MSD operates in both St. Louis City and County.

What are some examples of wastewater concerns in our region? Flooding, erosion, water pollution and sewer backups are some issues that affect many of our neighbors if not ourselves. MSD deals with both stormwater, which is intended to discharge directly into the natural environment, and wastewater, which needs to be treated at a wastewater treatment plant before release. MSD is undertaking large scale projects right now that are estimated to take 23 years to complete.

The budget for this work is 4.7 billion – the largest infrastructure investment so far in the history of our region. For official information about the project and about your own flood risk, see these resources:

The first sewers in the St. Louis region were built in the 1850s. The amount of development present now is of course much greater than then and there are a lot more impermeable surfaces generating runoff. The existing system cannot cope with the demands being placed on it. MSD conducted a pilot program to test the effects of green infrastructure and came to the conclusion that the conversion of 400 acres from impermeable to permeable surfaces is equal to a 2 billion dollar savings in spending on wastewater infrastructure. Greenscaping has many other benefits – more oxygen, more pleasant and healthful surroundings, crime reduction, noise abatement, habitat for wildlife, temperature regulation – the benefits go way beyond just financial.

MSD is requesting help from the public with the wastewater issues they are working on. It’s in all of our best interests to do what we can to assist because the MSD projects are going to take decades to complete. Even if our own property is properly insured against damage, we will pay for water damage all over the region one way or the other in fees and taxes. In addition, cleaning up after a water disaster is no fun. It’s stinky, messy and time-consuming.

Some water management challenges are inevitable because of the geography and geology of where we live, but we all have the power to mitigate these problems by a small amount. If we each do a little bit we can help each other save money. What can we as individuals do to prevent erosion, flooding, water pollution and sewer backups?

  • If your residential downspout is connected to your wastewater sewer line, disconnect it and direct the stormwater from the downspout elsewhere. My understanding is that this is going to be mandatory soon if it isn’t already so you might as well get started now. MSD will inspect your property on request to see if your downspout is improperly hooked up. Call (314) 768-6260 for assistance. MSD will pay the cost of disconnecting your downspout from the wastewater line. If you’ve ever thought that a rain garden or rain barrel was an intriguing idea, there has never been a better time to put one in! A rain barrel will help cut down on your water bill if you use it to water your garden, and natural rainwater sans chlorine and chloramines is better for your plants. Redirecting this water reduces the overload
    on wastewater lines and prevents sewer backups. I suspect some of the downspouts at my condo are hooked up wrong and I know my neighbor whose unit is lower in elevation than mine has had a sewer backup before – so I find what MSD is saying about this credible.
  • Utilize rainscaping improvements on your property such as making surfaces water-permeable and protecting erosion-prone areas. There are rainscaping small grants available for residents in certain areas. Rainscaping has many benefits – prevents flood damage and erosion, improves water quality and recharges underground aquifers.
  • Explore opportunities to re-use some of your gray water. This may also cut your costs because in some places you are charged for how much water goes out of your household through the sewers as well as for how much comes in – my understanding is that’s the case where I live. My water bill is included in my condo fee so I don’t see it but that’s what I’ve been told.
  • Keep fats, oils and grease out of the sewer system by disposing in the trash and not down the drain. To help you remember here is a catchphrase – COOL it, CAN it, TRASH it. Improper disposal can cause sewer backups and water
    quality problems.
  • Don’t use the sink or toilet to dispose of garbage.
  • Use compost as much as you can in your landscape – compost absorbs water and slows velocity.
  • Join a grass-roots effort to encourage the adoption of greenscaping and rainscaping practices.
  • Join a stream cleanup sponsored by the Open Space Council,
    River Des Peres Watershed Coalition, and others.
  • Join a volunteer storm drain marking project.
  • Join a Stream Team.

Additional water management resources: