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Saturday, April 25, 2020

Shelter in Place - week 5 Arbor Day/Earth Day/Blursday & Pollinators

This week had both the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, the long-time celebration of Arbor Day and what a friend called Blursday.

What's Blursday?

With days blurring together while during Shelter in Place it's "The fortyteenth of Maprilay"!

I don't use my Twitter account much, but took up the Arbor Day Foundation's offer to plant a tree in one of our nation's forests if I posted a picture of a favorite tree on Twitter with the hashtag #arbordayathome and tag them.  I posted this picture of a trail at nearby Independence Oaks.
I'm a longtime supporter of Arbor Day Foundation as trees do so much to help us and our planet, too.  By the time you see this the offer may have ended.  They still have so much to offer so I recommend going to and becoming a member, too.   You'll get TEN FREE TREES! and the lowest possible discount on other trees and shrubs, and much more.  Can't say enough good things about them, but usually I'm doing it at programs related to Earth Day.  This is only one of many ways you can celebrate Earth Day even while our public gatherings give way to Blursday.

Something else that can help and that I find myself often doing is signing petitions and writing about the need to save our pollinators.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a page with lots of resources about Pollinators.  Why am I so passionate about this?  Without them our agriculture will become impossible.  From tiny insects like bees and butterflies to wildlife, domestic animals, and, yes, people, the chain of life requires those pollinators to keep all of our food coming.  Here in our area the Monarch Butterfly migrates through here.  Grow Milkweed where they lay their eggs, if you're not up to raising butterflies yourself, as habitat loss is one of the reasons for their decline. 

While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can only mention generalities on their "Threats to Pollinators"page, the herbicide Glyphosate (commonly sold as Roundup) has been linked to killing Monarch Butterflies and bees whether from loss of habitat or toxicity.  Its among the Neonictinoids or Neonics banned in European countries and a few other countries.  I note this when sending emails to my various elected officials.  Yes, it's made by a U.S. company based in St. Louis, Missouri where I grew up, but they sell many other products, so dropping this one won't put them out of business.  Neonic toxicity and its spread to other wildlife has led the American Bird Conservancy to call for its ban after studies point to its serious risk to the environment.

From Pixabay via
I've often posted about bees, many times with stories.  Too often they are accused when it's their "cousins", the hornet or Yellow Jacket, buzzing around.  August 5, 2017 I gave a Cuffy Bear story by Arthur Scott Bailey, but also briefly retold the Anishinaabe tale about how defending bees with a stinger was generously shared with wasps. 

A neighbor of mine probably is not happy with that generosity of bees sharing with the wasp.  While mowing his lawn on a riding mower requiring holding the handles to steer, he saw what looked like a paper bag in the trees.  On his next swing past, he grabbed the "bag" only to discover it was a paper wasp nest.  During the time it took to discover it, he was stung repeatedly.  The bee only stings in self-defense or to protect its hive because they are unable to sting more than once.

Today I want to add to stories about pollinators by talking about butterflies.  They don't even sting and they manage to look beautiful while fluttering about. 

Be warned, this paragraph may get a bit more involved in the world of publishing than you wish.  If so, skip to the story I retell after this.  In that 2017 article I mentioned the works of Louise Jean Walker, accidentally missing another book of hers I now have, Beneath the Singing Pines.  From all I can tell, she never had the copyright renewed on her books.  Neither Eerdmans, who published Legends of Green Sky Hill nor Hillsdale Educational Publishers, who published the other two, have her work still in their listings.  I've included a bit of a rant here before about how the copyright law was changed, but it also meant publishers were no longer taxed at the rate of a book when it first entered their stock.  Instead what the cost of a book would be when it was sold became the cost for their inventory.  This made it more expensive to keep books in their inventory, resulting in  publishers preference of Pop material guaranteed to sell right away.  Scholarly books and children's books had been staples on that "backlist", but this made them less profitable.  It also has led to a lot of self-publishing of e-books, especially at Amazon.  Reprint publishers show no guarantees of quality -- I've learned caution in buying.  I would love to see Project Gutenberg reproduce Walker's books if it truly is available.  Perhaps the publishers will catch their names mentioned here and decide to reproduce her books.  Until then, your only way is to either buy a used copy (I strongly recommend Better World Books, not only for their own inventory, but additionally because of all they do to support literacy) or borrow it from your library when they finally reopen.  You will not find the books among their digital collections unfortunately.

Benzie Conservation District (MI) also provides seeds reasonably
Since I would rather the books become available again, I will re-tell the story Walker and various Anishinaabe storytellers give about how butterflies were created.  It makes no pretense at being as good or thorough as they might tell it, but I hope you will remember it when you see a butterfly and do what you can to support their habitat.  Next autumn remember the value of Milkweed when you see its seeds with their fluffy "parachutes."  The National Wildlife Federation will give you more information on how you can do this and ways to Garden for Wildlife with ideas that can work even in urban and suburban yards.  Get FREE milkweed seeds at along with growing instructions and other activities and resources.

Long ago, it is said by the Anishinaabe, the First People from here in Michigan and around the Great Lakes, that after the Great Spirit had created the world, he looked around with pleasure.  Birds, Fish and other creatures were colorful and useful.  Then he looked at the mountains of the world.  He loved them, too, but knew the People might not appreciate them.  To get the People to enter them, he decided to make rocks of many colors, some of those rocks even sparkled.  It was as if the mountains held rainbows!  He knew the People would discover the stones and then would dig for them.  That was good, but he decided not to keep all the rocks hidden in the mountains.  Scattering rocks around would let children discover them, even without going inside a mountain.  This was no sooner done than Zhaawani Noodin, the South Wind, blew in, singing of trees, birds, and flowers in the spring and summer.  Hearing that song, the Great Spirit tossed the colorful stones into the air, asking the South Wind to carry them to the People.  Those colorful rocks developed wings and fluttered away.  Today we enjoy their beautiful wings knowing that even in their beauty they help pollinate the flowers and other plants wherever they visit. 
Photo by Cindy Gustafson on
Today may be "Blursday", but I like a quote I saw about the current time which said it's end will be like a rainbow that follows a storm.  May this help encourage you to make every day Earth Day and also carry out the purpose of Arbor Day by planting trees which hold the soil (Arbor Day was started to prevent soil erosion, among other things) and do an incredible job to help bring oxygen and reduce pollution.  Already the pollution level is being noticed as reduced by all of us who Shelter in Place.

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