Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Backyard Wildlife Habitat

GANA Speaker Series
Lucille Bertuccio
Director of Bloomington's Center for Sustainable
Living 8:00 – 9:15 p.m., May 31, 2006
(after our monthly meeting, see meeting report)

Lucille introduced us to the concept of a "Backyard Wildlife Habitat" and its benefits.

The Process
The Center for Sustainable Living has endorsed the National Wildlife Federation concept of wildlife habitats in people's yards as a part of a nationwide movement to encourage natural surroundings for birds and butterflies. At this point, the city of Bloomington itself has been registered but not certified as a wildlife habitat. So far, 140 Bloomington homes have had their yards certified, and we need 60 more for the 200 yards required for Bloomington to be officially certified. To get certified, backyards must provide food, water, shelter, and places for birds and butterflies to raise their young.

The certification process is not difficult. See

Lucille presented a number of slides to show what backyard habitats can look like, and described their benefits to birds and butterflies. Two keys:

  • Work with different levels (canopy trees, understory trees, bushes and shrubs, plants, moss)—so that the critters can have a diversity of places to shelter and nourish themselves.
  • Work with native plants that are adapted to this environment (including its insects). This eliminates the need for water, chemical fertilizer and pesticides.

The point is, she says, "we need to work with nature rather than against her."And "when we increase biodiversity, we heal the fabric of nature." Monocultures, for example, large green lawns with but a single tree, are wastelands to wild creatures, take up huge amounts of resources (including gas for terrifically polluting lawnmowers), and poison the earth’s soil, air and water supply. Instead, Lucille says, rather than call it a "weedy lawn," rename it "flowery mead"!

Lucille brought up a number of details that few of us know. Like the fact that certain creatures require a single plant for a certain function: for example, the zebra swallowtail butterfly eats only the paw paw leaves and the monarch butterfly larvae can only live on the swamp milkweed. So it’s good to know which native plants are necessary if you want to attract certain species of butterfly.

Most birds need cavities or holes to raise their young. So build birdhouses (which need to be species-specific), and keep those old trees with holes in them. Also, if you want birds, then don’t deadhead your plants, as birds eat their seeds.

Lucille told us of packets of seedlings sold by the Department of Natural Resources specially designed to attract certain species. (Google DNR to get more info on these inexpensive packets that neighbors of which could share the cost: 50 each of 4 species of your choice, all for $90. Nathan Harmon agreed to spearhead this idea in Green Acres.)

In conclusion, Lucille told us that as time goes on, fewer and fewer butterflies have been visiting her yard. She implored us to help her own backyard habitat by creating habitats in Green Acres so that the butterflies won’t have as far to fly from one nourishing spot to another.

Ann Kreilkamp
GANA scribe

View full story>>

GANA Meeting Minutes

Photo by Georgia Schaich

GANA (Green Acres Neighborhood Association) Meeting
5/31/06, 7 – 8 p.m.
First United Church on 3rd St.

Betty Byrne, Lucille Bertuccio, Tim Mayer, Sue Mayer, Jan Ley, Becky Hrisomalos, Frank Hrisomalos, John Stuckey, Peggy Stuckey, Kathy Ruesink, Noriko Hara, Phil Eskew, Stefano Conard, Diane Dormant, Nathan Harmon, Maggie Jessephs, Georgia Schaich, Kadhim Shabaan, Marion Shaaban, Kim Fernandez, Maggie Sullivan, Rachel Johnson, Vicky Provine, Laura Jesseph, Sylvia Van Bruggen, Ann Kreilkamp

• New GANA logo
• Summer Solstice Event Update
• Sustainability Proposals
• City’s intro to Green Acres Neighborhood Plan Report
• Intro to Green Acres Permaculture Vision

We viewed the new GANA logo and decided to purchase signs. Stefano Conard reported on pre-event workshops for the upcoming Summer Solstice Festival. HAND and Planning Department officials conveyed the city’s framework for the collaborative neighborhood planning process. Ann Kreilkamp and Sylvia Van Bruggen gave a quick visual presentation of a short- and long-term permacultural vision for Green Acres.

The Process
This meeting felt very energetic, partly due to the larger-than-usual number of people present, and partly, I feel, to our deep satisfaction at the clear, warm feelings and beautiful design of the new Green Acres logo. Over the meeting hour the momentum seemed to build, so that by the time of the final agenda item, when we viewed a presentation for a possible long-range permacultural vision for Green Acres, we seemed to have collectively entered an unusually expansive atmosphere where we could more fully embrace the idea of devoting our time, talent and skills in various projects to further build and enhance community in our little corner of the world.

Logo: Georgia Schaich, who facilitated the meeting, introduced the beautiful new logo created by Green Acres graphic artist Jiangmei Wu with Julia Jackson. Our Small and Simple Grant money will pay for logo banners as well as logo signs with event notices to be placed at key neighborhood intersections before events.

Summer Solstice Festival Report: Stefano Conard and Georgia reported on the first pre-event workshop, where we made little “GANA babies” to decorate the festival grounds for our parade and potluck July 17th. Another workshop to finish the job is scheduled for next Wednesday, June 7. (So if you want to get wild and creative with your neighbors and assemble hilarious objects out of recycled materials, let us know!) Nathan Harmon and Rob Turner will coordinate and provide music for the parade and dinner afterwards. We will also have tables to make masks, create garland crowns, decorate flags and bikes, plus a “wishing ceremony”—for children of all ages!

Sustainability Proposals: Adam Lowe and Stefano both came up with sustainability proposals to send to the Sustainability Commission (due in June 2). Adam’s proposal, still in the idea stage, is to retrofit a Green Acres home for green design to be sold to a single mother. Stefano’s proposal—to build solar/greenhouse additions to three Green Acres homes—is more detailed, and he read it to the group. This proposal includes a pledge by Worm’s Way for a 40% discount on all materials for a hydroponic greenhouse system and will cost approximately $989 per greenhouse. (If anyone else has a sustainability idea, email or drop your idea off at Showers (401 N. Morton St.), the officer of the mayor.)

Neighborhood Plan Report: Vicky Provine of HAND and Rachel Johnson of the Planning Department presented a time framework that they hope to use to work with us to prioritize our values and devise strategies to implement a long-range vision for Green Acres. The process will begin in September, take about six months and involve six meetings, with a formal or informal presentation and public release of the plan at the end. Any Green Acres resident or stakeholder is invited to participate. The planning documents for McDoel, Broadview and Prospect Hill neighborhoods are on file at the library, and can be accessed through the site.

Permaculture Design for Green Acres: Ann and Sylvia Von Bruggen attended their final week of a two-week Introduction to Permaculture course held at McCormick State Park where they and Kevin Polk (who will move to Green Acres in August) spent five days in intense walks and conversation to envision a long-term sustainable future for Green Acres that transforms it from a suburban neighborhood into a vital village that is at least in part self-sufficient and very productive, both in terms of human and natural values. In order not to get bogged down, the three participants in this thought-experiment decided to give themselves permission to act as if there were no obstacles, that whatever they wanted they could have. The results were shown to the group at our meeting in the form of a giant paper wheel that encompassed a number of sectors (e.g., community values, food production, transportation, education, etc.) and ranged in rings outwards from short to near to long-term goals.

Ann and Sylvia brought up one example to show the process. Agreeing that one of the things that Green Acres lacks is places for neighbors to meet, they came up with the idea of “pocket parks.” On a map of the neighborhood they pointed out small corners of land that jut out into the street, or seem to be otherwise unoccupied and uncared for and that could be loaned to GANA as an experiment to place picnic tables and swings or slides for children so that people who walk the neighborhood could have a place to meet and sit. The idea was eagerly received by others and Kadhim Shabaan pointed to one intersection where four pocket parks on each corner could constitute the beginnings of a village center. The visuals for this visioning process will be available to peruse — and discuss, correct, and add to — at the July 17th Solstice event.

The meeting then adjourned for fruit, nuts, cheese, lemonade and conversation before our Speaker, Lucille Bertuccio, gave her presentation at 8 p.m.

Next meeting
June 28th, 7 p.m. (last Wednesday of each month).

Happy Summer, and see you at the Solstice event, if not before (bring children, bring your friends, join the parade!)

Ann Kreilkamp
GANA scribe

View full story>>