Downeast Audubon Yarding Workshop

Tips for supporting wildlife in your yard

Downeast Audubon’s director, Leslie Clapp gave a tour of her extensive gardens to show ways that we may support wildlife in our yards, from the ground up to the canopy.

  • Grow less lawn.
  • See what you have by growing out your lawn, and work with it.
  • Plant a variety of plant species with a succession of bloom and fruit time.
  • Layering: think about planting layers of perennials, shrubs trees and a canopy.
  • Keep dead trees if they are in a safe place to stand.
  • Keep woody trimmings and use them by building wood and brush piles to provide cover for small shy birds; you can make them beautiful and attract sparrows finches and cardinals.
  • Growing thickets like rose or forsythia attract catbirds
  • Use mulch! Maintains moisture in the ground, holds back weeds and it breaks down every year. Nothing organic leaves the property. If the material is diseased or weedy, it goes to the back.
  • Put up windbreaks, especially in winter around feeders.
  • Provide birdhouses and feeders.
  • Keep clean water available, especially in drought conditions. This can be done in birdbaths or as a recirculating stream.
  • Plant native plants and maintain an open field meadow of perennials. Wildlife has evolved with native plants. Some people complain about native plants getting ‘buggy’, but this is good because the bugs feed the birds!
  • Make and use compost
  • Leave plants standing through the winter. Stop deadheading in mid September at the latest so the plants can produce seed to feed the birds.
  • Keep your cats indoors.
  • Mowing is necessary to keep an open field in Maine. Don’t mow in the summer! It takes food away from wildlife. Mow late, in November and alternate parts of the meadow so that there are sections left standing. Goldenrod gauls, for example, are good winter food for woodpeckers.

 

Canadian Ry Grass in the meadow is showy and provides good nourishment for birds
Squirrel grass is a showy native grass which grows a bit lower
Echinacia purpurea is native to the prairie, provide nourishing seed for birds and is medicinal for humans.
Native high bush blueberries are nutritious for birds and tasty for humans
Millet is the foundation of many bird seed mixes, but grows beautifully if you leave it standing in the garden. The grains are easy to harvest and make a good porridge too.
Native button bush produces an interesting bloom
Ornamental Raspberry is a beautiful native with very showy flowers. The fruit is edible for humans, tho it is quite small. Birds love to eat it in the protection of the large foliage.
The Sargent crabapple may be grown as a tree or as a shrub as shown here. In shrub form it offers great protection for birds. Water birds especially love this one with protection branching out over the pond.
The fruit from a Sargent crabapple is a perfect size for birds. If the fruit is too large, they can’t eat it!
Tropical looking Staghorn Sumac is indeed related to the tropical family of Cashews. The pioneer plant shows vibrant color in the fall and the fruit makes for a nourishing tea. The birds go crazy over the seeds.
Native filbert or hazelnut is a delicacy for humans and rich in nutrients for local wildlife.
Mountain Ash produces beautiful fruit and may encourage some types of birds to stay over the winter in years that it produces in abundance.

 

Hugel CULTURE demonstration

The first season at the SEED barn involved a lot of work taking down invasive plants and folding them back into the earth in a Hugelkultur fashion. Mid way through the season, the Blue Hill and Brooklin Garden Clubs visited the grounds in a demonstration on how we are using available materials to build Hugelkultures. Conversation on why it is important to address invasive plants ensued since many invasives are initially introduced as decorative garden plants. Bringing attention to the fact that many nurseries, especially in the big box stores, continue to sell invasive plants is important to know for avid gardeners.  Below, we see an example of a Hugelkultur bed in the second season as new plants become established. An introduction to the SEED Library offered members new ideas on what native plants could potentially be worked into the landscape. The tour ended with a description of how to tie in an aquaponic system into the small scale terracing approach developed by grandpa in the new greenhouse.

 

Germination

Returning Native Plants to the Maine landscape

Sowing seeds in January, Grandpa studies the instructions on the Wild Seed Project packets

Growing wildlife habitat promotes the presence of pollinators, which in turn supports the cultivation of the food we grow. Upon our arrival in Maine, we began an assessment of our property from a wildlife habitat perspective. Observations unfolded over the first season as we focused on renovating the barn and building a greenhouse. As an historic property, we are graced with established trees and many native shrubs that were planted over the century and a half this land was tended. However, the bulk of our property is like so many around here; large lawns that are kept mowed. Essentially this is like a vast desert for pollinators! So we decided to begin restoration with restoring meadows and open woodlands with pollinator friendly native plants. The reason we focus on native plants is because they have evolved with the wildlife so that the rhythms of both compliment each other’s needs through the seasons.

Talking with local folks who have restored and maintain open meadow habitat, we took the first step of returning natives to the landscape simply by growing out our grass. Most natives are perennials and will happily grow out and produce seed if given the chance. Things here grow so well, in fact, that it is nearly impossible to sow seeds directly in the ground without them being taken over. To augment the collection of native plants already present, germinating seeds in pots to introduce as plugs into established meadows is key.

Most wildflower seeds need a period of cold to germinate. While seeds may be fooled in a refrigerator, really the best approach is to follow the natural cycle and sow them outside. The Wild Seed Project has full instructions on how to germinate wild seeds. We had success by storing them under the cedar tree, facing west so that they were warmed by the afternoon sun as spring emerged.

When sowing seeds, they can be crowded. The seedlings may be transplanted into larger pots after they have germinated, or directly planted into a bit of cleared ground as long as we make sure to weed them out as needed when they are young. They will take a couple of years to become established enough to produce seed.

Native plant nursery under the cedar tree. The vast green desert of mowed lawn can be seen beyond. Over the winter, we had a screen over the box to protect the seeds from wildlife. As spring emerged, we started taking plants out to adjust to their future home.
Germination! Tiny seeds flourish.
In addition to sowing packaged seeds, we picked up a few red oak seeds that were germinating like mad in 2017. Placing the germinated seeds gently into the ground to grow in a new tree nursery, we plan to distribute the young trees to help return a native canopy to areas that need it.

Shinrin Yoku in Acadia with Sierra Club Maine

Shinrin Yoku, or ‘forest bathing’ is a Japanese practice of maintaining well being by seeking peaceful restoration in the forest. To help gain a sense of the ecologies in our new home in Downeast Maine, we joined Tara Hollander from the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club on a series of hikes to simply absorb the Maritime forests in Acadia National Park with all of our senses. Grandpa wrote a series of haiku inspired by the walks.

Learn more about Shinrin Yoku

Sierra Club Maine

Neo Rio: Pollinators, Plants & People

Invited to be a part of Neo Rio 2016: Pollinators, Plants & People, the Debris Project was integrated into a part of the installation called ADRIFT, which looked at the chemical impacts on pollinators. Neo Rio is an annual arts event hosted by LEAP (Land, Environment & Art of Place) at the Montoso campground in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. LEAP provides opportunities to deepen our appreciation and understanding of and relationship to our environments and our human and non-human neighbors; to increase our commitment to protecting these places and relationships and fostering creative responses and expressions of them in contemporary art and culture.

ADRIFT was installed in the man-made structure of the campsite, which had a view of the Chevron Questa mine. Because mining releases substantial chemicals into watersheds, and chemical body burdens are intimately tied to plastic pollution, this setting was ideal to present the chemical impacts on our watersheds. Included in the installation were post industrial western landscapes of oil refineries in Commerce City & Sinclair Wyoming, as well as an aerial view of the DOW chemical plant in Texas. DEBRIS tiles were hung vertically as flags to withstand the strong winds that whip across the top of the Rio Grande gorge. The images were representations of native pollinating water insects created with Oceans First in Boulder, Colorado during a spring session earlier in the year. Weighting down the flags was a plastic toy dinosaur; a reminder that the source of endocrine disrupting chemicals is fossil fuels.

View from the ADRIFT installation at the Montoso campground towards the Chevron Questa Mine looming in the distance. Chevron is confronted by years of remediation work after the mine recently shut down.
Gaea McGahee explores DEBRIS tiles at night as the Neo Rio event rambles on around the campfire.
Printed matter: preparation of tiles made earlier in the spring by Oceans First students in Boulder, Colorado. The students focused on creating plastic representations of flies found in watersheds throughout the Rocky Mountain West.
Making DEBRIS tiles into vertical hanging flags to withstand the winds that whip across the top of the gorge.
Hanging the flags: weighting down the vertical flags is a reminder of the source of plastic and the chemicals in the form of a plastic toy dinosaur.
Exploring the broader theme of pollination, the works installed in the ADRIFT section included butterflies, here represented as flags hung under a painting of the DOW chemical plant. The butterflies were conveyed as voids to echo the decimation of habitat monarchs are facing now because of heavy use of chemicals in agriculture. The central flag is a re-purposed plastic pro-cor plate created in collaboration with Susanna Mitchell as part of the Monarch project.
Detail of a butterfly flag with degraded plastic filling the void.
A deflated plastic bee balloon was stung up in a dead tree to serve as a flag marking the path between the ADRIFT installation and HOME. The HOME installation was a hands on activity station that explored how pollinators like bees are essential to human nourishment. Providing a solution to the challenges pollinators face now, local wildflower seeds were offered to participants to take home to their own gardens in order to provide habitat for pollinators.

IMMC4: CLEAR

Max Liboiron for the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Activist Research

The opening plenary for the 4th International Marine Conservation Congress was given by Max Liboiron, who practices ‘Civic Science’ where she works for the public good, throwing in a feminist slant for good measure. She values accessibility and sharing, equity building and justice. She is moved by the people and animals who dwell in her homeland of Newfoundland and seeks justice for the communities who are disproportionately impacted by plastic pollution and the chemical body burdens that are intimately tied to the issue. She demonstrated a deep concern for indigenous communities as her voice wavered during her description of how they discovered through global media that endocrine disrupting chemicals in Inuit mothers’ breast milk was off the charts. Because of the way chemicals are stored in fat, they are biomagnified through the marine food web, and reach the highest concentration in animals who carry a lot of fat. Because Native populations here in the far north traditionally consume fatty meat from these cold waters, the impact from diet has been severe. She thinks it unfair that they learned of their situation through the global news networks instead of those who were leading the study, and described the fallout as there was no one there to guide them through options. Mothers stopped breastfeeding their babies, and introduced formula which has demonstrated long term health impacts of weakening immune systems. The corporate food source also introduces a neo-colonial framework which severs traditional roots. This situation inspires her to address the unevenness of the scientific field and informs her practice. She talked about ‘Ethnographic refusal’ where communities like this could respond on their own terms. She doesn’t feel that the academic world has a right to everything. And it became an important part of her collaborative practice to arrive at decisions on who gets access to findings, not as censorship, but as a way for a community of people who are directly impacted by the information at hand to assess their own options.

In developing her methodology, Ms Liboiron feels it is vital to state clear intentions with collaborators and to the public. For collaborators, she designs accessible research tools for target communities, namely the outport fishermen who are largely low income, but offer tremendous insight through their own traditional fishing practice. Her design principals are open source, can be built by participants for less than $50 from accessible materials found in local hardware stores, using as little plastic as possible. They should be hackable and repairable so that the fishermen can easily gather material in the field. She acts as a facilitator, following the concerns expressed by outport communities, guided by what they feel is important. She invites them to participate through gathering material for a study, then analyzing it as well, placing a lot of trust in the stewards of this place. Her methods represent an inspiring approach to citizen activated science.

Examples of accessible design developed by the Civic Lab
Examples of accessible design developed by the Civic Lab

Because she works with plastic pollution, she asked that the fishermen could save the guts of their cleaned fish so that they could analyze it for plastic within. Her heart sank as she found contamination in cod, the ‘heartbeat of Newfoundland’, referencing the collapse of the codfish industry that gutted the economy here.

Then she spoke of how to implement the societal changes that are necessary to address the broad issues of plastic pollution. We can raise awareness through information and education, instilling values, inspiring DOers…but then there is a block by infrastructure before we arrive at true behavior change. How can we truly avoid plastic if all of the food available is wrapped in it? She suggested targeting change makers over the masses, and publishing articles in the mainstream media instead of only academic journals. She lauded the efforts of Chelsea Rochman, who has effectively influenced policy change in the US in regards to banning microplastics as an ingredient in personal care products. Her words offered a path to effect change in the overarching structures that define our world today is essential to truly having an impact on plastic pollution.

TJ Mabrey

TJ Mabrey - Seed CarrierTitle: Seed Carrier (detail)
Medium: Italian Marble
Size: 7.5 x 30 x 5 inches

Artist Statement

Seeds are dispersed in so many unique ways. The seeds themselves have built in mechanisms for moving about: jumping-jack bounces, sticky bits to attach to clothing, fur, shoes of passers-by etc…But my intent in submitting the sculpture Seed Carrier is to show another way – by boat/ship.  The sculpture represents an empty wisteria pod which is floating on water, like a boat on the ocean.

The marble bed for the seed is empty of the wisteria seed, but I filled it with other (real) seeds to indicate how seeds for food are transported, country to country and continent to continent. Sometimes those seeds meant for food (rice, wheat, and the occasional wild flower) become embedded in the earth where they land and are able to reproduce……that is, if they haven’t come in contact with the New and Improved Monsanto Monster – RoundUp Ready-Xtend!

Seed Carrier by TJ Mabrey
TJ Mabrey, Seed Carrier, Italian Marble

Stephanie Lerma

Stephanie Lerma - Seed CloudIn the Air,  A Seed Cloud (detail)
handmade cotton paper, watercolor, thread, sunflower seeds

As a gardener, I often look to the sky.  I wonder – and always hope – that water will come on its own;  I wonder and hope that little seeds might be drifting  in the air and landing in my yard.  Air, water and seeds: a unique relationship.  I built In the Air thinking about this relationship.

Seed Cloud by Stephanie Lerma
Shadows capture the ephemeral quality of Stephanie Lerma’s intention behind Seed Cloud

Viviane Le Courtois

Exploring the idea of a shared table, Viviane Le Courtois contributed a series of drawings that were produced during her Saturday morning coffee gatherings at Processus, a community art space she co-founded in Denver. Each week she provided stone fruit to share with participants and asked them to place the pits on a piece of paper after they had eaten the flesh from around the seeds. By the end of the session, the paper was stained with the remnants of the particular fruit. Once dry, she drew the seeds of that fruit amidst the stains to create a sort of collaborative work that was literally produced around a shared table.

Extending the concept beyond the human table, Viviane also looked at the way we share with urban wildlife. Collecting found seeds (and a few plastic cups) from the compost pile in Rian Kerrane’s backyard, she noticed they had been gnawed and nibbled by squirrels and mice and other creatures who frequent our yards. She has started to assemble them with the intention of transforming them into small sculptures that reflect how our ‘shared table’ may reach beyond the ones we frequent within our domestic spaces.

Viviane Le Courtois objects d'art
Viviane Le Courtois exhibits a series of seeds nibbled by wildlife found in Rian Kerrane’s compost.