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Dec 13

On the Monarch migration trail: It's such a long way

I’m at 10,000 feet in the pine and fir forest of the higher levels of the Sierra Madre mountains in central Mexico. I stand on an uneven narrow path going up Cerro Pelón, watching thousands of brilliant Monarch butterflies dance through the trees above me. A few flutter to the ground, to bask in a patch of sunshine. 

I’m a bit deaf, but my friend Ellen who is my companion on this journey (we first met volunteering at Tiny Marsh) tells me the movement of their wings sounds like the rustling of leaves. With my binoculars, I pick out the colonies - the pale undersides of the wings of massive clusters of butterflies gathered on the branches of the Oyamel Firs, the only trees on which the Monarchs will roost. 

Some, I think, have made their way here from my home 4,250 kilometres away, in Ontario. 

Two months ago, one of them may have passed through my garden, pausing to nectar at the asters, phloxes and Joe Pye weeds. One might even have been one of those caterpillars I raised that consumed impressive amounts of milkweed, to finally eclose from a green jewel-like chrysalid and sail off in a southerly direction.Read more
Dec 13

Book reviews: Beresford-Kroeger and O'Hara / Trees and Trails

To Speak for the Trees - My Life’s Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forestby Diana Beresford-Kroeger (2019 - hardback, 295 pp, Random House Canada) 

A Trail Called Home - True Stories from the Golden Horseshoe by Paul O'Hara (2019 - hardback, 231 pp, Dundurn)

Trees can live longer than we do and so they connect us, to our past and to our future. They reach high into the sky and deep into the ground, linking us to the world above where fascinating winged creatures live, and below, to the dark world where billions of organisms toil unseen to sustain the soils that support life.

The indigenous people who came before us on this land revered the majesty of an ancient tree. Treaties and other important matters would be discussed in the shade of a “council” oak, elm, beech or other species of giant that had a life that spanned many human generations. 

Those who came later saw trees differently.

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Oct 23

Leave the leaves

NOTE: Return of the Native is closed for the season. 

I have this message every fall - if you clear the overwintering habitat for the creatures in your yard, you destroy its biodiversity. Below, a timely message from the Nature Conservancy of Canada. If this message is a little late and you have already "cleaned up," you can do what I do at this time of year - leaf rustling...  I bring bags home and place my leaves and those "liberated" from the curb in a large bin, to break down into leaf mould. 

By the way, there's a reference to 'raking' that may be a litte quaint, but if you are intent on tidying, you should not use a leaf-blower, to safeguard your own well-being. Leaf blowers throw material up into the air to the level where we can easily breathe it in, and it's an invisible cocktail that includes moulds, pesticides, animal waste, and dust particles small enough to get past our natural defences. Children are particularly vulnerable to this toxic cloud.

Backyard wildlife need winter homes

One of the most beautiful aspects of fall, the changing colour of leaves, comes with an onerous task: raking them all up.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), however, has some green advice for people wishing to avoid back-breaking yard work: leave the rake in the shed and the leaves on the ground.

The not-for-profit land conservation group says leaving fallen leaves in your yard is a small act of nature conservation that can support backyard biodiversity in many ways.
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