All posts by musksoil

Reflections from a wildlife specialist

It was not an easy decision for me to make, as I love my job with the district, but sometimes we all need to make a change. It was time for me. Thirteen years is a long time, and I have learned a lot. So, as my last article, I thought I’d talk about some of the things I’ve learned as an education/wildlife specialist.

Education is what I was originally hired to do, but as budgets grew tighter, I assumed the wildlife specialist role as well. It was an easy thing for me to do, wildlife is my passion and educating people about wildlife is something I consider vitally important. As a wildlife specialist, I have worked with countless homeowners on issues with nuisance wildlife, from bats in the attic, to raccoons in the chimney.

As a wildlife rehabilitator, I am constantly reminded the there is still good left in this world. Kindness and empathy toward other living things is what makes us human, and in the world we live in today, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative. The animals that come in to our care are brought by people who cared enough to help them. We do what we can for injured and orphaned animals, but it starts with one person.

One of the things I’m most grateful for in my life is that I have the experiences of working with wild animals, and I’m equally grateful for those individuals who bring them to us.

Education is what the Muskingum SWCD is all about. The district does not just do education in classrooms, or just with children. Our Urban Greens project is about educating people about where food comes from, how to grow your own food, and eat healthier. The program reaches people in the Putnam area who lack access to fresh food, and often live in a place where they can’t grow their own food. Our community gardens address both these issues and the food grown in one of the gardens goes into the Zanesville City Schools summer lunch program.

We offer many community events, from the ATV Conservation Tour, to canning workshops, movie nights in the park, backyard conservation workshops, and Kids Conservation Camp. We have a forester on staff to assist landowners, and an agricultural technician who assists farmers. The district is vital to Muskingum County and there are few people who have not used the district’s services at least once. We help make Muskingum County a better place to live.

Finally, I have met some amazing people in my position here and that has been one of the greatest gifts in my life. Many of the kids in my summer Kids Conservation Camp have spent countless summers with me, and I have watched them grow up into amazing people. I have met people in the community that want to make a difference and strive to always help others. I’ve worked with people who shared my visions of the world, and some who have not, but I have learned from all of them and each impacted me in a positive way.

In the end, conservation is about people, and that is what I will miss most as I leave this place. Muskingum County is a wonderful place to live. I encourage you all to get outside, look for some salamanders, plant milkweed for monarchs, take your kids fishing, whatever experience that sparks your interest, and gives you a passion for nature.

Please follow and like us:

Urban Greens Update

Things are growing with Urban Greens! All of the beds have been reserved and planted at our Restoration Park Community Garden. I suggest spending some time at the park on a nice summer evening to check out what people are growing. You can even nibble on some produce from our public beds #1-4, which are closest to Muskingum Avenue. Your children will love running through and playing in the natural willow tunnel that we planted last year and is now flourishing. Our apple trees, grape vines, and blueberry bushes made it through the winter and we look forward to their fruits in a couple of years.

We have been very busy expanding our Farm to School Garden located behind the Zanesville Community High School on Moxahala Ave. In fact, we have doubled the garden in size from last season! We are very excited to be partnering with the Ohio State University Extension office to offer a program called Kids Dig It at this garden throughout the summer. We will be hosting kids from area youth centers every Tuesday for eight weeks. They will be participating in hands on learning activities in the garden. If you drive past this garden you will see a large sign that will show how much produce we have harvested from the garden throughout the summer.

We are partnering with the Putnam Business Association to present Movie Nights in the Garden again this summer. They will be held on Saturday, July 7 and August 4 in Restoration Park at dark. Please watch our social media for announcements about the movie titles. Also, on July 7th we are proud to be partnering with the United Way and the Kellogg Corporation for a community garden event before the movie that will involve activities like a neighborhood litter pick up. Please stay tuned for more information on that event—we will be seeking volunteers to help make our garden beautiful and productive!

Please follow and like us:

Celebrate Stewardship Week

Written By: Lisa Crock

Stewardship Week was established by the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) in 1955 and runs April 29 – May 6 this year. It is a week set aside annually to promote stewardship, or the conservation and the wise use of our natural resources, such as water, soil, forests and habitat. The program is administered by 3,000 conservation districts across the United States. It serves as a reminder that each individual has the ability to conserve our natural resources and improve our world.

The theme for 2018 is “Watersheds: Our Water, Our Home”. Water is one of our most precious resources, and we all live in a watershed. There are 2,100 watersheds in the continental U.S. Many people on Earth don’t have access to safe, clean, fresh water, but it is necessary to maintain all life on Earth as we know it. The human body is comprised of approximately 60% water (for the average adult). Having available, clean water is important to everyone, whether it be for drinking water, recreation, irrigation, manufacturing, or habitat for wildlife.

While 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, 97% of that is in the oceans. Only 3% of the water on earth is fresh water. Of the 3% that is freshwater, glaciers and icecaps account for 69%, groundwater accounts for 30% and accessible surface water comprises only 1%. The Earth is considered to be pretty much a “closed system”, like a terrarium. The Earth, as a whole, neither really gains nor loses water. The water we have now is the same water that existed in the time of dinosaurs. The water is constantly moving and changing form, from liquid to vapor and ice. It is up to each of us to do our best to keep our fresh water supplies healthy and clean.

The Muskingum Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is proud to support Soil and Water Stewardship Week 2018. For more information contact the Muskingum SWCD at 740-454-2027 or at www.muskingumswcd.org. More information and teaching resources can be found at the NACD website at www.nacdnet.org/genral-resources/stewarship-and-education-materials/2018-watersheds-water-home/ .

Please follow and like us:

March 20 – Celebrate Spring and National Agriculture Day

Lisa Crock-

On March 20, 2018 we have two things to celebrate – the spring equinox (the first day of spring) and National Agriculture Day. After the winter we’ve experienced, I think most of us are more than ready to see the first day of spring arrive! But why celebrate National Agriculture Day?

The Agricultural Council of America established National Ag Day in 1973 as a way to help Americans recognize the value of agriculture in their daily lives. It’s a day to celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture.

Agriculture produces almost everything we eat. We are blessed to have safe, abundant, and affordable food. Today, each American farm produces food and fiber for 165 people. Due to mechanization and other efficient management practices, this number has dramatically increased from 25 people in the 1960s. This number will need to continue to grow in the future as our world population increases, while the number of actual farmers is projected to decline. Technology has helped farmers do more with less, and will continue to do so in the future.

Much of what we wear and use daily is produced by agriculture. From the cotton in our socks to the ethanol-infused gasoline in our cars, agriculture affects every aspect of our lives. Ohio’s 75,000 farms grow over 200 different products, from corn and cows to blueberries and honeybees. The average size of Ohio’s farms is 184 acres, while 42% are less than 50 acres.

Agriculture is Ohio’s largest industry, contributing $105 billion annually, and it plays an essential role in maintaining a strong economy. Yet, less than 2% of Americans are employed in what we think of as traditional agriculture – the hands-on farming and ranching. Over 22 million people are employed in an agriculture related fields, whether it be food science or inspection, packaging, agriculture engineering, or conservation. One in 12 American jobs is dependent upon agriculture.

Americans spend approximately 10% of their disposable income on food, when those in other countries spend much more. For example, consumers in Mexico spend 23% of their disposable income on food, while those in Nigeria spend 57%. I know this is a hard fact to keep in mind when you get to the checkout at the grocery and you owe $200. However, many times that $200 is not all for food products, and try to keep in mind how much more expensive that same food would be in another part of the world.

Ohio has a lot to offer agriculture – we have good soil, abundant water, plentiful natural resources, and a variety of landscapes. The Muskingum Soil and Water Conservation District is committed to helping keep Ohio’s land productive, its soil healthy, and its water clean through the conservation and the wise use of these resources.

For more information on ways to celebrate National Ag Day, go to www.agday.org

Please follow and like us:

Zanesville Tree Commission

By: Robert Boehle

Driving through the City of Zanesville, one passes by thousands of street trees along with tens of thousands of trees in parks, cemeteries, business properties and private properties without much of a thought. The trees that are within the public right of ways, on city owned properties and within the historic districts are all protected by city code. This responsibility of the oversight falls to the Zanesville Shade Tree Commission (ZSTC).

The ZSTC was created by city council back in 1992 with the intention of protecting the trees throughout the city. The commission is made up of 5 volunteer community members, one of whom has to be a Certified Arborist, and another who has to be a representative of one of the city’s three historic districts. This commission meets on a monthly basis to review and approve or deny requests by property owners in historic districts to do tree work on their property and by citizens who have concerns about trees in city right of ways.

ZSTC is tasked with protecting the urban forest of Zanesville. Part of this is due to requirements to be designated a Tree City USA through the Arbor Day Foundation. Zanesville has been a Tree City USA for more than 20 years at this point, and the hope is to continue this into the future. Urban forests also provide a host of benefits that most people do not think about, such as mitigation of air and noise pollution, reduction of flooding, increase of property and aesthetic beauty, storm water benefits, as well as temperature reduction in and around urban forests.

ZSTC, along with city officials, work with property owners and tenants to try to come to solutions that both sides can agree too. Working with landowners before any work is done is always preferred. With the expertise that sits on the ZSTC, as well as connections with other professional that the average landowner may not think of, many times there are solutions that can meet the landowner’s needs without removal of the tree.

On occasion the ZSTC discovers that tree work has been done outside of the due process that the city has established. This is a situation that we always try to avoid as it harms the urban forest of Zanesville as well as can lead to legal trouble for the landowner. As set forth in the city code there is a penalty clause. Any person who violates any provisions of the Chapter 907 of the city code shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree.

Overall the ZSTC is there to look out for the best interests of Zanesville’s Urban Forests. Landowners who have questions concerning trees on their property or in public right of ways should reach out to ZSTC. We are more than happy to come out and meet with landowners to discuss issues and come to solutions that work for everyone. There are many other resources that can provide expertise about trees. The Ohio Division of Forestry, local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and many private International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborists are all resources that can help. Let’s all work together in keeping Zanesville’s Urban Forest healthy.

Please follow and like us:

Assistance Available to Agricultural Producers through the Conservation Stewardship Program

 

COLUMBUS, OH Jan. 25, 2018 – Agricultural producers wanting to enhance current conservation efforts are encouraged to apply for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

Through CSP, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners build their business while implementing conservation practices that help ensure the sustainability of their entire operation. NRCS plans to enroll up to 10 million acres in CSP in 2018.

While applications for CSP are accepted year-round, applications must be received by March 2, 2018, to be considered for this funding period.

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat – all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land. CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage and planting for high carbon sequestration rates, and new soil amendments to improve water quality.

Some of the benefits of CSP include:
• Improved livestock gains per acre;
• Increased crop yields;
• Decreased inputs;
• Improved wildlife and pollinator habitat
• Forest stand improvement for the removal of invasive species; and
• Better resilience to weather extremes.

NRCS recently made several updates to the program to help producers better evaluate their conservation options and the benefits to their operations and natural resources. New methods and software for evaluating applications help producers see up front why they are or are not meeting stewardship thresholds and allow them to pick practices and enhancements that work for their conservation objectives. These tools also enable producers to see potential payment scenarios for conservation early in the process.

Producers interested in CSP are recommended to contact their local USDA service center or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.

Please follow and like us:

Moon Phases and Gardening

 

Lisa Crock-

Some of my earliest memories are of helping my Grandma in her garden. She lived beside us and because she was very crippled from arthritis, we grandkids were her labor force when it came to gardening. She would instruct us on what, where and when to plant and then harvest the bounty of vegetables. Of course we benefited from all this because she was a widow with a huge garden!

When it came to gardening, I don’t know if Grandma followed an almanac or not. I do remember she followed the moon and was picky about where and when things were planted. For instance, potatoes had to be planted in the dark of the moon. Tomatoes had to be planted in the light of the moon. Crops had to be rotated and there were other instructions I thought were odd at the time. As a kid, I had no idea what most of it meant.

This past week’s “super moon” got me to thinking about the moon and its effects on the earth, so I did a little research on the moon and gardening. For example, not only does the moon’s 28-day journey around the earth affect the tides it also affects the earth’s water table. During the new moon to the full moon (called the waxing moon or the light of the moon) the gravitational pull brings more water to the topsoil. So plants and seeds absorb more water during this time. This is a good time to plant above-ground crops like cabbage, beans, and tomatoes. The gravitational pull during this time also causes sap to rise. Fruits harvested during this phase will be at their juiciest.

The period from the full moon to the new moon is called the waning period, or the dark of the moon. The water table falls at this time, reducing the pressure on root systems. It is also considered the best time to kill weeds, turn soil, and plant below-ground crops, such as carrots, potatoes, and turnips. Grandma always wanted her potatoes planted in the dark of the moon because if you planted your potatoes in the light of the moon, they grew up instead of down and you ended up with a bunch of small, sun-burnt potatoes.

If you’re interested in following the moon, as farmers have done for centuries before Doppler radar on television, there are several almanacs still in print, plus at least one offers a smart phone app. All the almanacs list the same basic information, but often in different formats. The almanac usually interprets the information so that you can easily pick out the most favorable time to plant certain things. Many almanacs also link moon phases with astronomical (not astrological) positioning. Knowing when the moon passes through the astronomical constellations is a helpful indicator of when to perform activities such as fertilizing, weeding, harvesting, watering, etc.

Whether you follow the moon or not to garden, I hope you at least think of the moon a little differently the next time you glance at the sky!

Please follow and like us:

Native Control of Exotic Invaders

By: Robert Boehle

In the natural resource world it seems like at least once a month there is news coming out about a new invasive species that is affecting some different area, whether it is forests, pastures, crop field or just your back yard. Typically control of these invaders falls to a landowner who knows what to look for and what to do. This is because these non-native species didn’t evolve in our ecosystems and therefore have no none predators in the United States. There are native fungus that are attacking some of these invaders and providing some relief. The two primary species that we are seeing these natives doing control are in Ailanthus and multiflora rose.

The disease that is attacking multiflora rose is a blessing to some and a curse to others. Multiflora rose was introduced into the 1700’s, and was heavily planted in the mid 1900’s as living fences and to reduce erosion on sites that would grow very little else. To most rural landowner with large populations of multiflora rose it is a blessing reducing the populations of this pest which can take over large areas of pasture and forest. For urban landowners who may be downwind of multiflora rose it can be a real issue especially if they have roses in their landscaping, because it attacks ornamental roses as well as multiflora rose. Although many times with the reduction of the canopy over, other invasive species can move in so it is not a time to reduce vigilance. The void left can be filled by honeysuckle and autumn olive, neither of which are desirable.

The invasive that is at or close to the top of biggest problems in the woods is Ailanthus or Tree of Heaven. This tree was originally introduced into Pennsylvania in the late 1700’s. It has spread across the majority of the continental US both through natural seed movement and human planting of this species. In 2002 Ailanthus Wilt, a native fungus which attacks and kills Ailanthus was found in Pennsylvania. In 2012 it was found in Pike County, with this discovery United States Forest Service was able to start doing in the field testing. Results for this testing has been very promising with several test plots including two here in Muskingum County. This wilt attacks the vascular system of the trees and begin to wilt them within 4 weeks of inoculation- and death follows within 10 weeks of inoculation. This wilt unlike most commercial control methods does not require follow up and do not leave small seedling to come up and replace the killed larger trees.

The battle against invasive species will continue, likely forever. Combining these native fungus with native beetles and control applied by landowners can greatly reduce the invasive species throughout our landscape giving a better opportunity to our native species. The native species are evolved to grow in this area, as well as evolving with the native animals which provide benefits for both the animals and the plants. Pollinators especially benefit from native species over exotic ones. Controlling invasive issues whether it be through encouraging these native diseases or through chemical control can have long standing benefits for forests, pasture and crop land.

 

Please follow and like us:

Providing for the Over-Wintering Birds

We have quite a few species of birds that over-winter in Ohio. Once the snow starts flying, their food and unfrozen water sources can become hard to find. Even if you only have a small backyard patio area, you can still provide for the birds this winter.

 

There are several ways to provide food for our feathered friends. There are five basic types of feeders, each attracting certain species. Ground feeding tables attract doves, juncos, sparrows, towhees, goldfinches, and cardinals. By using a table instead of just scattering the feed on the ground it keeps some of the droppings separated from the feed. A basic hopper feeder, in which the feed flows out the bottom as it is eaten, will attract jays, grackles, cardinals, and red-winged black birds. The tube thistle feeder is popular with all finches. Suet feeders not only attract titmice, woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches, but often times the unwanted starling, also. To deter starlings, limit the access to the suet holder. Smaller birds can hang upside down to eat from it while the starlings cannot. If you only put out one type of feeder, a sunflower feeding tube should be the feeder of choice. The sunflower seeds attract the smaller birds, but the larger birds will eat also.

 

To maximize the number of species at your feeder, you will want to offer a variety of food. Black-oil sunflower seed attracts cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, gold finches, purple finches, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches. Goldfinches love Niger seed. The sparrows, juncos, and doves favor white millet. If you would like to see woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees, make sure to hang a suet cake. Corn, either on the ear, shelled, or cracked, will attract blue jays, sparrows and starlings.

 

Once you have your feeders up and filled, be patient. It may take several weeks for the birds to find your feeder. Keep the feeders full and clean. Shake tube feeders to dislodge any wet compacted feed and empty the wet feed before refilling. Clean off trays and platforms. At least once a winter clean the feeders in a solution of two ounces of bleach to two gallons of water. Rinse and let dry before refilling.

 

Birds still need water, even in the winter, so you might consider installing a birdbath. There are models available that will keep the water from freezing, or there are small water heaters made that can be placed in a bird bath.

 

It can be a neat hobby to feed the birds and then determine exactly which species are coming in to your feeder. Have fun identifying the birds as they flock to your feeder and water source!

Please follow and like us: