So, three years ago, my teenaged daughter decided she should carve out her own signature in our yard by starting a pollinator garden. She cleared an area and even planted some flowering shrubs. Then she went off to college and that was the end of that.
She had the best intentions. There has been so much buzz (pun intended) in the last few years about pollinator decline. She wanted to take some action and I am proud of her for that.
Meanwhile, back at the weed patch – I mean “pollinator garden” – it is now on me to shape this project into something. I asked myself, what do I need to do in this garden to support pollinators successfully. After some research, I noted that pollinators are more than just butterflies. Bats, birds, beetles, bees AND butterflies and even the wind can all be utilized by nature to pollinate plants. I can’t provide for ALL those species – that thought is a little overwhelming.
I’ve decided to focus on bees. I’m not sure what I can do in my backyard to have an affect on the varroa mite infestations which spread hive diseases. I did learn that a loss of habitat is a factor in bee decline, along with exposure to pesticides. I don’t use pesticides in my yard, so I’m already a step in the right direction. Now for habitat considerations. Researches are suggesting that homeowners utilize wildflowers in a selection of their lawn, instead of just growing grass.
Bee habitat is my goal. I don’t want to tend hives in my backyard, but I can provide support for solitary bees, which are pollinator bees that are already in my neighborhood. I figure native plants are a good choice. I live in a wooded area, so there are plenty of places for solitary bees to nest. My garden will be about providing food. Bee Balm, sunflowers like Black Eyed Susans, and Cone Flowers are native flowering plants with a nice range of bright native color to attract pollinators like my neighborhood bees. These types of plants will also attract other pollinator species as a bonus. I also need to consider what native plants bloom at different times of the year in order to keep the food supply available for the growing year.
The bottom line is that, to be successful, I’ll need to put a lot of planning into a garden to benefit bees. It may take a couple of years to fiddle around with plants and placements. It looks like I’ll need to submit a follow-up or two to report my pollinator garden progress. Meanwhile, check out this really great brochure from the Pollinator Partnership: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/documents/simpletruthbrochure.pdf
Pennsylvania’s Governor ordered those of us in Venango County to stay at home effective at the end of the day March 20th. As a result, all of us at the Venango Conservation District are working from home. The office has been posted as closed and anyone needing to reach us is directed to call the office (814-676-2832) and leave a message or to contact us via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
WE ARE STILL WORKING FOR NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT IN VENANGO COUNTY
The success of keeping the wheels of work running for the VCD is the tireless work of Lance Bowes our District Manager. He sees to it that the answering machine messages are directed, that the snail mail is distributed and that staff are accomplishing the work that the VCD does. Lance is coordinating tele-meetings including our regularly scheduled board meetings for April and May.
Staff is now permitted to perform some work in the field beginning May 11th. Staff will be following protocol modeled after the Governor's recommendation for social distancing and virus safety.
Even with our restrictions, staff has been busy with position development, permit reviews and with applications to funding sources for future projects in Venango County. We are all very much looking forward to getting back to the office and the field after this crisis. For now, we’re still getting good things done for Venango County – just from home.
April 22, 1970 – the day of the vernal equinox. I was only a toddler then, but growing up, I didn’t have much knowledge of Earth Day as an annual event. Growing up in the 70’s in rural Northwestern Pennsylvania, my world was a little sheltered as my neighborhood was small. I carved out regular play areas in the woods near my house, I rode my bike regularly through a nearby State Park and I splashed around in a neighborhood fishing hole, unaware of the problems of pollution.
Thank goodness someone was paying attention. All across the US, people were organizing Earth Day events to bring about awareness and change for the benefit of our planet. Some of those early efforts provided kids like me with Natural Science education such as articles in the school’s Weekly Reader publication. I remember a show on Saturday morning called the Big Blue Marble. Even the weeping Native American commercial stuck with me as a kid. My parents were an influence on my Earth appreciation. We all enjoyed trail walks in the woods, and campfire cook-outs. Composting and keeping an organic vegetable garden became a way of life at home, but I never put those outreach efforts and parental attitudes together with Earth Day until I was an adult.
In 1970, the Venango Conservation District was not even a decade old. The district concentrated on soil health and working with local farmers to achieve soil conservation. In the 1970’s the district grew to working with invasive species concerns and eventually with water quality concerns in Venango County, including environmental education and outreach.
Some consider the 1970’s the Environmental Decade”. After all, a number of laws came to effect in that decade. The Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, The Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, The Surface Mining Control and Reclamations Act were all put into law in the 1970’s. In 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency was formed. That was a lot of change for ten years.
Meanwhile, Earth Day has grown into a global celebration. In 1990 a Global Earth Day was organized. More than 200 million people globally participated in Earth Day events that year. In 2016, the Paris Climate Agreement was signed on Earth Day. In recent years, more than one billion people participate in Earth Day events making Earth Day the biggest civic event in the world. Popular Earth Day events might include river clean-up events, tree plantings and outdoor educational activities.
This year, in 2020, as Earth Day is upon us, we are dealing with a major lifestyle change in social distancing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Gathering together for this 50th anniversary of Earth Day will have to wait, but that does not mean that I can’t do my thing at home to celebrate Earth Day. Weather permitting, I will take a walk outside, continue work on my pollinator garden and tune in for a nature documentary or two. I can access a list of things I can do at home at www.eathday.org/eath-day-at-home/. I hope you join me in your own at-home Earth Day activities. Let’s keep the Earth appreciation outreach and attitudes going.
Human activities can have an impact on this planet, both beneficial and… not so much. Over the years, humans have learned some ways to get important work done without impacting the environment in ways that are harmful. Conservation Districts were created to help with just that purpose, to help folks get things done in Pennsylvania without a big negative impact on the environment.
In Venango County, there are 112 rivers and streams. These waterways are very important as they are home to many aquatic species. These waterways have also served humans well in our history - as drinking water sources, for agricultural uses and for transportation uses as well. These days our waterways see lots of action serving as places of recreation in the county. We’re very proud of our waterways in Venango County and we want to make sure that we’re taking good care not to pollute them. We therefore, employ practices that can reduce pollution.
The Venango Conservation District concerns ourselves with helping folks reduce non point source pollution, but what is that? Usually, when we think of water pollution we may picture a pipe dumping waste right into a stream, to be carried off. That pollution is coming from one place – the pipe. That is point source pollution. Non point source pollution is the opposite. Non point source pollution is pollution that comes from multiple places and from a wide area.
Sometimes it can be a little tricky to identify where non point source pollution might be coming from. Sometimes we can see pollution is happening but we might have to really investigate to find where those areas of pollution are coming from. Some sources of non point source pollution might be from sediment run off from agricultural, construction, or timbering operations. Some sources might be nutrient and chemical applications to plants and soil. Some sources might be from impervious areas where petroleum products or trash might be laying for storm water to pickup.
So, what non point source pollution is – pollution that comes from many different sources. The good news is – the Venango Conservation District is here to help find ways to reduce pollution affecting our very valuable waterways. We can help with technical assistance, with education, and even sometimes with finding funding sources to construct practices that reduce non point source pollution.
The Venango Conservation District will once again be holding an educational workshop providing all kinds of information about getting Dirt Gravel and Low Volume program projects on the ground. The Dirt Gravel and Low Volume Roads program is managed by conservation district across Pennsylvania providing administration, education and funding to install practices on rural roads that reduce non-point source pollution to the waterways of Pennsylvania.
The 2019 Venango workshop will include classroom sessions where participants will learn about bonding roads, prevailing wage requirements, changes to the PA One Call laws, Erosion & Sediment Control plans, stormwater management and much more. This year we're adding site visits to the day. We'll be visiting three sites this year where participants can view some projects on dirt gravel and low volume roads that are working well to reduce pollution.
Registration is required to attend the workshop and lunch and transportation to the site visits will be provided. Call our office at 814-676-2832 or email us at email@example.com to register or to find out more. The deadline to register will be Friday April 5th.
The Venango Conservation District is once again holding our annual tree seedling and groundcover sale through March 23td 2018. Species available this year will be Norway Spruce, Colorado Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir, Eastern White Pine, Canadian Hemlock, Red Oak, White Oak, Sugar Maple, Silky Dogwood, and Red Chokeberry. Myrtle clumps and wildflower seed mix are also offered. Get more information in the links below.
Working Trees for Pollinators
The Venango Conservation District is happy to announce that they will be offering the sponsorship of five Venango County agricultural producers to attend the upcoming 2018 Western PA Annual Grazing Conference, located in Clarion, PA on March 21st and 22nd, 2018. This is a two day event with the option to attend one or both days. Sponsorship of this event covers a one day registration cost of $45, which includes continental breakfast and hot buffet lunch. Awarded applicants have the choice of which day would they would like to attend. However, if the recipient wishes to attend the second day, they will be responsible for any additional registrations cost.
The 2018 Western PA Annual Grazing Conference includes many speakers and presentations, including Teddy Gentry, bass player for the legendary country music group Alabama. Teddy Gentry will talk about efficiency of cow calf production and how grazing management has benefited his own beef cattle operation. Greg Judy, author of two grazing management books and owner/operator of a beef grazing operation in Clark, Missouri, will also talk about his successes of leasing and owning grazing land. The event brochure, including the agenda and more details can be found on the Venango Conservation District website www.venangocd.org.
In order to be an eligible recipient of this sponsorship, interested persons must be an agricultural producer and reside in Venango County. He or she must also complete a “Sponsorship Eligibility Form” and submit it to the Venango Conservation District by Thursday, March 1, 2018 by mailing to 1793 Cherrytree Road Franklin, PA 16323 (Attn: Becky Deeter) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The “Sponsorship Eligibility Form” will be reviewed by the Venango Conservation District for appropriate eligibility, and available openings will then be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. Awarded applicants will be notified by Monday, March 5th.
If you have any questions, need a copy of the “Sponsorship Eligibility Form”, or would like more information regarding the event, please contact Becky at the Venango Conservation District at 814-676-2832, email@example.com or visit www.venangocd.org.
Western PA Annual Grazing Conference Brochure
VCD Sponsorship Eligibility Form
The Clarion and Venango Conservation Districts will be hosting a free Twilight Pond Walk with the Penn State Extension. The workshop will be held at YMCA's Camp Coffman. We will gather at the Fisherman's Cabin Pond located behind the dining hall at Camp Coffman. The program is designed for owners or managers who maintain ponds and lakes.
Penn State's Pond Educator, Bryan Swistock, will discuss life cycles both in and around the pond, starting with an overview of pond basics. His emphasis will be on plant identification, management, and algal control. He will also cover topics of pond structure, fish and wildlife issues, managing plants and algae, and an introduction to harmful algal blooms. Samples of aquatic plants may be brought to the workshop for identification.
The workshop will be outside, so please dress for the weather. Participants may bring a lawn chair if they will need a place to sit during the two hour session.
For more information, contact Tricia McIntire at the Clarion Conservation District at 814-297-7813 or firstname.lastname@example.org
click here for event flier
Pennsylvania DCNR says that at the beginning of the 21st century, about 1,300 species of nonnative plants existed in Pennsylvania outside of gardens, parks and agricultural lands. That means that 37 percent of Pennsylvania’s total wild plant flora consists of nonnatives. DCNR says that more nonnative plants are introduced every year. A nonnative plant is one which was brought into the state and eventually became established in the wild.
Pennsylvania’s native plants number 2,100 in the wild. They include ferns, mosses, grasses, sedges and rushes, wildflowers, woody trees, shrubs and vines. Native plants are those plants growing in Pennsylvania before European settlers arrived. Native plants evolved in Pennsylvania and are therefore well adapted to the area soils and climate. That means they are easy to care for once established. Many natives require little to no additional fertilizer and extra watering. Landscaping with native plants means you can use less fertilizer and less water to keep them looking happy and healthy in your garden. If everyone were to utilize native plants in their gardens, there would be less chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides washing away to local waterways, which means a reduction in water pollution.
According to the Penn State Cooperative Extension, another big reason to landscape with native plants is biodiversity. 90 percent of our native insects feed on only three or even fewer families of plants. Our native insects rely heavily on native plants. If our native insects cannot feed on growing nonnative plant populations, then by extension, native birds would have fewer insects to feed on. Penn State Extension says that what we plant in our yards today will determine what kind of wildlife will be living in Pennsylvania.
By planting native species we can help Pennsylvania’s natural history and diversity sustain. Pollinating insects keep our fruit, vegetable and seed crops going. Bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, birds and even bats rely on pollen and nectar. Food from native plants will keep our native ecosystem going.
The Venango Conservation District is pleased to announce that a grant from the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts has been received. Funding is provided through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act administered by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The district will be working to educate home/land owners and the general public on how to landscape with native plants rather than exotic plants. A workshop will be held later in the summer. Three outdoor brochure holders have already been installed throughout Two Mile Run County Park. These brochure holders contain a hand-out sheet highlighting the native plants in bloom each month on the Park. Informational signs demonstrating how native plants reduce nonpoint source pollution in the watershed are also installed on the Park.
Want to learn more about using native plants in your landscaping? There are many great websites to use for research. The Pennsylvania DCNR webpage on Landscaping with Native Plants is www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/plants/nativeplants. The Penn State Cooperative Extension webpage on Pennsylvania Native Plants for the Perennial Garden is located at http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fact-sheets/perennial-garden/pa-native-plants-for-the-perennial-garden/pdf factsheet.
The Pennsylvania State Senate and the House of Representatives declared April 23-30, 2017 as “Conservation District Week.” The dates coincide with Earth Day (April 22nd) events and celebrations.
Each county has a conservation district office except Philadelphia. These offices have volunteer directors and staff who focus on local conservation issues. These are your neighbors who are working to ensure there is enough clean water. They also make sure we have healthy soil for the future. That is something to celebrate!