• Amy Rhodes

Plants, Pollinators, People, and Poetry

As the seasons turn from summer into fall and we move toward the more reflective time of winter, we have an opportunity to look back on the abundant experiences that occurred throughout the passing year.


In September, there was a wonderful buzz of activity on the farm! Fifty-two volunteers participated in the installation of 18 perennial beds designed to attract pollinators throughout the growing season. The volunteers helped plant 560 native upland prairie plants along Seton Harvest's "Our Common Home Trail".

Volunteers represented 7 organizations: SW Indiana Master Gardeners, Indiana Master Naturalists, The Nature Conservancy, Tri-State Creation Care, USI Biology Department, UE Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity, and Seton Harvest. Thank you!


The native plant species installed in the beds include:

  • Allium cernuum (Nodding Wild Onion)

  • Asclepias sullivantii (Sullivant's Milkweed)

  • Baptisia bracteata (Cream False Indigo)

  • Coreopsis lanceolata (Lance-Leaf Coreopsis)

  • Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

  • Eryngium yuccifolium (Rattlesnake Master)

  • Helianthus mollis (Downy Sunflower)

  • Liatris pycnostachya (Prairie Blazing Star)

  • Monarda fistulosa (Bergamot)

  • Parthenium integrifolium (Wild Quinine)

  • Penstemon hirsutus (Hairy Penstemon)

  • Rudbeckia fulgida (Showy Black-eyed Susan)

  • Solidago juncea (Early Goldenrod)

  • Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed)

  • Symphyotrichum oolentangiense (Sky-Blue Aster)

  • Tradescantia ohiensis (Ohio Spiderwort)

These short-stature native plant species have adapted to survive well in medium to dry soil conditions and full sun. If you are looking to convert a sunny area of your lawn into a natural habitat, these species would be a great choice. The bees, butterflies, moths, and birds will thank you!

“In the past, we have asked one thing of our gardens: that they be pretty. Now they have to support life, sequester carbon, feed pollinators and manage water.” — DOUG TALLAMY

The importance for humans to experience reciprocal relationships with other natural beings cannot be understated. Our participation and contributions in nature add to the health and joys of Creation. Choosing to add native plants to our landscapes supports the lives of young caterpillars who feed on these "host plants". In return, we are rewarded with the enjoyment of seeing them as butterflies, as well as, adding to the diversity of birds who feed on the caterpillars. Rather than using harmful pesticides, we can support healthy food production by integrating native species that attract beneficial wasps who prey on pests that destroy our crops. Native plants with deep root systems can be selected to help break up and aerate compacted soil, thereby allowing rain and runoff to be better absorbed and reduce flooding. Our thoughtful choices and simple actions can create positive impacts for us as well as for the often unnoticed, unseen beings who provide services we cannot live without.

Want to add native plants to your landscape?

Check out the great resources provided by Homegrown National Park.

Dr. Eric McCloud, Associate Professor in the Biology Department at the University of Southern Indiana, understands how human choices can impact fellow inhabitants supporting our food systems. To help the Seton Harvest community better understand how adding native plants to the farm might change insect populations, he was invited to do a survey. Along with the help of USI students, Dr. McCloud began by setting up malaise traps in August 2022 on the lawn area near the future location of the native plant beds.


The tent-like malaise traps capture and preserve insects flying by, such as bees, wasps, flies and ants. They are set up for a 24-hour time period once a month during the growing season. The specimens collected August - October are now being sorted by Dr. McCloud and students to provide reference for future comparison. The survey is planned to continue over the next 2-3 years. The project is anticipated to provide visual evidence of how the efforts of a caring community of volunteers can increase the biodiversity of a landscape and provide a positive impact in the world.

To stay updated on the results of the native pollinator project, subscribe to this blog and watch for updates! To read more about the important relationship between humans and insects, read these short, informative stories about mason bees and squash bees written by Dr. Eric McCloud. Opportunities will also be available in 2023 to come out to Seton Harvest and get involved with the next phase of adding native plants to the Our Common Home Trail.


It was encouraging to see so many people show up at Seton Harvest to help with the native plant installation! It demonstrated our local community's interest in caring for the Earth and provided our CSA shareholders and non-shareholders an opportunity to gather at the farm. Another new activity brought folks out to Seton Harvest for a chance to enjoy community and the beauty of the farm...POETRY!


On September 24th, Indiana Poet Laureate, Matthew Graham, shared a reading and talk at the farm. Nearly one hundred people attended the event to enjoy the work of our state's celebrated poet. Graham shared poems that invoked images and an acute sense of the places he has lived, traveled to, and experienced. Surrounded by the sounds of the farm, the last birdsongs at sunset phasing into the hum of cicadas and crickets, Matthew Graham delighted the audience with his stories and poems.

The experience of identifying with a place and attendees' senses were heightened due to the generous offerings of the evening's sponsors. Locally grown and produced wine, beer, and cheese were provided by Monkey Hollow Winery, St. Benedict's Brew Works, and Tulip Tree Creamery. Sixth and Zero owner, Mary Allen, offered Bambu appetizer plates and helped serve wine alongside Arcademie Bar owner, Carl Arnheiter who helped serve the beer. This collaborative event, created by Tri-State Creation Care and Seton Harvest, successfully brought people together for a unique opportunity to connect with this place we call Home through sight, sound, taste, and memory.


The evening concluded with Graham signing his latest publication, The Geography of Home. The number of copies on hand quickly ran out! If you are interested in buying a copy, we now have a few more at the Seton Harvest office for $15. Contact amy.rhodes@doc.org.


In closing, here is a poem connecting the human-nature experience from another poet, Sister Dolores Coleman, D.C. The poem is published in Sparrow Songs II*.


I'm like a great oak struck by lightning

stripped of its leaves,

twisted by winds of a hurricane

powerful enough to devastate me

Both oak and I will never be the same again


But the sap is in the roots

the life is in the heart of the tree

Come spring, it sprouts forth

green tranquil and I

like the oak at his bidding will burst forth

with new life more vigorous

strengthened by the ordeal

transcending after our little

Death-Resurrection drama


to that Life to which you call me.


Sister Dolores Coleman, D.C.

7/20/1980


*Peculiarly coincidental and delightfully revealing, this blog was named Sparrow's Song without previous knowledge of Sr. Dolores's collection. The gifts and grace of God cycle throughout the generations...

 

Looking for more about what happened during the 2022 season on the farm? You can read weekly news in Farmer Joe's, Findings on the Farm.


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