Manifolds, Manolos, and Manure
For anyone keeping track, the big red dragon and his kid brother have graced another fair, this time in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. In front of a crowd of 4,000, the big red dragon raced around a pen. Rolled back on command. Ran in sweeps. Pinwheeled. Barrel turned. And completed two drills. He still didn’t like the corner between the grandstand and the bucking chute, but he left the funny business at home. He’ll visit his final fair this year, the Central Wisconsin State Fair, before this column goes to print.
As the big red dragon and his kid brother have been racing at fairs, home life has marched on. Both kids returned to school. Home improvements started again. Plumbing is nearly done. Lights have been marked out. The contractor for the kitchen cabinets has us on his list. And the yard is finally getting much needed attention.
Our new-to-us farmhouse’s prior owners had a green thumb. I do not. At our prior home I faked it. Perennials were planted. Trimmed. And cleaned up every fall. In spring, flowerbeds were cleaned and mulched. Much of the changes and additions were made before the blue-eyed girl and big-little boy arrived on the scene. As my blue-eyed girl will tell you, by July I’m bored with watering plants and ready for fall. Without her, the flowerpots would go dry.
Rather than pushing our luck at the new-to-us farmhouse, we opted to transition most of the flowerbeds to native plantings and pollinator gardens. Our big-little boy doesn’t exactly love this but even he’s tolerating the bees.
In the Midwest, pollinators are predominately bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, and birds. Bats are also pollinators in the south. Pollinators really need three things to live: pollen, nectar, and vegetation. They’re a keystone group meaning that the survival of many other plants and animal species are dependent on them. We’re dependent on them. Approximately a third of the food we eat and drink is dependent on pollinators.
Unfortunately, pollinator habitat is declining, being degraded, and fragmenting. It’s also being impacted by the use of insecticides and pesticides. Air and light pollution. Diseases and parasites. Climate change. And invasive species. Like so many people before us, we opted to do just a small part to restore pollinator habitat.
We transitioned a portion of our flower beds into a pollinator garden. With any luck by next year, it will contain plants that provide nectar or pollen for a range of pollinating insects. Even those pesky bees that so bother the big-little boy.
We opted for variety in seeds. Some pollinators are generalists and will visit many plants. Some are specialists and prefer only one type of plant. We went with some common plants. Butterfly Milkweed. Black-Eyed Susan. Cornflower. New England Aster. Purple Cornflower. We went with some of my favorites. Lupin (for my grandma who loved Lupins). Gaillardia Aristata. And Milkweed Orange. With any luck our pollinator garden will look like the pollinator gardens surrounding the cranberry marshes at DuBay Cranberry Company near Steven’s Point, Wisconsin.
On the note of pollinator gardens, a tremendous thank you to everyone who help plant the pollinator garden at the Farm Bureau office! We’re looking forward to watching it grow and flourish.