Nature

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By Rebecca Hammond

THE OJIBWAY MUSEUM IN ST. IGNACE IS SMALL AND INTIMATE and worth a stop for its gift shop alone. It was there that I discovered books by Canadian First Nations writer Richard Wagamese.
A novelist and essayist, Wagamese produced two wise books of essays, now part of my daily morning read. In “Wolf Tracks,” in One Story, One Song he wrote about hiking: “The land felt alive. When I was out there standing on it, I felt alive, too. . . .[But] We can’t experience a primordial thrill with each breath.” And we don’t. And yet…

ONE OF THE BEST PLACES TO HIKE IN MICHIGAN is Ludington State Park. It’s hilly and beautiful, with a long stretch of Lake Michigan beach and inland lakes ringed by classic stands of white pine. Most of the dunes there are stabilized by forest. They are steep in places. And a long hike there has ups and downs in more ways than altitude. If the day is icy and windy, just being there seems nuts. But it was there that I first noticed that such experiences aren’t sum totals of good and bad moments. They add up to more than mere pleasure or its lack.

Recently, Phil was forced to engage in a couple of my bucket list items (I hate that phrase, but there you are), as I was feeling that 30 years was too long to keep putting off backpacking Pictured Rocks, and at 62 was guessing that waiting longer might not make it any easier.

The shuttle ride of an hour and a half required four days’ walking back. I may have panicked about what we assumed was do-able do in four days is usually tackled in five if Noah’s flood hadn’t been pouring since we left the motel. Weather is distracting.

We hiked in the deluge for three hours. Then ,as we finally hit the Lake Superior shore, the rain stopped and sunbeams appeared. Angels might have burst into chorus, the change was so welcome and dramatic.
The next three days were a mixture of sore feet, breathtaking views, pounding surf, aching shoulders, hips, knees, bear tracks, and open pit toilets that were great equalizers. When you’re the only older woman in four days of encounters with the young and fit, anything that’s a reminder we’re all human is welcome.

BUT NO MATTER THE PARTICULARS, NOTHING COULD IMPACT the marvelous experience, not a last afternoon spent wading and sliding through mud, not some of our bad packing choices; even the mostly-terrific daytime weather and some of the world’s best scenery seemed less than the total. It was all so good that two weeks later we decided we needed another adventure. We packed bikes and panniers and headed to Otsego State Park, and hit the North Central State Trail, a rail trail extending from Waters to Cheboygan.

We planned to bike what Michigan Trails magazine told us was 53 miles (it was actually 60), and this was a vastly different experience than the backpacking was. In the first place, all that walking didn’t get us in the right kind of shape for cycling, although our legs were strong. The hardest part about long-distance cycling (in our late 40s, we biked across the UP, and another year, home from the Mackinac Bridge) ends up being the hours on the bike; hands, wrists, and shoulders getting progressively numb or painful.

It was cold, and of course both days had headwinds, even though we headed north one day and south the next. 60 miles is too far on crushed limestone, which seems to reduce average speed by about two mph. Did I mention it was really cold? We left Cheboygan bundled for the upper 30s at about 9:00 A.M. At 7:00 P.M., we were finally back at Otsego. Did I mention that railtrails are boring? There’s a bend in the flat, straight trail far ahead, and you look forward to its novelty. When you finally round it, you see more flat, straight trail. Rail trails often parallel highways, and at one point I switched to it just for some hills and curves. Phil stuck with the trail for a couple of miles, but joined me after seeing how much faster I could go on the paved surface, even with climbs.

FORTY TOUGH MILES LATER, PAST RIVERS AND BEAVER LODGES AND SMALL TOWNS, we were cheerleading aloud, not to each other, but to ourselves. I held mental conversations about what could be worse than what I was doing, in between chanting self-encouragement aloud. See that dead tree? If that fell on you, that would be worse than this. See that wasp nest at eye level right beside the trail? If it were warm and they were active, they could sting you. That would be worse than this.

But the takeaway from those tough two days of cycling ended up the same as the backpacking: the experience was worthwhile, greatly so, and we’re eager for more. Just this morning I read a William James quote: “What our human emotions seem to require is the sight of struggle going on… .Sweat and effort, human nature strained to its uttermost…then turning its back on success to pursue another [challenge] more rare and arduous still — this is the sort of thing the presence of which inspires us.”

Wagamese wrote that we can’t experience primordial thrills with each breath. But he also wrote that we should still strive for those thrills, “…that charge in the belly that says we are not alone and the earth is not ours to order.” Why treks reveal that charge is part of the mystery that makes them worthwhile.

Rebecca Hammond lives in Ferndale and believes in new beginnings. Wave when you see her walking to and from the library with Phil.

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By Sara E. Teller

JERRY HASSPACHER ADVOCATES FOR MORE AWARENESS AROUND CLIMATE CHANGE and other environmental issues. Since 2009, as a board member of the Sierra Club Southeast Michigan Group, Hasspacher has delivered 184 Climate Change & You presentations and with more to come.

Climate Change & You is a free presentation covering a variety of topics related to the environment about which the public should be more aware, according to Hasspacher. Topics include renewal energy, energy conservation, problem weather and severe weather, permafrost, sea level rise, acidification of oceans and lakes, loss of biodiversity, an increase in disease, pollution from all sources, and others.

Through the Sierra Club, Hasspacher has offered his expertise in a variety of settings, including libraries, schools, clubs, City Council meetings, and many others. “I can travel just about anywhere in Southeast Michigan,” he said.

“JUST THINK, IN GENERAL, the European Union has banned 379 chemicals and the U.S. has banned only 11,” he said.

“Michigan now has an administration that has stepped up, but not a legislator,” Hasspacher said, “So it’s largely left to local governments to do something.”

Hasspacher is very involved in Warren, the community in which he resides, in general, as well as throughout the tri-county area. He is on the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Southeast Michigan Regional Transportation Authority, is a member of Beaumont’s Healthy Grosse Pointe & Harper Woods, a member of SEMIWILD, and a citizen member of Warren’s Environmental Advisory Committee and WarrenSUN.

He stated, “I’ve had a passion for environmental issues since I was very young and used to go camping.” Hasspacher also credits his careers in public school teaching and nursing for laying the necessary public speaking groundwork.

“I always say the two degrees are left- and right-brained,” Hasspacher said. “Nursing gave me the science background. And when I was a teacher I led an environmental club and the band boosters, both of which gave me valuable public relations experience.”

IN HIS FREE TIME, HASSPACHER ENJOYS PLAYING BADMINTON AND VOLLEYBALL, and riding his bike. His favorite ride is the 30-mile Beat the Train event that takes place in Detroit Saturday mornings at 6:30 A.M. throughout the riding season. Asked what else readers should know, Hasspacher offered, “They should know that on April 21, 2020, Earth Day will be celebrating its 50th anniversary, and it just so happens to be the same day as the Lyrid meteor shower and a night of ‘no moon.’ So, the showers will be highly visible.”

For more information about the Southeast Michigan Sierra Club, stop by a meeting at the Royal Oak Elks Lodge, 2401 E 4th St, Royal Oak, MI 48067, Thursday nights at 7:00 P.M. (a meet-and-greet takes place 6:30 P.M. to 7:00 P.M.). For more information on Climate Change & You and or to book a presentation, email jhasspac@gmail.com.

By Jill Lorie Hurst

Just when I thought I’d met every brilliant human who lives in the 48220, Ferndale Friends sent me to learn all about Rachel Engel: homesteader, permaculture consultant, perfume and candle maker, winner of the Ferndale Beautification Award, urban farmer, ecologist. Engel is one of the founders of the Ferndale Seed Library. She holds workshops for people interested in leading a zero-waste lifestyle.

Rachel is also warm, funny, empathetic and very gracious. Seconds after arriving at her Ferndale home on a snowy morning, I was seated in a big, comfy chair with a blanket tucked around my shoulders, terrier Teddy in my lap, immediately, dangerously comfortable. Rachel: “It’s important to be cozy and have your basic needs met. Celebrate your day-to-day.” She celebrates with husband/partner Brian, eleven-year-old daughter Terra and a growing group of animals that include Wyandotte chickens, “big, fat heirloom chickens who love the cold.”

Born into a military family, Rachel moved over 35 times as a child. She found Ferndale as a grownup, and met Brian just as she was leaving for a great job in Chicago. She left. And then returned. They’ve been growing a life together ever since.

The “growing” started when she wondered if he’d mind getting rid of the front lawn! I expressed interest and confessed a lack of skills. “Failure is all part of the process. Fail – you have compost. Things will grow better next year. Just get roots into the soil.”

RACHEL ADVISES STARTING WITH AN HERB SPIRAL. Easy to grow fruits and vegetables? She recommended garlic, chives, Asian pears, persimmons, arugula. Divide your yard into zones. Grow the things you use most in the zone closest to your house. Think small. Make long-term goals.

Rachel has two goals these days. One is design-ing permacultures for others. “Helping people become guardians of their own land. Each garden is diverse and unique. It’s based on following the sunlight paired with water and energy conservation by focusing on perennial food production and inviting natural ecological systems to do the work.”

Second, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which Rachel calls a “deep-hearted endeavor.” They deliver fresh, seasonal produce to lucky customers on a regular basis. Food is harvested an hour before delivery!

We discussed the idea of a CSA on every block. What’s a CSA? Each household grows different things to share with the neighborhood. “We can shrink our carbon footprint and increase our nutrition by becoming ‘hyper-local.’” Rachel is passionate. “The best legacy we can leave future generations is good soil.”

HER DAUGHTER TERRA ON GROWING UP in a permaculture homestead: “My favorite part is being able to go into the yard and being able to eat so many yummy veggies and plants. The hardest part is maintaining it, but it’s definitely worth it. And it matters because we are going through a global crisis and growing our own food helps the Earth in many ways. Also, growing up on an urban farm is so much fun because of being able to play with the animals and make many things and eat many things with the plants.”

On the walk home I thought about an herb spiral, the arugula we can grow, the clover and wildflowers that’ll replace the grass in our front yard. Up until now I’ve left the gardening to my husband, but Rachel has made me unafraid to fail! A great teacher inspires you to dig in. Explore. Set goals that work for you.

Rachel Engel moved more than 35 times as a kid. It was hard to put down roots. Rachel dreams of picking an apple off a tree she planted herself. Hopefully she’ll pick that apple right here in Ferndale.

By Ingrid Sjostrand

WHILE HAZEL PARK IS ON THE RISE ECONOMICALLY, it’s important to remember the environmental areas that benefit our community too. Natural spaces help wildlife and create a more aesthetically-pleasing city, which is why the Hazel Park Nature Initiative (HPNI) is working hard to make sure there is green growth added to the area.

Created by Amy Aubry, Hazel Park Mayor Pro Tem, and Grace Vatai, Executive Director and Naturalist of Mulberry Hill Wildlife, the Nature Initiative focuses on creating and restoring native green spaces in Hazel Park through four tenets – habitat creation, land management, education and community.

“We plan to create habitat and natural space in the city for the benefit of both wildlife and residents. Wildlife will benefit from things like native wildflower beds, pollinator gardens and lawn alternatives,” Vatai says. “Residents will benefit from increased beautification of our city through aesthetically appealing natural spaces, as well as opportunities to learn about and implement natural practices in their own yards.”

The idea for the Nature Initiative came when Vatai and Aubry found they had a shared love for the environment, and both recognized a lack of natural space in Hazel Park. After further discussion, they found there was community interest too.

“Nature helps ground us and promote well-being it’s good for us to be around,” Aubry says. “Increasing native landscaping and habitats will give residents more opportunities to see our diverse flora and fauna and help them flourish while receiving their own benefits in return. The Nature Initiative will also enrich our parks, streetscapes, and overall community.”

The HPNI has produced a few presentations at the Hazel Park Library to educate and encourage interest, including Bat Week and Native People, Native Plants programs. Bigger projects are in the works as well, including one that will encompass habitat creation, land management, education and community.

“We are currently developing a new natural area in Hazel Park which will contain native plant beds including a pollinator garden, woodland garden, native wildflowers and more,” Vatai says. “This will provide habitat for beneficial wildlife and also educational opportunities for everyone in Hazel Park by creating a place for people to come and learn about nature through direct experience.”

Vatai and Aubry encourage residents to join the Initiative and offer various opportunities to get involved including helping care for the gardens or providing donations. They will also be holding public events for residents’ feedback on the HPNI.

“When the time comes to address our City ordinances, City Council will vote on the proposed changes. We will hold public hearings where residents are encouraged to share their thoughts, feelings, and questions on the changes suggested, as well as offer up suggestions of their own,” Aubry says. “In addition, we will have lots of opportunities for resident participation: Come to fun, educational classes, volunteer at events such as plantings, or jump all-in and replace your grass with native plants on your property.”

“The Hazel Park Nature Initiative is one small step we can take that can have a big impact when we work together. By restoring food sources for wildlife and pollinators we can help creatures like the monarch butterflies and bees thrive,” Aubry says. “This life is bigger than ourselves – I’ve always been a bigger-picture kind of person and taking care of our surroundings is part of that bigger picture.”

“Being in nature is a spiritual experience. No matter who you are or what your beliefs are, there is a certain undeniable connectedness that reveals itself if you allow yourself to truly ‘be’ in nature,” Vatai adds. “Co-authoring the Hazel Park Nature Initiative is a fulfilling experience. Every human being deserves to experience the joy of living fully in a naturally beautiful place, and I believe that beauty is possible right here in Hazel Park.”

For more information or to keep up to date on events, visit facebook.com/hpnatureinitiative.

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By Sara E. Teller

THE FERNDALE GARDEN CLUB WAS FOUNDED IN 1931 as a way for gardeners of all abilities to connect around a shared love for gardening and to share that love with the Ferndale community. The FGC officially joined Michigan Garden Clubs in 1951. The Club includes members of all skill levels, from those with exceptional green thumbs to those just getting started.

“What we all have in common is a love for plants and the creatures that inhabit a healthy garden,” said Dominic Scappaticci, President of the Club.

Club members hope to inspire others in the community to try their hand at horticulture. They also hope to spread their love for natural, clean ways of carrying out their craft.

“We promote sustainable and ecological-minded gardening practices that will keep our natural world beautiful, healthy, and alive for future generations,” said Scappaticci. “We also promote gardening practices that encourage native birds and insects to call our community home.”

AS PART OF THIS MISSION, the Ferndale Garden Club hosts a number of events in and around the area throughout the year, such as the Think Spring Garden event that was just held on February 23rd. The event offered a chance for those with green thumbs to start preparing for the upcoming season. It included a seed swap, exhibits by local gardening groups, and information about the importance of pollinator-friendly plants.

Other upcoming events include a presentation titled “Weeds: Useful and Edible” by Ed Blondin from Hortulus Garden & Landscapes, which will take place at the March 14 monthly meeting held at the Gerry Kulick Community Center, 1201 Livernois, 7:00-8:30 P.M., as well as a native plant presentation that will kick-off the April 11 meeting.

The Club created a public garden at the corner of Livernois and Oakridge for the enjoyment of everyone in and around Ferndale. Members continually maintain the space, ensuring it stays alive and well. Gardening-themed books have also been distributed to the local elementary school by Club members so budding gardeners can get their start as early as possible.

In fact, students interested in horticulture may just get a helping hand to pursue their passion. “Every year the Garden Club awards a scholarship to a graduating Ferndale High student,” Scappaticci said. “We have awarded a scholarship every year since 1989.”

He explained, “We donate gardening and ecology-themed books to the elementary school. At our monthly meetings, we host speakers on a variety of gardening topics as well as offer a chance for gardeners to connect and trade plants, seeds, tools, and house plants. Recent speaker topics have been about raising chickens in Ferndale, propagation of house plants, using native plants in our landscapes, urban beekeeping, and more. And best of all, we offer homemade treats for all attendees!” Scappaticci added, “We also go on field trips! Our last field trip in October was to the roof of the public library to see the living roof.”

TO BECOME A MEMBER OF THE FERNDALE GARDEN CLUB, the only requirement is a love for gardening and a nominal annual fee which covers the cost of all of the Club’s activities.

“We have yearly dues of $20,” Scappaticci explained. “The dues help cover costs of speakers, programs, garden maintenance, and scholarships. We are a registered 501c)(3) nonprofit.”

Meetings are held the second Thursday of every month, 7:00-8:30 P.M. at the Kulick Center. More information is available online:

www.facebook.com/theferndalegardenclub •

Instagram: @theferndalegardenclub •

By Sarah E. Teller

VERY RECENTLY, THERE WERE FOUR NEARLY LIFE-SIZED STATUES OF GIRAFFES standing in the last of Ferndale’s large green spaces adjacent to the controversial Pinecrest Holdings mixed housing development that’s been underway for quite some time.

Nearby, a sign read: “Giraffes are the first to flee danger. A developer wants to clearcut the woods, dig up the soil/contamination will spread over our homes and FHS students. Save our last green space!” Not long after being placed, however, the statues and the sign were removed by local law enforcement.

According to the artist and sculptor responsible for the message (who wishes to remain anonymous), “Giraffes are the first critters to flee an area when there’s severe strife. It goes back to a native, mythological belief that because of their long necks, giraffes can see trouble before it happens. They can see into the future and know when something’s coming.”

He said he wanted to make a statement about eliminating the city’s last green space, especially because he considers himself a “friend to the environment” and uses only natural materials in his art.

“There were four giraffes altogether – a mom, dad, and two kids. Police cut down the sign. The little ones are gone. The mom and dad have been knocked down. All in all, I have about four months of work in it and $350, including 37 yards of fabric, some jute cord, 200 feet of chicken wire, and spray paint. As a nature lover, this green space is important to me. There are old trees there that will be cut down. The developer said they’re going to save as many trees a possible, but what does that mean? Before you know it, they’ll just say they couldn’t save anything.”

URBAN PLANNING MASTER’S DEGREE CANDIDATE, Leah Deasy, provided some additional insight into the status of the development project. “Process-wise, I believe the City has received application materials from the developer, Pinecrest Holdings LLC, seeking site plan approval for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) on the two parcels south of the high school on Pinecrest. The last word from City staff was that these materials are in the process of being reviewed. They have not yet been made public.” She added, “Pending completion of the application and staff review, the PUD formal application could come before the Planning Commission for a vote on December 5 or 19. Before a vote, the Planning Commission will take public comment on the project. If approved by the Planning Commission, the PUD moves on to City Council for approval.”

Jordan Twardy, Director of Community and Economic Development for the City of Ferndale, confirmed, “The project team is currently responding to feedback from their last appearance at the Planning Commission in July 2018 as well as the recent community meeting in October 2018. Critical next steps include a more detailed site plan and a development agreement. If those pieces are completed by the developers and submitted to the City, they could appear before the Planning Commission.”

NOT ALL RESIDENTS ARE PLEASED, HOWEVER. “I would say that there has been a lot of concern from residents on the environmental conditions of the site,” said Deasy. “Residents are very concerned, thoughtful and deliberate. We want to know exactly what risks we are facing from contaminants at the site currently and what risks we could be exposed to by disrupting it. What I’ve observed so far is that residents still have so many unanswered questions that they don’t feel anyone has enough information yet to responsibly make a decision of this magnitude.”

She continued, “The community also feels hurt by the misdeeds of past landowners at this site – Ethyl Corporation using the forest as a dumping ground for trash and chemicals and the needless destruction of Ferndale’s only Albert Kahn-designed house, circa 2012. It is a hard pill to swallow to think that no one can be held responsible for past actions at this site and that we have little choice but to consent to more destruction for its future.”

The local artist added, “The developer is not being specific about the plans. This is another big problem I have with this. They’re not being honest with us or the City, and the City says it’s private property so they can do anything they want.”

A group of concerned individuals, who’ve coined themselves the Southwest Neighborhood Association, has formed in order to discuss the issues at hand. “There was a meeting with the City. The City is not interested in a parcel of land, and Pinecrest Holdings LLC doesn’t own the land, they only have an option to buy. Just come out and be honest with us – no ifs, ands or buts.”

Deasy explained, “There is clear consensus from residents, however, that any development should be concentrated on the south portion of the site and that the forest area towards the mid-north end of the site should be preserved for the benefit of the community. We desire to see dense, walkable, mixed-use development on the 8 Mile frontage of the property, at the corner of 8 Mile and Pinecrest, and for the 15 acres of forest to remain intact. We’d like the nature that has made this site its home to stay and want the process of bio-remediation that has already started onsite to continue. We think if the developer would think more ‘innovatively’ about the relationship between current and future land use onsite and the value of the ecosystem services already in existence there, we could have something really special.”

Twardy addressed this concern. “The project, if approved as a PUD, will require the preservation of a significant number of old growth trees as well as the provision of north-south and east-west pathways for public use throughout the site,” he said. “In response to public feedback, the developers will also be looking at ways to increase the size and accessibility of open green space and wooded areas. Additionally, space is being set aside –currently proposed for the eastern portion of the site – for a defined public space, which, if the project is approved, would be designed with public input.”

THE ANONYMOUS ARTIST SAID, “There’s a large herd of deer there, coyotes, and it’s home to owls and a couple of species of bats that are endangered. It’s a beautiful place. It really is. It’s been astounding, and it will be heart-wrenching to have it all paved. The City is trying to get revenue generation and tax money, I get it. But it will also cost us money, in additional police and fire resources. And, imagine if you clear-cut everything. Then, it’s August and hasn’t rained in a month to a month and a half. The contamination will scatter, and we’ll all be breathing it and brushing it off our furniture. The students will all breathe it in.”

Addressing clean-up concerns, Twardy said, “The project will be required to, prior to any construction, clean up all contamination in accordance with applicable state and federal environmental standards. The entire site will be required to be cleaned up prior to any development activity. The applicable standards for cleanup also have provisions for ensuring the continued safety of all adjacent and nearby properties. The result would be a situation that is safer and cleaner for the property and surrounding neighborhoods than currently exists today.”

He added, “Additionally, separate from the developer’s efforts, the City has approved funding of up to $20,000 to perform an environmental concerns inventory for the site. We are in the process of also seeing if grant funds can be used to pay for the study. Our goal is to have the study completed in time for the project’s return to the Planning Commission or, at the latest, by the time the project goes forward to City Council for final approval, which would only occur if the Planning Commission were to approve it.”

As far as her personal thoughts regarding the development, Deasy, too, is concerned about the wildlife. “Myself, I often think about the deer. I’m partial to deer and having them intermingled within our city suburbs thrills me. I think that’s something really special to Michigan and Metro Detroit – that we have so many deer and that they are welcome and enjoyed alongside our neighborhoods in places like Troy, Rochester Hills and Farmington Hills,” she said. “A lot of the people focus on the trees on this site – and they are huge and amazing, but they also provide a habitat for deer and this is the only place I know of in Ferndale where deer live. When we remove the last deer habitat in the city, we are unequivocally stating that wildlife is not welcome in Ferndale. I also think the destruction of this forest will have a negative impact on our air quality, heat index and storm water retention that we do not fully understand.”

She added that the communal power of local residents shouldn’t be discounted or ignored. “Regardless of the outcome of this specific site development, neighbors have bonded together to build community. We’ve met and become familiar with people on our blocks and across our corner of the city and Royal Oak Township. We’ve organized a neighborhood association that we intend to formalize by seeking guidance from more established organizations and to continue working to make our awesome community even better. We are working together to harness our communal power and we have lots of ideas.”

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By: Ingrid Sjostrand

AS COMPOSTING BECOMES A MORE POPULAR AND NECESSARY TOPIC, FALL IS THE PERFECT TIME OF YEAR TO SEE NATURE GIVE THE BEST EXAMPLE OF THE PROCESS.

“Composting is earth’s natural way of recycling organic materials into soil. It is happening 24-7,” Tim Campbell of Midtown Composting explains. “If you go in the woods in the fall, the leaves drop, they compost over winter and spring, and in the summer vegetation grows. The leaves that were dropping, nature turned that back into soil, it’s a cycle that repeats forever.”

A good reason to start considering composting your own waste is that Midtown Composting is expanding to more homes and businesses in Ferndale and Royal Oak. Started in Detroit’s West Village in September 2017 as a part of an EcoWorks Youth Energy Squad Project, a year later Midtown Composting is now working with 45 businesses and 60 residences.

“The Youth Energy Squad takes Detroit youth through projects related to community, some related to sustainability,” Campbell, a member of the project, says. Once the summer program ended, there was still an interest in the community but no one to manage it so Campbell took on the task.

“It started with five restaurants in West Village, and now we are across this whole city of Detroit and southern Oakland County,” he says. “It’s grown like a wildfire and is still growing. We just added another driver and another vehicle.”

SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS COMPOSTING?“ Instead of hauling something away as trash, such as fruit and vegetables, eggshells and coffee grounds – composting uses nature’s process to turn it back into soil so it can be grown into more food, and the cycle continues.”

Midtown has helped one restaurant completely eliminate dumpster services, and created a composting culture in the Detroit neighborhoods of the West Village and Corktown. They’ve added coffee grounds and brewery waste to their pickup, as well. Campbell says other cities, like Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and New York, have been composting for years, and Detroit is missing out.

“Our goal is to create a culture of zero waste by managing waste in a sustainable, responsible way that here in Detroit we are so behind in,” he says.

“It’s to help facilitate the growth of urban farmers, sourcing up locally grown produce, helping businesses save money in waste disposal. Our main goal is to provide the service that is missing. A lot of people want to compost but there is no one there to do it, so we are here to do that.”

They have relationships with urban farms in Detroit and Pontiac, where they deliver the composted materials, and are experimenting with produce delivery from the farms to local residences, similar to programs like Shipt that big box stores are doing.

“People can actually order fresh, organic, Detroit-grown produce, and have it delivered to their front door during compost pickups,” Campbell says. “It keeps the money closer to home, supports the community, less wear and tear on the roads, less fuel. The average piece of food travels 1500 miles from where it’s produced to where it’s eaten.”

WHILE THEY CONTINUE TO MOVE FORWARD on plans for the future, Midtown Composting has experienced some challenges in their first year – like the side effects of composting including smell and bugs. Campbell isn’t concerned and considers these typical of the growing pains of any new business and solvable through education.

“When you implant composting in a place where it’s a foreign concept, people don’t know what it is,” he says. “There has to be an educational component –what this is and why there is a need for it.”

“What we need is for the whole community to help expand the culture. We need to educate each other, tell your friends, tell your neighbors,” he says. “We’re saying this is a problem – for the earth, for our community, for society – and this is a practical solution to address it. If you’re not interested at least you’re aware. We can’t ask for anything more.”

If you are interested in composting at your home or business, email midtowncomposting@gmail.com. For $12 per month, they’ll deliver a resealable bin and compostable bag to your home and schedule regular pickups.

By Jill Lorie Hurst

RECENTLY, I WALKED THROUGH THE HEROES MEMORIAL GARDEN IN FERNDALE’S GEARY PARK WITH GORDON MATSON. Matson is a native Ferndalian, a newlywed and mascot of Ferndale Pride. Getting to know him was a bonus! He met up with me to explain a little bit of the history attached to the recently-refurbished garden.

Matson was a neighbor of the Mahan family, who lived across from the site of the garden. It wasn’t a garden then. There were actually two houses standing where the garden is now. Once the park was established, Joe and Barbara Mahan began gardening a small area. They’d bring out their wagon and garden tools, and little by little they developed what is now the Heroes Memorial Garden. They established it as a memorial garden in 2001, after 9/11.

When the Mahans passed away about four years ago, Matson promised their daughter Tracy he’d take responsibility for the upkeep of the garden – a tough project. When neighbor Carol Jackson got acquainted with the garden, she saw its potential and was sad to see it had fallen into disarray. She and Gordon reached out to the community. There were volunteers but more help was needed, so Jackson took it to the City Council. Once she connected to the Council’s Dan Martin she knew help was on the way, but the real moment of joy came when Carlos Kennedy of the Department of Public Works called to tell her they’d designated 10 workers to the project. One of the DPW team lived in the neighborhood and had seen her working in the garden, and mentioned to his co-workers that there was “a lady out there pulling weeds.” They were happy to help.

Along with DPW Director Kennedy, the team consists of supervisor Rocky Cooper, Ty Lewis, Zack Hreha, Charles Taube, Derek Radell, Carl Cartel, Jose Ramirez, Holly Hindley and Drake Hreha. Jackson was amazed by their great work. “They put so much thought into everything. Repurposed whatever they found” And she was grateful. “I thank you and my back thanks you”. When the first part of the job was finished, a delicious catered lunch from Christine’s Cuisine was delivered to the team.

The DPW will continue to do a large part of the planting and cleanup necessary to maintain the heroes Memorial Garden. There will be more benches, footpaths, and the small butterfly garden that exists near the street will be moved to the center of the garden and expanded. Next Memorial Day there will be a picnic to celebrate the work and remember the heroes honored by the words ”All Gave Some, Some Gave All.”

Matson and Jackson are relieved and delighted. Matson: “I want to keep it (the garden) going for Joe and Barbara and the Mahan family” Adds Jackson “The DPW worked so damn hard. The story is about them and the wonderful, collaborative city we live in.” We can still pitch in to help keep the Heroes Memorial Garden the serene and beautiful place it is today. Every little bit helps. Matson “If you walk by and see a weed, pull it up”. As Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Look at what Joe and Barbara Mahan started with a wagon and a few garden tools.

Check out the Heroes Memorial Garden on Facebook, or in person, in the Northwest corner of Geary Park in Ferndale.

By Rebecca Hammond

 

LAST SPRING I BOUGHT A BEE HOUSE AT ALDI, being Aldi-priced into an impulse buy I didn’t really think would pan out. And last summer I was right. Although an occasional firefly hung out during the day, no bees showed any interest.

This May, mason bees found the house and got to work, and were as engrossing as birds at the feeder. They spent about a month filling almost every cavity, each now containing 4 or 5 larvae, each plugged with mud. The bees will not emerge until next summer. I noticed that they didn’t work in any form of bad weather. Maybe they have a union.

I recently watched a mother squirrel trying to get a half-grown offspring into a nest cavity in a silver maple. She crossed the street looking like she was wearing a fur stole, and ran up the maple, to spend long minutes stuffing the young squirrel into a hole it had no interest in entering. I was certain the hole was simply too small (she reminded me of a back-packer trying to get a sleeping bag into a stuffsack) but once the baby was in, she went in, too. Days later, small squirrels spent hours playing near that hole. Why that one young squirrel left the nest so early, and even crossing the street, I’ll never know, but it didn’t escape Mom. Our big, beautiful trees are wildlife assets. Our big oaks, especially, not only provide wildlife housing, but caterpillars that feed birds and their broods.

We have a bird house that has sheltered chickadees for almost 30 years, and they need thousands of caterpillars for each brood. We don’t, as recommended, remove the old nest each year, but we did have to repair a wooden house nearby, and found inside a perfect bagel-shape of cat fur and moss, fur from our 22-year-old cat Gizzie (we put the winter’s fur combed from her out every March), moss from who knows where.

So when spring cleanup at our cabin left us with a sheet of moss removed from a concrete step, a furthering of the habitat here seemed possible. Just bring the moss home, tear it up, press it down and keep it watered for awhile, right? Wrong. Robins, even in our fairly moss-free world, knew from the get-go that worms live under moss, and they tossed it around as they do leaves. I refuse to be thwarted by robins, so began holding the moss down with rocks, then poultry staples, 3-inch common nails with “washers” cut from a hummus lid, and finally T pins. All this does is make robins more creative. I now have hundreds of tiny pieces of moss that I hope soon become uninteresting. Online recommendations for getting moss started include putting moss in a blender (!!!) with water and buttermilk, and dumping the slurry here and there. This just seems mean to moss, possibly necessitating a Society for the Protection against Cruelty to Moss. But maybe the person who dreamed this up had robins.

ALTHOUGH WE HAVEN’T SEEN A NEIGHBORHOOD RAT since about 2015, they are still abundant in parts of Ferndale, and the Ferndale Rat Patrol dispenses advice and encouragement. Group leader Laura Mikulski messaged me this: “As a grassroots community group, we came together after a Ferndale neighborhood group met with the city and weren’t satisfied by the information from the pest control company the city brought in to address how to eliminate rats. They offered poison in heavy bait boxes as the only solution besides typical preventative measures. Myself and several founding members of the group had been trapping effectively for years, and decided coordinating efforts would be a more holistic, environmentally conscious way of eliminating rats.”

Why no poisons? “Because the second-generation anticoagulants are being proven to kill pets and wildlife over long periods of time. While pest control companies say that lethal doses of bromadiolone is impossibly big to achieve death of a pet, the sad fact is that second-generation poison bio-accumulates within animals, and eventually kills them. In wildlife populations studied in California, they’re finding that the poison can last eight months in the liver of animals, giving predators and pets alike ample time to consume more than one rat, and really skewing the possibility toward eventually poisoning. Due to predator secondary poisoning, rat populations flourish unabated. Remove the predators, and rats can repopulate ad nauseum.” I’m hearing screech owls, and neighbor Dan Tanner just got a wonderful shot of one taking off from a power line, and I concur. Let the predators live.

Erika Sandberg added a cautionary tale on the Rat Patrol Facebook page: “We don’t use poison, yet my dog still got into some. Other than a stressful afternoon and an unplanned vet bill, everything should be fine. But if I hadn’t witnessed her grabbing the poison, my dog probably would’ve eaten the whole thing and started unexplainably bleeding a few days from now. Thank you for discouraging the use of poison. I for one really appreciate your efforts. Poison is a selfish means of pest control as it impacts so many more than just the intended target.”

This is a banner year for monarch butterflies, both in numbers people are seeing, and in those planting milkweed and raising caterpillars indoors (where they are much more likely to survive). Raising monarchs is easy and close to foolproof. Some of the happiest people I know at this moment are currently raising their first families of caterpillars, and sharing the experience on social media. If you want plants, eggs, or caterpillars, find the Ferndale.

Rebecca Hammond lives with her husband Phil on their mini-sanctuary in Ferndale.