In one of the posts, I mention that we need to write memoirs before we get too old since old men often don't differentiate between the important and the trivial. And I'm not getting any younger. This blog is mostly for my kids, to understand a bit about the world I came from and lived through. Welcome to anyone else, but this is not profound and it is very personal.
Friday, April 17, 2015
I don't think the subject, Dick, or his kids see my blog, but I wanted to share. The author, my friend's daughter, was the babysitter for my daughters in Lincoln many years ago.
Kelly is, like Dick, a bright person. I wanted to share her story about his heart attack, and a shared concern for the monarch butterfly. There is something we can do!! Sorry I can't get the pictures to post, too.
husband, Ross likes to say when you’re navigating the rapids, you should paddle
for the smooth waters. We are at that stage in life where our parents are
aging, and their lives are punctuated by medical crises. The kids are old
enough to be on their own, but young enough to not yet be secure. So we try to
enjoy the quiet times, knowing that trouble often lurks just around the bend. A
few weeks ago, an unexpected phone call from my mother sent me over to western
Minnesota, in order to accompany Mom to a Fargo hospital in time for my
father’s triple-bypass surgery. Having seen with my mother-in-law that
life-saving surgery doesn’t always bring great things, when my Dad was at that
point in his surgery that I knew he was on a heart-lung bypass machine, I
learned to pray differently.His heart
is in your hands, I said. Please choose what is best.
been quite a journey, since I first saw Dad emerge from surgery, supported by
that breathing tube. He had some rocky times, but Dad has a kind of
determination that is serving him well, and also a sense of responsibility to
my Mom that keeps him trying. Gradually his stamina is improving, as well as
his ability to begin to pick up some of his daily tasks.His interest in life is good to see.
is perhaps why Ross volunteered to come over and help with some of the chores
my father is currently unable to do. At first blush, you might think that some
chores could wait for another time. But there are things we care about, the
perpetuation of which feeds our well-being. You might say they are medicine for
the heart. Maybe that’s why Ross mowed Dad’s prairie for him.
father’s prairie is a small, lake-side piece of ground upon which my Dad
fosters an interesting mix of native plants. Dominated by the prairie cordgrass
that originally inhabited this area, Dad has spent years combing the prairie
restoration catalogs in order to add a number of other native grasses and
forbs. One of my favorites of these is blazing star, or Liatris, the
lilac flowers of which pull in the monarch butterflies. On a late summer day,
you can see monarchs all over this little patch of ground, flitting from flower
to flower as they feed on the nectar.
of us grew up with monarchs in our childhood classrooms. The Minnesota State
insect, they are perhaps the most familiar of butterflies. With their bright
orange and black coloration, most of us have heard of their connection with
milkweed. A native wildflower, monarchs have been known to feed on over 27
species of milkweed.Although monarch
butterflies feed on nectar from a variety of flowers, they require milkweeds on
which to lay their eggs. The caterpillars hatch, eat the leaves, and ingest the
toxin found in the milkweed sap. It makes the caterpillars and butterflies
toxic, and taste bad, which cut down on predation. It is believed that birds
learn to associate the monarch’s color patterns with an unpleasant dining
experience.The female monarch generally
lays 1 egg on a milkweed plant. Over the course of 2 – 5 weeks, she will lay an
average of 700 eggs.
breed throughout the U.S. and southern Canada. Minnesota monarchs are part of
what is known as the eastern population, which migrates to Mexico for the
winter. A flight of up to 3,000 miles, the butterflies that make this flight
are going to a place neither they nor their parents have ever seen before. Most
of the monarchs east of the Rockies converge in the mountains of central
Mexico, where they form tight clusters on just a few acres of trees.
a several months in Mexico, the return north begins. The University of
Minnesota’s Monarch Lab website (http://monarchlab.org) provides a
detailed description of how the butterflies begin north in March, and lay eggs
in northern Mexico and the Southern U.S. Their offspring hatch and fly north a
ways, where they lay eggs, the second generation hatches and flies north a
ways, and so forth. Hence, theirs is a multi-generational migration on their
way north. Our Minnesota butterflies are generations 3 and 4, the great- and
great-great grandchildren of those butterflies wintering in Mexico.
numbers are down over 90% over the past 20 years. There appear to be a number
of reasons for this, perhaps chief of which is destruction of key milkweed
habitats. In the Midwest, where most monarchs are born, there has been
widespread planting of genetically engineered crops. This allows the use of
herbicides in corn and soybean fields that kill milkweed. Additionally, increasingly
high proportions of the landscape are devoted to such crops, reducing the
overall availability of milkweed.
use of a class of pesticide known as neonicotinoids is also believed to be
detrimental to monarch caterpillars. As you plant your gardens this spring,
watch for labelling which will help you to determine if your flowers have been
treated with this substance.
the milkweed issue, monarchs are threatened by global climate change. The
entire winter range in Mexico and large parts of the summer range in the U.S.
could become unsuitable for monarchs due to changing temperatures, increased
risk of drought, heat waves, and severe storms. If that isn’t enough, logging
in Mexican forests where monarchs overwinter has hurt the overall population.
August of 2014, conservation groups including the Center for Biological
Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Xerces Society, and a butterfly expert
petitioned the U.S. government to list the monarch as a threatened species. The
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing that situation.
plight of the monarch is considered to be an indicator of a bigger problem, as
the state of the monarch reflects the health of America’s landscapes. In August
of 2014, the Chief of the Forest Service finalized memoranda of understanding
with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and the North American
Butterfly Association, recognizing our mutual interest in the conservation and
management of pollinators, especially butterflies. Managing public lands in
national forests and grasslands, the Forest Service is responsible for managing
habitat to maintain populations of threatened, endangered, sensitive, and other
species of plants and animals on national forests and grasslands.By managing for pollinators and their
habitats on these lands, we help to ensure conservation of our Nation’s
biodiversity and create a healthier environment for both wildlife and people.
are a number of native species of milkweed on the Chippewa National Forest. The
occurrence of these plants generally not proximate to pesticides helps to
support the monarch butterflies of our area. Public lands provide an
opportunity to increase habitat for monarchs and other pollinators.
you want to learn more about the conservation of monarchs, or plant milkweed to
encourage monarchs on your property, you may want to consult the following
websites (www.fws.savethemonarch, www.Xerces.org,
www.plantmilkweed.org). It is advised to plant only native milkweeds, and those
which specifically have not been treated with pesticides. It is also advised
not to plant milkweeds near places where you will be using pesticides. Should
you have the interest, you can even click on a map to watch as the spring
butterfly migration heads north towards us.
Before Dad’s heart
attack, he had put in another order to the prairie restoration place. Just this
past week, the box of plant sets arrived. Dad reports they included an
unexpected package of milkweed seeds, which I believe my brother will be happy
to plant when he comes up for a visit. In future years I hope to find Dad’s
prairie will not only serve as a delightful feeding spot for passing monarchs,
but also a nursery for the young caterpillars. It will add another dimension to
those lovely spring days in Ottertail County. If Dad develops the interest, maybe he will
look into perpetuating milkweed for others to grow, as it is predicted there
will be a shortage of milkweed sets as folks catch on to the power of backyard
conservation efforts to save this butterfly.
fringe benefits of having a little bonus time with my folks lately have
included watching the return of life to the woods and wetlands that surround
them. Sandhill cranes dance and call within hearing distance of my folks’
place. A half a dozen wood ducks zip by, barely above tree line.A pair of trumpeter swans seems to be nesting
in the wetland behind the house, and a ruffed grouse drums in the woods. Our
dogs are thrilled by the turkeys. We were there to see the ice go out on the
lake, followed by a fascinating knot of a couple dozen coots swimming so close
together you could barely see the spaces between them. We wondered about that,
until we saw an eagle dive and dive again, hoping for a little coot for
breakfast.Drink it all in, Dad. Spring
is a time of renewal, and I think I see smoother paddling ahead.