Nature and Our Well-Being (Emotional, Physical & Spiritual)

An unpleasant environment can increase our stress, elevating our blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension, and suppressing our immune systems.  A pleasant environment reverses this. According to the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Health  nature heals, soothes, and restores us. It also connects us to others, helping us cope with life’s demands, lowering levels of violence and aggression.

 

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Monarchs, Milkweed, and the FUMC Prairie

Monarchs, to many a sign of summer, are an endangered pollinator. Since the 1980s, researchers and citizen scientists estimate the monarch US migration population has declined 80% to 90%. Primary causes are pesticides (especially herbicide resistant seeds like RoundupTM Ready Crops), degraded habitat, climate change, logging, and land development.  In the central US, monarch migration generally follows US I-35. This area is designated the “Monarch Highway” to promote development of habitat for monarchs and other pollinators. While not close to I-35, the FUMC prairie is certified and registered as a monarch waystation for its supportive monarch habitat. Milkweed is key to monarch habitat.

 

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Prairie Talk—"Birds at First”

If you asked someone, “What birds have you seen on the FUMC prairie?” the answer would depend on when they visited our property. If most visits are on Sunday mornings, the answer would be ducks, geese, sparrows, and maybe a sandhill crane during mating season in the spring. If they visited during the week and at different times of the day, they may see a variety of other birds, even if they don’t walk the prairie trails. Carl Bublitz, who regularly walks the prairie trails monitoring our prairie restoration efforts, has identified at least 18 different species of birds, and seen other species he was unable to identify. Land stewardship has installed bird houses around the edge of the prairie to encourage nesting birds, such as the Eastern Bluebird. We have a Bluebird nesting pair this year. The Memorial Garden and nearby respite areas will make it easy to observe the variety of birds in the wetlands west of our property.

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Prairie Talk: "Restoring" Prairie at Home

Restoring prairie acreage, like the FUMC prairie, are important acts of stewardship that help protect animal, bird, and pollinator habitat, and encourage carbon sequestration. What can we do to be more active stewards of God’s creation at home, in our own yards? Although we can’t recreate an entire prairie on a city lot, we can plant native plants or a pocket prairie. If you are thinking that my yard is so small, it won’t make a difference, think about the fact that the acreage of lawns in the U.S. is about three times the acreage of irrigated corn. Everything adds up.  While many prairie birds and animals require larger acreage, like the FUMC prairie to survive, pocket prairies and planting native plants can provide spaces for pollinators and resting spots for migratory birds, the goal of efforts like the monarch highway. The FUMC prairie is designated a monarch waystation, where we have begun restoring native plant habitat. Your yard could also be a pollinator or bird resting spot.

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Prairie talk: Butterflies, Bees, and Prairies: Pollinators at Risk

Chasing after butterflies is a fond childhood memory for many of us. Experience taught us to leave bees alone when they visited flowers in our yard. What butterflies and bees and even flies, wasps, beetles, birds and bats have in common is that all of them pollinate plants.  Insects and animals help pollinate over 75% of our flowering plants and nearly 75% of our crops.  Pollination occurs when pollen from the male part of a flower (stamen) is moved to the female part of the same or another flower (stamen), fertilizing the flower. Successful pollination produces fruits and seeds. The primary methods of pollination in nature are wind, insects, and birds, with wind being the least reliable.

 

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Prairie Talk: Why Burn Our Prairie?

Some people are surprised that an important part of developing and maintaining a prairie is a schedule of regular, controlled prairie burns. Regular, controlled burns are called prescribed burns. If we do not regularly burn our prairie, it becomes more susceptible to an uncontrolled prairie fire caused by a lightning strike or a cigarette thrown out a window. Uncontrolled prairie fires sometimes become dangerous wildfires. 

Prescribed burns also are crucial for maintaining the health of an existing prairie and for prairie restoration. One benefit of prescribed burns is removing thatch that blocks the sun from germinating native plants and killing invasive plants and unwanted trees that can overpower native plants.  Burning promotes the diversity of native prairie plants that can survive adverse weather conditions, such as drought.  A second benefit of prescribed prairie burns is adding nutrients to the soil, stimulating growth of native plants. Finally, burn management promotes growth of a diversity of prairie plants that provide food and cover for pollinators, birds, and animals.

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Prairie Talk: What Is a Prairie?

Driving into the FUMC parking lot, our prairie has become a familiar sight. It is hard to believe that we moved from less than ¾ an acre of land in downtown St. Cloud to almost 20 acres on Pinecone Road, and almost half of our property is prairie. According to the MN DNR, before European settlement Minnesota had over 18 million acres of prairie, with about 250,000 acres of native prairie remaining today. Prairie is North America’s most endangered habitat.

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