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Archive for the ‘Elena Freeman’ Category

by Elena Freeman

This week marks the fourth annual “National Pollinator Week” dedicated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to bring awareness and solutions to the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations, including bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, bats, beetles, syrphid flies, and more. These pollinators provide vital links in natural ecosystems, in landscapes and gardens, and in agricultural food production.

Bees pollinate about 30 percent of all food crops, including peaches, plums, apricots, avocados, squash, melons, onion, celery, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, almonds, strawberries, kiwis, walnuts, blackberries, grapes, eggplants, and pears.

Researchers have been trying for years to find the cause of the mysterious insect plague known as colony collapse disorder that is wiping out honeybees around the globe. In the United States, bees are currently disappearing at a rate of 30 percent per year. In China’s pear and apple growing regions, bees have disappeared completely, requiring workers to manually pollinate the fruit trees by swabbing every blossom.

Loss of habitat and pesticide exposure are believed to have weakened the bees’ immune system, making them vulnerable to diseases. Bees need a steady stream of pollen and nectar from a wide variety of flowering plants that bloom at different times. Native wildflowers are especially good habitat providers, because they have co-evolved with local pollinators. In the past, undeveloped areas of wildflowers, trees, and grasses provided food sources and shelter for bees, and farms with multiple, rotating crops provided diversified food sources. However, today in industrialized countries, mono-crop agriculture is on the rise and undeveloped wildlands are shrinking.

What can you do to help save the bees? Set aside a small portion of your garden to plant flowering pollinator-friendly plants, which has the added benefit of attracting other beneficial insects that are natural predators to unwanted bugs. Provide bee nesting spots by leaving some areas of bare, undisturbed soil for ground-nesting bees, leaving some grassy meadow areas unmowed, retaining dead trees and branches, and installing a bee nursery. You can buy or make a wooden bee nursery for native bees, like the one shown on this webpage: http://www.ars.usda.gov/Main/docs.htm?docid=10743 or make one from re-used items as shown here: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090320.htm

This blog was inspired by Sara Schmidt’s “Beauty and the Bees” in World Ark, the magazine of Heifer International, Summer 2010.

Other good resources on bees and other pollinators include:

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by Elena Freeman

Do-It-Yourself Home Water SurveyLooking for ways to reduce your water use and your water bill? A new tool is now available on the MMWD website for anyone who wants to make sure their home is “water-wise”: the Do-It-Yourself Home Water Survey. The illustrated step-by-step guide leads you through a series of activities to check your home for indoor and outdoor water leaks, measure flow rates of indoor plumbing fixtures, and check irrigation systems for common problems. If you are an MMWD customer, when you complete and mail in the survey form you can receive free water conservation items.

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by Elena Freeman

Earth Day is coming up on April 22. See below for a listing of local events scheduled to observe the 40th anniversary of this global day that has been set aside to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment. It is a time to celebrate the Earth and to reflect on the future of our environment. What can you do, or change, in your daily life to make our planet healthier? Here’s some food (or drink?) for thought on water and the environment:

It takes about 6 gallons of water to grow a single serving of lettuce. More than 2,600 gallons is required to produce a single serving of steak. (Source: Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) website)

U.S. consumption of bottled water in 1978 was 415 million gallons. By 2001 it was 5.4 billion gallons. That’s an increase of 1,300 percent, equaling about 43 billion 16-ounce plastic bottles! (Source: Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America’s Fresh Waters by Robert Glennon, 2002)

Earth Day Events

Saturday, April 17, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.: Celebrate Earth Day by volunteering on the beautiful Mt. Tam Watershed! Help MMWD remove invasive periwinkle from the shoreline of Phoenix Lake. Meet at the log cabin by the lake. For more information visit www.marinwater.org or contact our Volunteer Coordinator at 945-1128.

Saturday, April 17: Friends of Corte Madera Creek will host its annual Earth Day cleanup at the Kentfield restoration project. The cleanup begins at 9:30 a.m. For information, call 457-1147.

Thursday, April 22, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.: “Our Local Foodshed: The Hidden Bounty of Marin.” Learn about “foodsheds.” View the award-winning, 30-minute video documentary, Hidden Bounty of Marin. Have a dialogue with local farmers, educators and locavores. Meet collaborators and find resources. This is a fundraiser for the Novato Community Garden Project. Click here for more information.

Saturday, April 24, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.: A community celebration with many fun, family-oriented, free activities is planned at College of Marin. There will be music, speakers, local food, art, a puppet show and more. Visit www.earthdaymarin.org.

Saturday, April 24, 9:00 a.m. to noon: The City of San Rafael is calling on volunteers to help clean up the community in honor of Earth Day. Call 458-3407 or visit www.sanrafaelvolunteers.org

Finally, remember to mark your calendars and reserve your spots for our final Bay-Friendly workshop of the season, “Go Natives: Planting for Pollinators” coming up May 1, and for the fourth annual Eco-Friendly Garden Tour on May 15.

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by Elena Freeman

We’ve witnessed some big rains this week. Have you thought about all that rain water and where it ends up? After the ground is saturated, most of the water runs off —where does it go? Depending on local topography, the water concentrates in a creek, then in a lake, river, bay, or the ocean. The local area that feeds to one creek or catchment area is a watershed. Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes. Everyone lives in a watershed—do you know which one you live in?

You can find your watershed and learn more about it at the Marin County Public Works website. This website has detailed maps and descriptions of our local watersheds. There is a wealth of information on watershed history and watershed science. Visit the site at www.marinwatersheds.org.

When it rains heavily, as it has this week, you may be concerned about potential flooding if you live near a creek. Visit this link for real time rainfall amounts for local watersheds: marin.onerain.com/home.php. The Marin County Sheriff’s office has current emergency information including links to traffic and weather related sites at www.marinsheriff.org/about.aspx?gi_id=45.

After the rain clears and you feel like going for a walk outside to stretch your legs and breathe in the clean-washed air, visit www.mcstoppp.org/map.htm to find an interactive map showing where you can get out into nature in your area, with lists and descriptions of local parks and open spaces.

Stay dry, drive safely and have a great weekend.

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by Elena Freeman

The Bay-Friendly Principles

Do you know of any residential gardens in the MMWD service area to participate in the Bay-Friendly Garden Registration program? Plant enthusiasts, wildlife gardeners, urban food growers and other sustainable gardeners are encouraged to apply. Bay-Friendly gardeners can make a real difference by inspiring others to use environmentally friendly practices and by providing neighborhood models of what Bay-Friendly gardens can offer.

Selected gardens also may be included in the 2010 Eco Garden Tour on Saturday, May 15. If you’re interested in being on the tour, please submit a Bay-Friendly Garden application no later than February 10, 2010. 

For more information and to download an application form, visit our website or contact Elena Freeman at (415) 945-1164 or efreeman@marinwater.org.

Registered Bay-Friendly gardeners will receive a colorful, aluminum garden sign (100% post-consumer) to show their commitment to protecting the environment, as well as a copy of Bay-Friendly Gardening: From Your Backyard to the Bay.

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by Elena Freeman

There is no rain in the forecast for this week, but with cooler, shorter days your plants need less water. Take a walk through your garden and check to see how your plants are doing, and carefully dig with a trowel to check the soil moisture. Especially for shady areas, you may not need to irrigate at all this week.

MMWD Landscape Rebates Ending
Because of reduced revenues this fiscal year, MMWD is forced to reduce funding for rebates for landscape materials and equipment.

Residential Landscape and Smart Irrigation Controller rebates ended October 22, 2009. Materials must have been purchased by October 22, 2009. Rebate applications must be postmarked by January 22, 2010.

Commercial Landscape rebates ended October 22, 2009. No new commercial landscape rebate applications will be accepted.

MMWD does not expect to have new funding for these programs until the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2010. Please check the MMWD website for updates around that time.

The budget cuts come in response to an unprecedented decrease in water sales. The good news is that by using less water our customers are helping to preserve our precious supply; the bad news is that reduced water sales impact funding for our operations. We are exploring ways to reduce expenses while continuing to provide necessary services. And despite the challenges, we remain committed to helping you save water! For information on our current programs, please visit our Conservation page.

“Go Native” this Weekend
Join us for a FREE, hands-on workshop at the Marin Art & Garden Center. “Go Native – Planting for Pollinators” will take place tomorrow, October 24, from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Learn to attract birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects to your garden by including California native plants that provide food, shelter, and nesting places for wildlife. To register, please call 945-1512 and leave your email address.

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