Earth Day

Earth Day, which takes place annually on April 22, has a dual purpose. The first is to educate and bring awareness to everyone about the damage humans are causing to […]

Earth Day, which takes place annually on April 22, has a dual purpose. The first is to educate and bring awareness to everyone about the damage humans are causing to our common home. The second is to promote action to, at a minimum, decrease the ongoing damage, and hopefully also do something to help heal the damage already caused.

Caring for our sister, Mother Earth, is a very Franciscan thing to do. Here at St. Anthony’s, we already have taken some small steps to care for our little piece of the planet. We avoid using pesticides and herbicides on our grounds and gardens. We have compost piles to recycle food waste. We planted a prairie garden with native wildflowers in our front yard several years ago, and have just started a second in our back yard this past fall. There are areas of lawn that we do not mow and allow to grow wild. Together with the prairie gardens, these help support pollinators.

A more involved effort has been the care of our woods. Trees, healthy trees, play an important role in slowing climate change and healing our planet, as they filter pollution from our air and help cool the earth with their shade. They also provide habitat for all sorts of wildlife. For the past several years, JustBob has developed a plan to enable us to be better stewards our woods. Step one of that plan occurred in Fall 2022, when we logged off a number of trees. The logging was long overdue and necessary for several reasons: some trees were too close together to grow healthy, some were diseased, and some were dead and presented a risk of damage if they fell in a storm.

Once the trees were cut, there was a lot of cleanup work needed, so JustBob contacted a company to come in and chip up the old brush in a large section east of the pond. After that task was done, the next step was reforestation. Ideally, in a healthy woods, there will always be a mix of young saplings growing up and older trees being culled out. Unfortunately, these woods had been neglected for too long so nature will need a little help getting that cycle restarted. Working with Yellow River Nurseries in Marshfield, JustBob selected swamp oak trees. They are considered native to our area, love moist soil, and once they are established will be sturdy, hardy shade trees. While they are settling in, though, they may have a high mortality rate with sometimes as few as 20% of the young trees surviving. So if you want to add 20-25 trees to your woods, you start by planting 100.

On Saturday, two days before Earth Day, JustBob marshaled a crew of a dozen volunteer tree-planters to help him get one hundred trees in the ground. The day was chilly – temperatures near freezing – and very windy, but it did not deter the efforts of this dedicated crew. Planting spots needed a bit of raking to clear any small debris and wood chips, then holes were dug for the bare root saplings. Once planted, the two foot tall trees were enclosed by a five foot tall protective sleeve to deter animals from snacking on the tender shoots. The sleeve also serves as a mini-greenhouse to promote aggressive growth. Finally, the sleeve was staked to hold it and the young tree upright. Netting covers the opening at the top of the sleeve to keep birds out.

That was a lot of work for a small crew, but perhaps the weather actually sped up the work as the volunteers finished planting by lunchtime, several hours ahead of schedule. As often happens, many hands make the work more fun for all and new friends make the community grow. While they were out working in the woods, two more volunteers were in the Solanus Center getting lunch ready for the crew – burgers on the grill with all the usual fixings. With the work completed, all were able to enjoy a leisurely lunch and conversation among both seasoned volunteers and first-timers.

For all the blessings of our sister, Mother Earth, and for all those who do what they can to help care for her, both here and around the world, we say Deo Gratias!

P.S. For those of you who have asked and those of you who may be wondering, for the time being, the Chronicle will be an occasional feature on our website, as notable events occur. There is currently no timeline for when or if the Chronicle will return as a regular feature.

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