The Dust Bowl: Lessons Learned in Soil Conservation

“Houses were shut tight, and cloth wedged around doors and windows, but the dust came in so thinly that it could not be seen in the air, and it settled like pollen on the chairs and tables, on the dishes.” John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath.

The Dust Bowl devastated the southern Great Plains for eight years during the drought-stricken 1930s. Yellowish-brown dust blew making simple acts such as eating and breathing near impossible. Great dust storms rolled far eastward, darkening skies all the way to the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. The areas most severely affected were western Texas, eastern New Mexico, the Oklahoma Panhandle, western Kansas, and eastern Colorado. Drought, the Depression, and poor farming practices created what is considered one of the most serious environmental catastrophes the United States has ever experienced.

Read More

Landscaping With Native Plants – A Wise Choice!

When selecting plants for your yard, consider natives first! What better way to create beauty and wildlife habitat, along with contributing to Michigan’s natural heritage, than by planting native wildflowers on your property.

Whether you are planting a small area in your yard or landscaping a workplace, Michigan native plant species are a wise choice. Native species are not only adapted to Michigan’s soils and climate, they are more easily maintained and cost less than traditional landscapes. Once established, native species require little to no maintenance such as irrigation or fertilization, and in the case of a prairie, no weekly mowing! Native plants can enhance the attractiveness of your landscape, help control erosion, and furnish food and cover for wildlife.

Read More

Is Feeding Bread to Ducks and Geese Bad?

What do you do with your leftover and expired food? Would you dump it in a pile in your front yard to feed the wildlife? Most people would not pile food in their yard however; many people seem to think it is ok to drop off their unwanted food in parks. They justify it by saying they are feeding the ducks. In reality, they are doing the ducks more harm than good even if this result is unintentional.

Feeding the wildlife in community parks and other urban areas is a tradition that has remained prevalent for generations of people who frequent these areas. For many, it’s a way to connect with nature, bond with family, or just spend some leisure time. It can seem so hard to resist ducks begging for attention, and it would seem that providing food for them would make them healthy and happy, but it doesn’t.

Read More

Nitrate and Nitrite in Drinking Water

Nitrogen is essential for all living things. It exists in the environment in many forms, including as nitrate and nitrite. Although nitrogen is abundant naturally in the environment, it is also introduced through sewage and fertilizers. Excessive concentrations of nitrates and nitrites in drinking water can be hazardous to human and animal health, especially for infants and pregnant women. The Shiawassee Conservation District is hosting a free well water screening for nitrates and nitrites from July 17-19, 2018. The screening is open to any Shiawassee County resident who relies on a private well for their drinking water.

Common sources of nitrogen in groundwater include septic systems, fertilizers from lawns, golf courses, crop fields, gardens, and livestock operations. Some nitrate enters water from the atmosphere, which carries nitrogen-containing compounds derived naturally from chemical reactions or from the combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal and gasoline.

Read More

What Do You Have Planned for Your Woods?

How do you enjoy your woods? Are you a bird watcher or a hunter? Do you harvest the berries, mushrooms, or timber that it produces? Maybe you just enjoy the natural beauty of trees. Like your yard and garden, your woods need to be cared for so that they meet your needs and wants. Forests change over time. As trees and plants grow and die, other plants will grow in their place. Wildlife will change too, as their food and habitat changes. You can create and maintain a woodlot that you will enjoy by removing plants that you don’t want, planting ones that you do want, managing insects and disease, and harvesting products.

Read More

Do I Need a Plumber or a Septic Service Provider?

A backed-up toilet is not a good situation under any circumstance. For homeowners with on-site septic systems, the question becomes, is it my plumbing or could my septic system be failing?

The quickest way for a septic system owner to decide whom to call when drains are slow is to count the fixtures backing up. If more than one fixture is slow or backs up, call a septic system provider. If it is just one fixture, start with a plumber.

Read More

Septic Tank Additives

Septic Tank Pumping

For homes with an on-site wastewater disposal, system maintenance falls to the homeowner. Household wastewater flows into the septic tank, where the heavier solids settle on the bottom to form a sludge layer. Floatable solids, such as greases, oils and fats, collect at the surface to form a scum layer. The remaining liquids empty in to the drainfield to be treated by natural processes in the soil. Homeowners are responsible for regular tank pumping to remove solids so they do not clog the system.

It has been suggested that additives can be used in a septic system to accelerate digestion of biosolids, break up scum, improve settling of solids, or restore clogged soil. There are two distinct categories of additives: 1) chemical, including inorganic and organic compounds and 2) biological, such as yeast, bacteria, and enzymes.

Biological additives may reduce the amount of grease and effluent in the septic tank. However, these additives may increase biological activity to the point of adding extra solids to the tank. A breakdown of the scum layer in the tank by these additives is also detrimental. The scum layer holds back fats, greases and other floatables, preventing them from clogging the drainfield.

Read More

Be Responsible For Your Yard Waste

Like many others, I have enjoyed working in my yard after a long winter. We have been mowing our lawns and working hard to clean up brush to prepare outdoor spaces for gardens and summer cookouts. As we do this, it is important that we take time to properly dispose of yard waste and not just dump it into ditches or streambanks.

It might seem harmless to toss our grass clippings, leaves, and sticks into streams, after all isn’t all from nature anyway? But, it actually causes significant problems for water quality, aquatic habitats, and the environment. 

Read More

Escape Ramps Benefit Wildlife

Do you have a livestock watering tank or trough on your farm? Many watering facilities have not been designed with wildlife in mind. Although they are used to provide water to livestock, they can double as vital water sources for bats, birds and other wildlife. Considering the needs of wildlife in the installation of livestock water facilities is not only the right thing to do, but it will result in cleaner water for livestock and less maintenance for the producer. You can maximize the quality of water for your livestock and provide a safe water source for wildlife by making a few easy changes.

Read More