The Shawnee News-Star Weekender June 8th 2019 Becky Emerson Carlberg Last weekend was busy.  The 8th Pro-Am Classic was back in OKC for 3 days.  The bicycle races were all criteriums, or crits as they are affectionately called.  Bike riders line up, start in unison at the whistle, and hope to finish after riding a […]

The Shawnee News-Star Weekender June 8th 2019

Pottawatomie County OSU Extension Butterfly Garden

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Last weekend was busy.  The 8th Pro-Am Classic was back inOKC for 3 days.  The bicycle races wereall criteriums, or crits as they are affectionately called.  Bike riders line up, start in unison at thewhistle, and hope to finish after riding a multitude of laps on blocked offcity streets.  Throughout the day variouslevels compete for the coveted top positions. 

Races were held at a different site each day.   The Midtown races Friday night had dozens of food trucks with hundreds of people milling around by the racing track.   On Saturday, the Capitol Hill Pro women's race was interrupted by an afternoon thunderstorm that blew through clouds of dust and rain.   Appropriately, on Sunday the sun ushered in the Film Row races.  

The start of one OKC ProAm Bike race

The Film Row race can be dicey.  Riders are tired after two days ofcompetition.  In two separate years myson's bike was practically destroyed and two other years he receivedconcussions, various bruises and wounds. He had lots of company. 

The Australian women's team was super strong this year and wonpractically every race. Peta Mullens put together the professional women'scycling team. Last year I watched Peeta gulp down large slices of breadsmothered with Nutella before she raced. Each racer has his/her energy source since the races may last up to 75minutes of sustained cycling in all kinds of weather. 

Not only were we entertained by racing and Mother Nature butthe air show at Tinker Air Force Base.  Duringthe races we took turns watching the sky for planes loop-de-looping, coloredsmoke trails, paragliders and performances by the Blue Angels. Awesome.

Earlier in the week, on a stormy Wednesday, the Monarch Butterfly Workshop was held in the Citizen Potawatomi Nation South Reunion Hall in Shawnee. Dr. Carol Crouch, Oklahoma Tribal Liaison Officer, gave the introduction and kept the program flowing smoothly.   Jane Breckinridge, Euchee Butterfly Farm www.nativebutterflies.org, introduced us to the Monarch.   From a high of over 900 million in 1996, its numbers plummeted to less than 45 million by 2013.   Too many post-dust bowl grasslands had been converted to fescue and Bermuda in Oklahoma along the Monarch migratory route.   Much of the land was under tribal jurisdiction.   Seven tribes banded together, made a commitment and developed an infrastructure to save the Monarch. Technical training in Lawrence, Kansas, proper site selection and preparation were key elements.

Monarch Butterfly “Importance of Pollinators” workshop

Currently, 350 acres have been planted with 50,000 milkweedplugs and 30,000 native nectar plants.  One hundred fifty-four species of plant seeds have been stored in theseed bank after being cleaned, weighed, and catalogued.  The Tribal Alliance for Pollinators hosts 29different tribes in Oklahoma and others out of state.

The 13.5 counties of the Chickasaw Nation have 40 butterflygardens.  The biggest difference has beenthrough Education Outreach.

The National Resources Conservation Services (NRCS),represented by state biologist Michael Sams, offers technical and financial assistanceprograms to landowners.  There is a ten stateMonarch pilot project which includes the Cornbelt and Southern GreatPlains.  From spring to fall, 4-5generations of Monarchs leave, camp out in the US, then fly back toMexico.  The primary milkweed in OK isthe green milkweed (Asclepias viridis).  Itwell tolerates grazing and fires.  Fallnectaring plants are a must, but restoration of acreages is best accomplishedthrough seeds, not plugs.  The focus: goodmanagement to create healthy rangeland habitats where the Monarch plantsalready exist.  The goal: to have aminimum of three species always in bloom stretching from early to late in theseason.  Consider additional plantings oftrees, shrubs and native warm season bunch grasses for nesting andoverwintering habitats.  One half acreper 40 acres set aside will work and fits into most farm landscapes.  Might consider planting rice.  The thunder, lightning and rain are having afield day outside.

The Farm Service Agency of Oklahoma specializes inmicro-loans for small facilities that produce $1000 of product.  The organization supports the conversion ofgrass lawns to prairie sites, education of Homeowners Associations, minimizingdisturbances of the soil while increasing plant diversity and 'Okies forMonarchs.' 

Since 2017, the Choctaw Nation has been in a 5-yearcommitment with NRCS.  To date:  ten pounds of pollinator seed/acre (whichincluded yellow sweet clover, alfalfa and wildflowers) have been used in 32plots and eight habitat sites in 10.5 counties covering 63 acres were twice burned.  To establish pollinator habitats, Green CoverSeed from Nebraska was used.  Quickdelivery.  A 30' x 40' butterfly garden hasbeen installed in Durant.  Soil testsites were planted with 250 tomatoes at Lehigh in Coal County.  A melon garden is growing in Hugo.

The National Agricultural Statistical Service produces over400 reports/year concerning demographics of the economy, wheat and livestockproduction, etc.  Every 5 years a censusof agriculture is taken (last census 2017.) Average age of all producers is 57 years.  The percentage of young producers (below 35years) has risen.  In the field of conservation,cover crops have increased, as have no tillage and internet usage. Strangely, pollinatorsare not yet considered agriculture!  Gooddata leads to good decisions.  We mightthink about a boat.  The rain continuesto fall in thick sheets.

The Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project providessmall farms with information and workshops to help access available UnitedStates Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs.  They received the USDA ConservationInnovation Grant 2017-2019 to develop solar powered water well systems.  Introduction of the unique solar water wellsto Native Americans and disadvantaged small farmers, complete installation of 4systems for demonstration projects and establishing a baseline of agricultureproduction the first year of the solar well project are objectives. 

Pottawatomie County Oklahoma State University (OSU) Horticultureand 4-H Extension Educator Carla Smith presented pictures of the ExtensionButterfly Garden established 2014. No chrysalis sightings have yet been made,but the milkweed last year was stripped then regrew several times throughoutthe growing season.  Examples of goodforage plants are dill, fennel and parsley; nectar plants are Lantana, Salvia,coneflowers, buckwheat (abundant blossoms) and yarrow. Provide a shallow watersource such as wet sand and gravel (hint: use drip emitter) since butterfliescan't manage deep water.

Speaking of deep water, Flash Flood Warning issued at 12:39pm.  Several cell phones in the room wentoff simultaneously. 

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) is requiredto maintain visual right of way at a certain height for safety.  ODOT is re-thinking the mowing schedule tostrike a balance between maintenance and pollinators.

OSU Extension provides options for organic, natural andconventional gardening.  Many resourcesare available:  Fact sheets, MonarchWatch, National Wildlife Federation, the USDA Plant Data Base.

Lunchtime.   Super tasty slow-cooked pork by Troy was accompanied by sauces and buns. Various types of grilled hot dogs, chips, mini-oranges and drinks rounded out the workshop.   The rains stopped long enough for us to leave dry.  

Capitol Hill racers and distant airshow

Speaking of pollinators.

The Tulsa Master Gardeners Garden Tour theme is 'PollinatorsR Us'.  Gardens are open today from 9 to5 and tomorrow 11-5.  Three Tulsa and twoBroken Arrow gardens.  Entrance fee:$15.  These are great gardens.  For more info: www.tulsamastergardeners.org