Connecting with Summer Wildlife

Showing the group a meadow vole

Laudato Si’ Project seeks to utilize connections with nature to instill a sense of wonder and begin to create a stewardship ethic rooted in faith. The summer months present great opportunities to do just that. Using small mammal live traps, snake boards, turtle nets and other ecological monitoring equipment, we are able to let groups get up-close and hands-on with Wisconsin wildlife.

Learning about the beautiful treasures of creation is not limited to the daytime. Few people experience the diversity of our nocturnal animals: bats, lightning bugs, and moths. We use ultrasonic microphones that hook-up to your smart phone that detect feeding bats overhead that are using echolocation. Even though you may not see them, the device makes audible their echolocation and auto-id’s the species of bat. Although Wisconsin’s 8 bat species present great opportunities for discovery and topics of conservation, our hundreds of species of moths should not be overlooked.

We make this great diversity of moths accessible through live moth trapping. By

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Virginia Ctenuchid Moth

making a homemade moth live trap you are able to make visible all those amazing bugs that move about while we are asleep inside. All you need to do is turn the black-light on in the trap before you go to bed and in the morning feast your eyes on the treasures it has collected. If you really want a project, purchase a Peterson Field Guide to Moths and try to identify some of them.

“Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker”    -Pope Francis Laudato Si’ (Wis 13:5)

 

Faith, Education and Stewardship

With Earth Day just this past Sunday, we thought we would share all the great happenings within the last week. If you haven’t read the article about Laudato Si’ Project in the National Catholic Reporter, you can view it HERE. We also had the opportunity to speak about Care for Our Common Home on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air. You can listen to that Conversation HERE.

This week we also had the privilege to work with 2 middle schools in the Archdioscese of Milwaukee, St. Alphonsus and St. Jude the Apostle. We helped St. Alphonsus 7th graders with a service project and teaching them about how our faith connects with Care for Our Common Home. We continued with a woodland restoration at our Schoenstatt project area removing invasive species and putting up bluebird and kestrel nest boxes.

Laudato Si’ Project also led the 6th graders of St. Jude the Apostle in their retreat focused on Respect, Peace and Acceptance. This is part of a continued partnership with Marquette University High School, Laudato Si’ Project and middle schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The weather could not have been better and the students were able to experience a fun, faith-filled retreat that drew them closer to God, one another, and Creation.

Lastly, we have finished installing our Bat Boxes on several properties in Washington County. These boxes will serve as a day-time roosting site for our many bats that call Wisconsin Home. You can learn more about helping bats at https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/bathouse.html

February/March Nature Notes

Butterflies in March?

Even with snow on the ground, adult mourning cloak butterflies emerge from their mourning_cloak_10-27-14winter slumber spent under leaves or loose bark. They are one of only a handful of butterflies to overwinter as adults. To keep from freezing, mourning cloaks reduce the amount of water in their blood by as much as 30 percent and then thicken it with a sugar solution of sorbitol. Biologists in Alaska found that mourning cloaks do not freeze until the temperature reaches minus 220°F. Once they emerge, they need to quickly feed, so they often seek out running tree sap or rotten fruit. Mourning cloaks win the award for greatest longevity among butterflies, living 10 or 11 months. Search the woodlands near you this spring.

Maple Syrup

February and March can be tough months, with some warm days followed by a snow storm. One way to sweeten this emotional roller coaster is to experience the maple syrup season. File_002(1)Even when nature seems asleep, maple trees are sending sugary sap up to the branches where the buds will use the sugar to make leaves in a few weeks. In my experience, having days around forty and sunny with nights below freezing produces the best sap flow. When temperatures reach high forties and fifty the flow actually stops. The sap is about 2-5% sugar and will be boiled down to about 66% sugar which we then call syrup. This boiling can be slow going as you may have to evaporate off 50 gallons of water to get 1 gallon of syrup! Sugar Maples are the most common tree used for syruping but other maple family trees can be used; silver, red, and boxelder. In Alaska, without maple trees, they utilize the sap of birch trees to make syrup!

Small Mammals

Some of our mammals began to awake from their winter slumber in March but many

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A meadow vole we captured recently

mammals were active all winter. Laudato Si’ Project is beginning some small mammal survey’s using live traps in order to gain understanding of what lives in certain areas and how many. The goal is also to create programs open to the public so they can see many of these amazing critters close up. It also demonstrates ways in which research scientists monitor and study these animals. Our target species include: meadow vole, short-tailed shrew, meadow jumping mouse, woodland jumping mouse, deer mouse, 13- lined ground squirrel and flying squirrel.

Spring Avian Arrivals

Many of us look forward to the first calls of red-winged blackbirds, robins, and sandhill cranes, but there is another bird species that begins its unique mating dance in March, the

 

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American Woodcock

American Woodcock. On these spring evenings, just before dark you will begin to hear the “peenting” call of the male Amercian Woodcock. Without knowing this, you might write it off as a silly insect buzz but what follows is truly a spectacle of nature. The male continues his “peenting” call for several minutes before taking flight. Then begins a circular flight into the sky, during which you will hear a high pitch noise as they fly made by the sound of their wings. They continue these concentric circles until they are several hundred feet in the air and then continue with their “falling leaf” display. This consists of erratically falling through the air while making high pitch vocal tweets. Their sky dance ends with them swooping silently to the ground where they originally took off and continue their “peenting.” This mating display continues well into the night and sometimes in the morning as well.

February and March is also a great time to cleanout your bluebird nest boxes for the arrival of the Eastern Bluebird. These gorgeous birds arrive early in the spring and begin to choose nest sites; tree cavities or nest boxes. American Kestrels also begin choosing their territories and picking out nest boxes as well. Laudato Si’ Project is helping to boost both bird populations with the installation of dozens of kestrel and bluebird nest boxes in Southeast WI. Many of our bird houses are made from scrape lumbar reclaimed from construction sites. Volunteers and Boy Scouts are placing them at several sites including Schoenstatt Retreat Center, Daniel Boone Conservation League, Tall Pines Conservancy’s Camp Quad Easement, Heiliger Huegel Ski Club and several other private land owners with appropriate habitat.

Lent with Laudato Si’

 

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“The poor and the earth are crying out.”                                                                                               -Pope Francis Laudato Si’

As we embark on this Lenten season, we do so with the structure of the 3 pillars of lent; Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. These actions of self denial orient us toward the Creator who is the source of all life and true happiness. Many of our transgressions against God and one another stem from a distorted understanding of our place in this world. When we forget our rightful place as creature and not Creator, we focus only on ourselves and neglect our prayer life, our role as stewards of creation and service to one another. We can also use the 4 Cardinal Virtues as a guide to reflection about our personal stewardship ethic.

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Justice:

What is owed my neighbor? What is owed to generations yet to come? How are we going to hand on this Creation that we have been called to steward?

Temperance:

One of the hardest but most impactful of virtues. How can we restrain our consumption and always wanting more? How can we simplify our lives to make more room for God?

Prudence:

This virtue allows us to discern the true cost of our actions. Our consciences need to be formed by our Faith. This will allow us to guide our families and those around us to more sustainable choices and lifestyles. We can also give thanks for what we have been given.

Fortitude:

The virtue of fortitude gives us the perseverance to live more simply and the courage to be counter-cultural. It also gives us the strength to remain hopeful amidst the hardships and injustices in our world.

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Prayer:

In your prayer this Lent, take time to pray for Our Common Home and those which depend most intricately on it, the poor. Click Here for a great prayer by Pope Francis

Fasting:

In an effort to rid our hearts and lives of that which is not essential, the Church calls us to simplicity through fasting. Much of our environmental and social degradation is due to a “throw away culture.”  This Lent, fast from those wasteful habits in your life.

Almsgiving:

The paradox of Christianity is clear; less is more, give and you will receive. By detaching from our money we more clearly can experience God’s love and freedom in our lives. There are so many wonderful organizations helping Humanity and our Common Home. Consider supporting Laudato Si’ Project this Lent.

Further Study:

You can find a Laudato Si’ Study Guide and other resources on our Website

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Sign up Here for a Lenten Guide to fast for creation

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Kindergarten, Naturally

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Guest Reflection by Woodside Elementary Kindergarten Teacher Peter Dargatz

Some of my earliest and favorite childhood memories are my experiences with nature at Underwood Creek, catching frogs at Menominee River Parkway, and rock hunting along the shores of Kohler-Andrae State Park. Nature has always been a place of peace and passion in my life. No matter what else was going on in life, nature was a constant. Living in Wisconsin means amazing seasonal variability and wonderful access to nature. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. As I grew up, I knew that nature would continue to be something I enjoyed personally. I never expected it to be something I could enjoy professionally. Fortunately, I can now do both. I am ecstatic to be able to continue sharing my passion and love for the natural world with my family and my students.

Teacher burnout is a real thing. I love educating children, but after years of teaching, I couldn’t help but feel that change was needed. I saw my students excelling academically but falling short in other areas. The change I needed was not a new job, but a new 1direction. That direction led me back to my love: nature. Initially, my rejuvenation began with the creation of the Tyke Hike program in my volunteer work for the Ice Age Trail’s Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter. These monthly hikes along a segment of the trail focused on more unstructured exploration and nature play combined with some service learning and emergent learning opportunities. Seeing how excited children were at being able to observe, explore, and play in nature inspired me to find a way to bring that enthusiasm to my classroom. I found that way with the nature kindergarten concept. Being in a public school, there were many potential hurdles. However, with tremendous support, access to land, and a seemingly endless supply of energy and enthusiasm, it soon became a reality. My students receive daily interactions with nature with a nature-infused curriculum bursting with project-based, personalized, and play-based experiences.

 

The Tyke Hike program and my nature kindergarten classroom are extremely important to my family. Besides the substantial support and assistance with the responsibilities 2these activities require, my family is my inspiration for my continued development as a teacher and nature steward. My daughters inspire me to create a classroom community that would make them proud. My wife inspires me to follow my dreams and try new things. We constantly share our own nature experiences and making new nature memories together. My wife and I want our girls to experience and celebrate nature so that they will appreciate and honor it on their own.

Whether it be visiting my outdoor classroom, walking through the nature preserve at the end of our block, or visiting one of our many favorite nature spots throughout the area, nature is and will always be an essential element of our lives. We don’t learn about nature. We learn from and in it.

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In my three years as a nature kindergarten teacher, I have worked to revamp and rejuvenate my instructional practices by enhancing my curriculum with opportunities for my students to dig into nature, both figuratively and literally. We engage in a diversified set of activities aimed at creating a well-rounded whole-child experience. Place-based learning is crucial to this. I want my students to more deeply understand their community and more importantly, their place and role in that community. While there are a variety of specific activities and experiences we use to deepen our connection to the natural world, the first and far most valuable resource is time. Time to explore, observe, and play. Every day. Mother Nature is a much better teacher than I could ever be so giving her control allows the students to see their world with a different perspective.

This different perspective aims to create and instill a passion for appreciation and love of the land. I want my students to experience the land, understand their place in it, and preserve it. For example, students learn about invasive species. With garlic mustard being easy to find and just as easy to pull out, it is a natural choice to use as a learning tool. We learn about what garlic mustard is, what it does, and why getting rid of it will be helpful for our land. Once we learn that, our daily interactions with nature include garlic mustard picking. It becomes so motivating for kids. I have received many correspondences from parents stating how their child spent hours at home and in the neighborhood pulling out plant after plant. Similarly, to diversify the land, we work on prairie restoration. Using old donated tarps, the students choose a spot to kill off the bland and homogeneous grasses. Later on, they remove the tarp, move it to a new location, and plant prairie plants in that spot. They also distribute native seeds and study different plans to purchase. Additionally, the students do a variety of things to help our animal friends. Whether it be building bird feeders or setting up winter dens, we learn about nature by immersing ourselves in it.

Read a great article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about Peter and his classes HERE

 

High School Retreat at Holy Hill

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The St. Catherine of Alexandria High School group ready for our Ice Age trail hike

Laudato Si’ Project was thrilled to help run the high school retreat for St. Catherine of Alexandria in Brown Deer. We began in the morning with a presentation and discussion

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The St. Catherine of Alexandria High School Retreat

on Living Laudato Si’. Topics included: What the Church teaches in regards to Care for Creation, what are the major themes of Laudato Si’, and how to we live a Laudato Si’ stewardship ethic day to day.

After a great morning session, it was time for lunch and then out into the sunny 40 degree January weather! We were off on our faith-based ecology hike to explore the amazing beauty of the Holy Hill segment of the Ice Age Trail.

Joining us for our walk was volunteer educator Steven Schwartz. Steven earned his Bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology and wetland science and is currently taking Master’s classes at the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences. It was a blessing to have Steven’s faith and expertise on our hike. We discussed some of the unique geological features that can be found in the Kettle Moraine and heard insights for great Saints like St. Kateri Tekawitha. It was truly a wonderful day for the youth and it ended with the sacraments of Reconciliation and Mass at the Holy Hill Basilica. A special thanks to Lorrie Maples who is the Formation Director for St. Catherine of Alexandria.

Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded. -Pope Francis, Laudato Si’

2017 Highlights

Well, it’s hard to believe that were are wrapping up 2017 already. It has been another big year for Laudato Si’ Project and this February our organization will be turning 2 years old!  There have been so many highlights and adventures in the last 12 months and it is all because of our generous members, donors, and volunteers. Thank You.

The summer of 2017 was the 2 year anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. Pope Francis also made “care for our common home” a work of mercy 1 year ago in 2016! (see New Work of Mercy). This solidified Laudato Si’ Project’s mission and gave us even more momentum moving forward. As our mission states, we are dedicated to restoring humanity’s connection to the natural world through education, stewardship, and recreation.

Education

In 2017, Laudato Si’ Project ran 70 hours of educational programs! We were able to connect with several hundred school students ranging from kindergarten up through college. Whether it is speaking at a school, retreat, conference, or out in the woods- education is at the core of what we do. Our School Partnerships have really expanded Laudato Si’ Project’s reach. With over a dozen partnerships and growing, we are able to work with teachers to help them connect students to the teaching of the Church and Laudato Si’. This ensured they could find ways to get students into nature, sparking curiosity and developing a love for this amazing natural gift.

“The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains – everything is, as it were, a caress of God.”  -Pope Francis, Laudato Si’

Stewardship

In 2017, Laudato Si’ Project logged over 600 volunteer hours! Stewardship is all about getting our hands dirty. It is our philosophy that is it not enough to just learn about nature, you have to work to help restore it. By allowing students opportunity’s to give the Earth a helping hand- we are instilling a sense of mercy for our common home that Pope Francis has called us to.

“We must hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”Pope Francis, Laudato Si’

Recreation

In 2017, Laudato Si’ Project created 25 hours of recreation outings. We seek to create intentional recreational opportunities so that students, adults, and families can spend time enjoying our beautiful natural environment. “Less screen time-More green time”, that’s our modo. We are very proud of the great partnerships we have struck with multiple organizations including Tall Pines Conservancy, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, Heiliger Huegel Ski Club and the Schoenstatt Retreat Center. These organizations own large amounts of land and gives us the ability to connect people with meaningful educational events, stewardship projects, and recreational outings.

It has been a great year! God has richly blessed our organization again this year and has given us countless ways to spread our vital mission. We look forward to busy and fruitful 2018. Happy New Year

“LIVING OUR VOCATION TO BE PROTECTORS OF GOD’S HANDIWORK IS ESSENTIAL TO A LIFE OF VIRTUE; IT IS NOT AN OPTIONAL OR A SECONDARY ASPECT OF OUR CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE.”  -POPE FRANCIS, LAUDATO SI’

 

A Home for Kestrels

Laudato Si’ Project has ambitious goals for 2018 to help this species recover.

A Male American Kestrel

Few birds of prey in WI can rival the beauty of the American Kestrel. At roughly the size of a Mourning Dove, it is North America’s smallest falcon. Unfortunately, it has declined nearly 50% over much of its range since the 1960’s.  Reasons for the decline are varied

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but include continued clearing of land and felling of the standing dead trees these birds depend on for their nest sites. The American Kestrel is also losing prey sources and nesting cavities to so-called “clean” farming practices, which remove hedgerows, trees, and brush. An additional threat is exposure to pesticides and other pollutants, which can reduce clutch sizes and hatching success. For kestrels in North America, a larger problem with pesticides is that they destroy the insects, spiders, and other prey on which the birds depend.

Laudato Si’ Project is responding to kestrel decline the same way we responded to blue bird decline- the installation of nesting boxes (See past blog post Bluebird Nest Boxes). LSP has already begun the construction and hanging of Kestrel nest boxes. Kestrel’s prefer open habitat where they hunt for rodents, grasshoppers, and other insects. This presents great opportunities for LSP to work with landowner’s in Southeastern Wisconsin installing nest boxes and increasing nest success. Nest boxes can be placed 10-25 feet up on non-utility telephone poles, lone trees or barns. Farm’s, pastures, and preserves managed by our partners provide countless opportunities to help a species in need. These nest boxes also create monitoring and educational opportunities for both students and adults.

Help us create a house for an American Kestrel 

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Adopt-A-Kestrel

Sponsor an American Kestrel Box for $25. Great gift idea for the nature lover in your life. We’ll send you an Adopt-A-Kestrel Certificate and in the Fall inform you of the number of hatchlings your box made possible. Donate securely online HERE

Cool Kestrel Facts from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

  • It can be tough being one of the smallest birds of prey. Despite their fierce lifestyle, American Kestrels end up as prey for larger birds such as Northern Goshawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Barn Owls, American Crows, and Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks.
  • Unlike humans, birds can see ultraviolet light. This enables kestrels to make out the trails of urine that voles, a common prey mammal, leave as they run along the ground. Like neon diner signs, these bright paths may highlight the way to a meal—as has been observed in the Eurasian Kestrel, a close relative.
  • Kestrels hide surplus kills in grass clumps, tree roots, bushes, fence posts, tree limbs, and cavities, to save the food for lean times or to hide it from thieves. 
  • The oldest American Kestrel was a male and at least 14 years, 8 months old when he was found in Utah in 2001. He had been banded in the same state in 1987.

 

 

World of Wonders

Guest Reflection by Steven Schwartz; Member of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish 

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Photo by Steven Schwartz

We have been given a world of wonders.

That’s the only conclusion I can reach when I find myself admiring the beauty of nature. That’s the only conclusion I’ve ever been able to reach, from the time I was looking at the bugs found from overturning rocks as a little kid to pursuing a degree in Wildlife Ecology as an adult. The world around us is beautiful, infinitely complex, fascinating, sometimes intimidating or horrifying, but amazing in its features nonetheless.

This is the world God has given to us. Whether you look at the charge given from God to Adam in Genesis or the sheer influence we have over the natural world through our numbers and technology, like it or not, we are the stewards of this planet.

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Photo by Steven Schwartz

Which makes it more painful to me when I see people not only completely ignoring that duty, that sacred duty, but seemingly embrace decidedly non-Christian principles in regard to the world around us. Greed in many ways has become the norm, and anything impeding the acquisition of more wealth is increasingly subject to scrutiny. This, among other things, includes nature itself. People in power bear false witness in order to try and make themselves appear as if they are doing no harm in spite of what they are actually inflicting on our mother Earth. What’s worse is that people, through their own ignorance whether willful or no, believe them.

We have been given a world of wonders, yet we can see only money. For this challenge, we must all embrace an awesome stewardship in which we live as examples of giving all to Christ who has given all to us.

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Steven with other LSP volunteers during a stewardship work day

In truth I think many of the teachings of Jesus do connect themselves to our treatment of nature, just as they do to humanity. For we are, all of us, part of nature as a whole, connected to the world around us as surely as any other plant or animal. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you stretches to, as the saint who Pope Francis took as his namesake often said, our non-human “brothers and sisters,” in my opinion. Another aspect of St. Francis was his radical poverty, his life itself a dramatic prayer, and his denying self to glorify the Lord.  Being mindful of greed, just as our Lord warned, rings just as strongly when looking at the actions of powerful industries as they did when looking at the actions of the corrupted powerful in Roman-occupied Israel in Jesus’ time.

It is with great happiness then that I read for myself just how invested and informed Pope Francis himself is on the topic of preserving and protecting the environment. He reminds us in his Laudato Si encyclical that it is often the poorest among us who continue to suffer the most at the hands of ecological degradation, whether it be through air pollution or drought worsened by global climate change. He’s really given me hope that the Catholic Church can do some good in this conflict.

This and the desire to educate are a now a part of why I continue to try and do my part to protect the natural world, whether it’s through education or through physical efforts. I genuinely believe, on top of this, that we cannot be cut off from the wonder of life, its diversity, its beauty, while we still have the means to protect and cherish it.

For we have been given a world of wonders. With God’s help, let’s act like it.

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Photo by Steven Schwartz

Schoofs Preserve Stewardship and St. Dominic Retreat

 

This past week, Laudato Si’ Project helped put on the St. Dominic middle school retreat, as well as, a stewardship work day on the Schoofs Preserve for St. Theresa of Calcutta young adults group. For the stewardship work day, chilly temperatures were no barrier for this group. The Schoofs Preserve is a 51-acre preserve owned by the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust and our group was focused on removing invasive species like buckthorn and honeysuckle from around the pond to allow regeneration of native species like red-twig dogwood and elderberry. Thanks to all the young adults from Theresa of Calcutta for their hard work!

Laudato Si’ Project, in collaboration with MUHS and CMH, put on a great retreat for the IMG_2166St. Dominic middle school. Students were lead through a day of prayer and contemplation around Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si: Care for the Common Home. They participated in activities that helped them to better appreciate their relationship with God, one another, and creation. Students came to understand our interconnectedness to all parts of creation and ended the day making a commitment to care for our common home. Each received a prayer card, badge, and sticker to remind them to be the hands of Jesus to one another and to the world! Thanks to all the high school student and adult volunteers that made this a great experience for St. Dominic students.

St. John Vianney 7th Grade Retreat

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SJV 7th Grade Retreat

We had a wonderful Wednesday with the 7th grade class of St. John Vianney at Schoenstatt Retreat Center. Laudato Si’ Project has partnered with Marquette University High School and St. John Vianney for our Common Home Explorer Program. We were privileged to work with St. John Vianney’s youth minister, Claire Hoffmeyer, in the planning of the retreat which had a focus on prayer, relationships, and stewardship.

The morning started with Mass and witness talks by SJV pastor Fr. Miniatt and MUHS student/SJV graduate Phil Volkert. Students were split into groups to discuss prayer, trust, and relationships. Students then took part in a skit about St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Creation. This was used as a springboard into our afternoon which focused on Care for our Common Home.

The afternoon activity included a reflective group walk up to our woodland restoration site. Students helped with our ongoing project by removing and stacking invasive buckthorn trees. The amount of work that 34 motivated 7th graders can do is truly amazing. Temperatures in the high 40’s didn’t seem to negatively impact this group at all. We finished the afternoon by hiking a trail that loops much of the beautiful retreat center property.

Here is a brief video clip showing our land stewardship.

Canticle of Creation: St. Francis of Assisi

O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God, to you belong praise, glory, honor and all blessing.

Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation and especially for our Brother Sun, who brings us the day and the light; he is strong and shines magnificently.
O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon, and for the stars which you have set shining and lovely in the heavens.

Be praised, my Lord, for our Brothers Wind and Air and every kind of weather by which you, Lord, uphold life in all your creatures.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water, who is very useful to us, and humble and precious and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire, through whom you give us light in the darkness: he is bright and lively and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Earth, our Mother, who nourishes us and sustains us,
bringing forth fruits and vegetables of many kinds and flowers of many colors.

Be praised, my Lord, for those who forgive for love of you; and for those who bear sickness and weakness in peace and patience – you will grant them a crown.

Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Death, whom we must all face. I praise and bless you, Lord, and I give thanks to you, and I will serve you in all humility.

Butterfly Garden Planting

We had an incredible afternoon Friday planting a butterfly garden at Milwaukee IMG_1946Parkside School for the Arts. We started by doing an educational program with the K-5 students about prairie, what factors shape it, and why it is important.  We discussed the role of fire in shaping this unique ecosystem, as well as, how bison and elk in WI also shaped the landscape. Students were able to feel the hides of those animals and even try on an elk antler. We also looked at the amazing roots of prairie that can go as deep as 15 feet! This helps prairies survive and benefit from wildfires and also help the plants during droughts. Students were able to lie next to a banner showing the actual size of big bluestem and lead plant roots. We talked about WI butterflies and pollinators that will benefit from the prairie planting.

We then got our hands dirty planting 150 native prairie wildflowers and mulching the area. This diverse wildflower planting will provide a nectar and pollen source for butterflies and other pollinators from May to October. Thanks to Erin Dentice and Jessica Maxwell for there leadership at Milwaukee Parkside and our amazing student volunteers from MUHS. We look forward to several planting projects with Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts this Spring.

Check out this short video about our educational program and planting

“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”   -Mark 10:13

Fall Living Laudato Si’

This beautiful Fall weekend was truly a Living Laudato Si’ weekend. It was packed with action starting with our stewardship work day at the Schoenstatt Retreat Center. Student volunteer groups from both Cristo Rey High School and Marquette University High School helped with various projects on the Schoenstatt property. The first was the seeding of a 2 acre Oak Opening Prairie. These unique prairie ecosystems historically covered much of southern Wisconsin and have unique species that depend on them including many types of insects and birds. There are actually classified as the most endangered ecosystem type in the World (more than rainforests)! Thanks to the generosity of several donors, we were able to purchase and collect a diverse mixture of prairie wildflowers and grasses that do well in situations ranging from shade to full sun.

We mixed the seed in an old landscape pond with a filler called vermiculite. This acts as a carrier for the smaller seed and helps you to seed more evenly. The trickiest part is to ensure that your seed lasts the entirety of the site and you don’t use it up too early. To avoid this, we set up flagged grid patterns and work methodically back and forth, spreading seed evenly to ensure good coverage.

If you have visited the Schoenstatt Property and are wondering where these sites are, refer the brochure map below. This map was created this summer as part of a pamphlet given to people on retreat. The brown arrows show the 2 sites.

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After seeding the prairie, we headed across the property to our woodland restoration site. It was here that we continued maintenance on our nature trail and continued with invasive species removal. See our post from an Eagle Scout who made this site his project  

On Sunday, Laudato Si’ Project was invited to give a presentation to the parish on the encyclical Laudato Si’ and how to Live Laudato Si’ everyday. After mass, parishioners were invited to a hot breakfast followed by worship music and our presentation. Some religious education classes came to the presentation including their junior class of Confirmation students (who agreed to dress as characters of St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Creation, from which Laudato Si’ gets its name: see picture below)

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

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October 4th is the feast day of St. Francis, patron saint of animals and the environment. Many of us have seen his statue adorning gardens or quite places for reflection in nature. Our current Pope took his name to reflect the need to live simply, care for the poor, and find God in His Creation. Pope Francis’ encyclical named Laudato Si’ references St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon which begins “Praised be You my Lord…” (Laudato Si’ means Praise be You in medieval Italian)

Pope Francis also calls for a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1st every year. It was on September 1st last year that he announced a new work of mercy in the Church, “Care for Our Common Home.” He then called for several week span to pray and reflect upon God’s gift of Creation for us in what he termed the “Season of Creation.” This Season of Creation comes to a close with this feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.  Let’s pray the prayer St. Francis wrote “Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon”. While praying, realize that St. Francis was near his death upon writing this prayer, suffering greatly in his health and from the stigmata.

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor and all blessings. To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, Who is the day through whom You give us light. And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor, Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods, by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water, So useful, humble, precious and pure.

Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire, through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister, Mother Earth who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs. Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.

Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death, from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.

No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks, And serve Him with great humility.

Learn more about this amazing Saint Here

Below are pictures with our MUHS student group Caring for Creation by do water quality testing on the Menominee River in Milwaukee, WI.

St. John Vianney 8th Grade Retreat

“It was a great time away from the pressures of the world to think about God’s Creation” -Adam
“I believe this experience has brought me closer to God and my faith. I learned that I can just sit in nature and listen to God” -Anonymous
“We need to care for and protect the intricate works of God in nature” -Sara

Laudato Si’ Project had the privilege of helping plan and lead the 8th grade retreat for St. John Vianney School.  Our new partnership with St. John Vianney is the result of a program created by Marquette University High School and Laudato Si’ Project called “Our Common Home Explorer Program.” Laudato Si’ Project worked with St. John Vianney’s Youth Minister, Claire Hoffmeyer, to create a retreat experience focused on Care for Our Common Home. We wanted to create a retreat that would be prayerful, transformative, and fun. We call it “Contemplatives in Conservation.”

“I learned that caring for God’s Creation can affect others in a positive way” -Katie      
“It was very reflective and a good time to collect my thoughts. God was telling me to be thankful for Creation. I learned that God needs us to care for Creation.” –Anne  
“I heard God speaking to me about Care for Our Common Home”  -Joe
“God needs our help to care for the Earth” -Amelia
“I can praise God with everything I do and with my talents” -Bridget

The retreat took place on the beautiful wooded grounds of the Pallottine Retreat Center in Elkhorn, WI. The retreat began with an intro to Laudato Si’, witness talk, ice breaker, and group activity about finding God through beauty. In that activity, student groups searched through magazines to find images of people, places, and nature that struck them as beautiful and reflected God in some way. They presented their collages explaining the beauty in each image and created a group prayer.

“This retreat helped me see God in nature” -Conor
“One take away is to be a good steward of this Earth” -Julian
“Everyone needs to pitch in to help our world” -Andrew
“This retreat was faith-filled and peaceful” -Annie
“One take away is that I should take time out of my day to pray” -Morgan
“My experience was reflective, peaceful, and fun. I liked it a lot and it was a great time to hear God.” –Theresa

The remainder of the morning was spent outside doing various stations focused on forming a relationship with God and His Creation. Stations were titled: Be Still, Pray, Meditate, Give Thanks, Imagine, and Mercy. At the end of the stations, students reflected upon their experience and received a Care for Our Common Home patch as a visible sign of their retreat experience. A wonderful lunch was provided and the day concluded with mass at the retreat center. Special thanks to all the St. John Vianney teachers and MUHS student Henry Rohmer, for helping make this day a memorable one for students.

“My experience was fantastic and I was blessed to have been here” -Erin
“It was really fun to connect with God. I heard him speak to me about how to serve him and to go out and do things for the needy” -Michael
“God spoke to me and told me to never lose faith” -Ainsleigh

Monarch Migration Tagging

Over the past several weeks, Laudato Si’ Project has led numerous outings in order to tag monarch butterflies on their way to their Mexican wintering grounds nearly 2000 miles away. The small stickers, with a unique serial number, are affixed to their wings and when these butterflies are caught again in Mexico, knowledge of migratory pathways are better understood. You can take part in this citizen science research by visiting monarch watch.org

Holding monarchs appropriately ensures that you are not damaging their wings. Unlike other butterflies that do not migrate, monarch wings are sturdier. Monarch populations have declined by 80-90% over recent years and ensuring your yard has wild space for both milkweed and flowers will keep their populations strong in WI.

Monarch’s begin their migration around mid August in Southern WI and catching them

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can be an unpredictable affair. Finding their favorite prairie plants helps increase the odds you will see them feeding. Monarch caterpillars are milkweed specialists but they are not alone. Milkweed tussock moth caterpillars also feed on milkweed and like monarch caterpillars, become distasteful to predators as a result. Whenever we take a group out looking for monarch’s, you always find other amazing species that call the prairie their home.

View our video below highlighting a prairie in late summer. It shows the diversity of plants and pollinators that a prairie holds. Contact Us if you would like a prairie planting, big or small, at your home, school, parish, or business.

“Sun and moon, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Stars of heaven, bless the Lord; Every shower and dew, bless the Lord; Cold and chill, bless the Lord; Light and darkness, bless the Lord; Lightning and clouds, bless the Lord; Let the earth bless the Lord, Mountains and hills, bless the Lord; Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord; All you birds of the air, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.”   – Daniel 3 (adapted)

 

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

 

September 1st marks the annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. On this day last year, Pope Francis announced that Care for Our Common Home will be added as a Work of Mercy in the Catholic Church. In his address last year, Pope Francis wrote:

As a spiritual work of mercy, care for our common home calls for a “grateful contemplation of God’s world” (Laudato Si’, 214) which “allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us” (ibid., 85). As a corporal work of mercy, care for our common home requires “simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness” and “makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world” (ibid., 230-31).

This day also begins the ecumenical  “Season of Creation”  which runs until October 4th, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

 

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Chesterton Academy students on retreat and ready to take a faith and ecology hike with Laudato Si’ Project

Laudato Si’ Project also recently began its partnership with Chesterton Academy of 1Milwaukee. Students were on retreat at the Holy Hill Basilica for the morning and in the afternoon were led by Laudato Si’ Project’s director, Joe Meyer, on a hike through the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Faith, ecology and stewardship were integrated into the beautiful natural scenery as students and faculty hiked several miles of the Mid Kettle Moraine.

 

Prayer from Pope Francis on 2016 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation :

“O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned
and forgotten of this earth,
who are so precious in your eyes…

God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
God of mercy, may we receive your forgiveness
and convey your mercy throughout our common home.”

Praise be to you! (Laudato Si’)

Amen.

The full message released about Care for our Common Home as a work of mercy can be found Here and a also Video of press conference about the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation

Sustainability Fair at Lapham Peak

What an amazing day! As part of the Green Alliance, Laudato Si’ Project helped plan Saturday’s Sustainability Fair at Lapham Peak. We were blessed with great weather and 500+ people were able to discover, connect, and engage with how to live more sustainably.

Laudato Si’ Project created a Nature Discovery Zone to engage visitors with the natural world, impart a sense of wonder, and encourage them to live lighter on the Earth. So many great conversations took place about connecting faith with Care for Creation. Laudato Si’ Project also gave a presentation on “Planting Native Prairie” and our volunteers led 2 guided activities: “Beginning Birding” and “Prairie Bugs Kids Hike.” Thanks to all our amazing volunteers for helping make this event such a success!

With over 40 vendors and exhibitors at the fair, people of all ages could explore sustainability topics ranging from recycling to land conservation. 30 presentations happened throughout the day and over 10 guided activities.

If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder… our attitude will be that of masters, consumers and ruthless exploiters.              -Pope Francis, Laudato Si

 

 

Sunny Saturday Hike on the Prairie

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Pollinator Prairie Planting at Heiliger Huegel Ski Club Near Holy Hill.

Saturday was our prairie ecology hike at the Heiliger Huegel Ski Club near Holy Hill. Laudato Si’ Project has partnered with the ski club for multiple projects and events including this 8 acre prairie planting in 2016. The ski club maintains beautiful hiking trails around the property for member use in the off season and nordic ski trails in the winter.

HH_teachingWe had a wonderful group of people join us for the prairie hike including members of the Wild Ones-Menominee Chapter. The tour of the prairie planting was led by the executive director of Laudato Si’ Project, Joe Meyer. Joe did the technical planning of the prairie project and assisted with its planting in 2016. This prairie is only in its second growing season and is doing very well. Not only does the planting help reduce soil erosion and fertilizer runoff into the Oconomowoc River watershed, but it is a haven for many types butterflies and pollinators. Our hike today was full of butterfly species including Monarch, Viceroy, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, and Giant Swallowtail.

The site of this pollinator prairie was corn field prior to its planting. The pictures above show the contrast between the agricultural site before and after planting. See our past blog postings to learn more about this prairie project: HH Prairie Planting and Fall Projects and Fun. Our hike took us through the prairie, learning about different plant species and their ecological role in a prairie. If you are interested in doing a native planting in your yard or at your school/parish, Contact Us. 

 

Connecting with God through Nature on Retreat

The New Schoenstatt Retreat Center Trail Map 

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We have just completed our latest partner project with the Schoenstatt Sisters and their retreat center in Waukesha, WI. The natural beauty of the retreat center property is truly amazing and Laudato Si’ Project saw a need to better assist those on retreat to experience God’s glory through His creation. The end result, a trifold brochure that will be placed in all retreat center rooms and available to all that visit the site.

Over the past 2 years, Laudato Si’ Project has partnered with the Schoenstatt Sister’s to better care for the ecological aspects of the property and to increase access to its natural beauty to those on retreat through nature trails and informational signage. To see these Schoenstatt Retreat Center projects visit our past blog posts: Bluebird Nest BoxesWoodland Restoration at Schoenstatt Retreat CenterWoodland Trail and RestorationFall Woodland RestorationMUHS Faculty Respond to Work of Mercy: Care for Our Common HomeStewardship with Cristo Rey High School.

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3 Besides a property map showing the retreat center campus and the nearly 2 miles of nature trails around the property, we also included information about Laudato Si’ Project’s stewardship work, the habitats found on the property, and its natural history. A special thanks to LSP graphic designer, Andrea Meyer, for all her amazing work.

Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; he calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing. – Isaiah 40:26

Nature Highlight: Spruce Lake Bog

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Written by Joe Meyer: Executive Director of LSP

Meat eating plants, really?!?! That’s exactly what we found on our recent family trip to mapSpruce Lake Bog State Natural Area in WI. The bog sits around a 35 acre lake in the heart of the
Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest and contains numerous plant species that are bog specialists. There is a short 1/4 mile board walk that leads you through what would normally be an impassable ecosystem. The WI DNR classifies bogs as acidic, low nutrient “wetlands” dominated by Sphagnum mosses that accumulate over time as peat. These conditions are what drive the specialization of some bog species that I will highlight below.

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Pitcher Plants have adapted to low nutrient bog life by capturing flies, ants and other prey through a water filled “pitcher”. Insects are attracted to the color and smell released by the pitcher’s hood but the slippery top causes them to fall into the pitcher. Downward pointing hairs prevent escape while enzymes in the water digest their meal. Several hundred species of pitcher plants make their home all over the world in low nutrient environments. Watch this You Tube video of a pitcher plant catching its prey https://youtu.be/z2C3ChaRyVQ

Bug Eating Sundew Plants: 

The less familiar sundew is another carnivorous bog specialist that uses a different 041ae9ef387d1b318aafbb445bd0482cstrategy to capture its prey. It has dozens of sugary drops of “sundew” on its head, attracting insects that get stuck on the sticky excretion. Unlike the trigger mechanism of the venus fly traps, the sundew then folds up onto its prey. It is much smaller than pitcher plants and easily overlooked, so you need to keep your eyes peeled for this amazing plant. Watch this time lapse video of a sundew catching its prey https://youtu.be/h9NnctZVrvk

Beauty in a Bog- Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchid:File_005(5)

This beautiful flower makes its home in many bogs. The “slipper” shaped flower takes several years to develop from seed and is pollinated by bees. There is also a white flowered variety, equally beautiful, and it is no wonder why Minnesota chose it for their state flower. Orchids are always under threat by people who wish to bring their beauty home by digging out wild plants. Unfortunately, because of the specific conditions needed by these plants, most don’t survive.

Other species you can expect to see in a bog are pictured below. They include sphagnum mosses, tamarack trees (our only conifer to lose its needles in winter), Skunk Cabbage, and Royal Ferns.

Besides Spruce Lake Bog, you may also wish to visit Cedarburg State Natural Area. It is Wisconsin’s first State Natural Area and can be explored in both summer or winter. See our past post from a winter visit with MUHS students to Cedarburg Bog State Natural Area HERE

A Laudato Si’ Weekend

This weekend was packed with educational fun. Two Parishes and 3 days of Laudato Si’.

St. Leonard’s Parish

On Friday, Laudato Si’ Project taught a Care for Creation program at St. Leonard’s Parish in Muskego, WI. It was the last day of their Vacation Bible School and the gym was packed with the energy of k-4 through 5th grade students. Thanks to their student and adult volunteers for helping make the morning such a wonderful experience. It is great to see young people so eager to learn how to Care for Our Common Home.

St. Gabriel’s Parish 

It was Sustainability Weekend at St. Gabriel’s Parish in Hubertus, WI. The parish Laudato Si’ Project team had spent months planning this wonderful event. The goal was to engage the parishioners with tools to live more sustainability and learn more about our Catholic call to be stewards of this planet. Partnerships with the adult formation program, St. Gabriel School and the human concerns committee helped make this event possible.

The parish hall was arranged with stations addressing a wide variety of topics.

  •  St. Gabriel School display highlighting efforts at the school to live more sustainably and connect the students to their faith and the natural world.
  • Prayers and resources for parishioners interested in learning more about our Catholic call of stewardship.
  • Waste and Recycling display with information on where and how to dispose of e-waste and recycle materials of all kinds.
  • Green Cleaning Products were available for parishioners to look at thanks to a representative from Shaklee
  • Sustainable Foods display highlighting CSA’s in the area where you can buy farm fresh, local food. There was also an activity on the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen and handouts on being a more conscious consumer.
  • Water Issues display focusing on southeast WI with ways to save water and reduce fertilizer runoff.
  • Backyard Chickens display on how/why to raise your own chickens.
  • Native Prairie Plants display explaining the benefits of pollinators and the ecology of native prairie plants. Free honey sticks were available to sweeten the visit.
  • Recreation display with maps and events to encourage parishioners to explore our beautiful area. A kayak was brought in to allow kids to sit in it along with rental information from KT kayak rentals. 
  • Composting display with loads of “how to” information for the home composter. Various methods of composting were on display.
  • Nature Discovery Zone with many hands on animal specimens and plants from around the world.
  • Scavenger Hunt for kids to visit the various displays and earn a Care for Our Common Home Patch.
  • Food, of course. All items with a local, organic, fair trade focus. Actual dish-ware was used to avoid the one-time use waste of styrofoam and plastic.

Thanks to the many hands who made this event a success.

If your parish is interested in hosting a Sustainability Weekend, Contact Us.

A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.  -Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ 202

Laudato Si’ Turns 2!

do908 laudato si'Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, is 2 years old this weekend. With Father’s Day being celebrated in the United States, it is a great time to remember in prayer our Holy Father, Pope Francis. He has done a wonderful job showing us in word and deed how to live simply in a way that promotes love for God, neighbor, and Our Common Home.

As Laudato Si’ Project continues its work in parishes and schools, we realize that this message is just beginning to take root in the lives of many Catholics. Feel free to use our Resources Page as you learn more about this part of a life of virtue and share it with others. View our list of 5 things you can do each day to Live Laudato Si’—> LiveLS

You may also wish to sign the GCCM’s  worldwide petition to Live Laudato Si.

Below are two projects that LSP has been involved in recently and expresses our love for Our Common Home. 

File_001 copyEagle Scout Project: Woodland Restoration- Sam Reinbold St. Dominics Troop 119

A large crew from Boy Scout Troop 119, friends, and family were busy helping Sam Reinbold with his Eagle Scout Project at the Schoenstatt Retreat Center in Waukesha, WI. Laudato Si Project was excited to have Sam use the woodland restoration for his Eagle Project which included: removing buckthorn, woodchipping a nature path, installing a bench, and hanging trail/tree ID signs. Way to go Sam!!!

 

File_001Adopt a Highway Spring Cleanup

Laudato Si’ Project is proud to sponsor a 2 mile stretch of highway 67 near Dousman, WI. Adopting a highway requires that twice a year, a group of volunteers from your organization removes trash from both sides of the adopted stretch. With our great volunteers, we were able to remove over 4 full garbage bags of trash and 1 bag of recyclables.

 

 

Who is making your home their home?

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A newly fledged bluebird chick

Written by Joe Meyer: Executive Director of LSP

Birds are a type of wildlife that brightens our day around our homes and on our properties. Over 3 million households in the US have bird feeders and 6.2 billion dollars is spent on seed and feeders annually! In fact, bird watching is second only to gardening as the most popular outdoor activity in the US.

Because birds are so common around the house, let me show you a few species that may be calling your home, theirs. Below are 6 species that are currently making nests and raising young either on my house of within 30 feet of it.

1. Eastern Phoebe  

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Eastern Phoebe

This species of flycatcher gets its name from its call which sounds like “Phoebe.” They like to perch on branches and swoop through the air catching insects, thus “flycatchers.” You can identify them by their distinctive tail bobbing when perched on a branch.

An eastern Phoebe found the top of our flood light just too good of a nesting spot to pass up. She is now raising 4 young.

2. Eastern Bluebird

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Eastern Bluebird

The beauty of an Eastern Bluebird in the yard is hard to beat. These inhabitants of the prairie and oak savannah (which much of southern WI used to be) can be coaxed to nest near you by the placement of a bluebird nest box.

Our resident bluebirds have already fledged their first chicks (top picture) and may do so another 2 times in a good year. See our past post on increasing bluebird populations HERE

3. Tree Swallow 

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Tree Swallow

If you want a great aerial insect eater, try to attract tree swallows. Despite their name, they are typically found in open fields and prairies. They are one of seven species found in WI; see barn swallow further below. Like bluebirds, placing a nest box will attract tree swallows like a magnet. Decreasing the amount of mowed lawn you have will help with this. Unlike bluebirds that prefer an acre or more between nesting pairs, tree swallows don’t mind other nesting birds near by.

You can distinguish between a bluebird and tree swallow nest by the presence of feathers. Tree swallows love to line their nests with white feathers. They can get these from a number of different bird species but they love taking white feathers from our chickens.

4. Red-winged Blackbird 

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Red-winged Blackbird Female vs Male

By sheer number, red-winged blackbirds are the most common bird in the United States. Despite being common, it is a great joy to hear their “conk-conk-lereeee” call come early spring. The beautiful males arrive before the females to stake out a territory. They flaunt their wing patches to impress the cryptic colored females, which may number over a dozen in his harem.

If you have an open, wet, weedy patch or wild area near your house, it is likely you have these nesting near you. You will know you are near a nest because the irritated male will be calling as he swoops down near your head. Stiff-stemmed prairie plants make a great nesting site for our resident red-winged blackbirds.

5. Barn Swallow

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Barn Swallow

These are another magnificent swallow species named for their affinity for making nests on old barns. We have had these fork-tailed beauties make nests atop our flood lights, but in recent years, they have taken a liking to a few nest platforms I placed under our deck. These nest platforms, which I make out of old plywood, can attract several different species of bird to nest there.

6. American Robin

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American Robin

Who can forget Wisconsin’s state bird, the American Robin. We all look for them as signs of spring although many stay here through the winter in flooded woodlands feasting on berries. They are notorious for making nests in precarious places and this year I have two by my house. The first pair is already on their second brood of the year, nesting on top of a pillar under my deck. The second pair preferred the secluded site amongst my wood pile.

The birds of the sky nest by the waters, they sing among the branches. The trees of the Lord are well watered…There the birds make their nests. How many are your works, LordIn wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. –Psalm 104

Nature Program for Disciples of Christ Homeschool

Students on a hike through the Schoofs Preserve

Laudato Si’ Project held a nature program for the Disciples of Christ Homeschool students and some LSP member families. The nature program’s focus was “Creatures of the Night.” They learned about adaptations of flying squirrels, owls, bats, raccoons and more.

They were several activities and games simulating these adaptations including a bats sense of smell and the tactile ability of raccoons.

They also were able to touch furs and skulls of animals that often call the night their home.

They then visited the resident chickens and even go to catch and hold them. Here is a short video of their experience https://youtu.be/w8m5RZvCquE

Lastly, we took a hike on the neighboring 51 acre Schoofs Preserve, owned by the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.  See a short video here:  https://youtu.be/nEzlYh0KQHE

If you are interested in having Laudato Si’ Project teach a nature program or lead an educational hike for your group- Contact Us

Laudato Si: A Connection with the Land, A Connection with Parenting

Reflection by Patti Scanlon: Parishioner of St. John Vianney, WI 

“It is the beauty that thrills me with wonder, it is the stillness that fills me with peace.” – Robert Service, poet

They’d complain about chores in the garden, like kids are inclined to do; pulling weeds, picking up sticks, cutting the grass. But when they got caught up in the feel of the dirt and smell of the day, it was hours before they returned indoors.

This is one of the many passages that caught my attention in Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si.

 “The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soul, water, mountains:  everything is, as it were, a caress of God. The history of our friendship with God is always linked to particular places, which take on intensely personal meaning; we all remember places, and revisiting those memories does us much good. Anyone who grew up in the hills or used to sit by the spring to drink, or played outdoors in the neighborhood square; going back to these places ins a chance to recover something of their true selves.”     –Pope Francis.  Laudato Si’ paragraph 84

On a February day, we build snowmen and play for hours until only a snug blanket could warm us. On a March day, we tap a maple tree, observe sap boiling, and enjoy the syrup with pancakes and sausage. In June, we plant wildflower seeds in our yard, eagerly awaiting their growth and late summer bloom. In July, we pick fresh strawberries and eat them in the middle of the field. In August, we run through the sand, watch the fish in the lake, listen for the bullfrogs, just soaking in the day and embracing how the land loves us back. In November, the geese – our winter friends – return to the lake under the setting sky, aflame with hues of pink, purple, and grey.

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The gifts, the lessons, the wonder and the awe our mother Earth provides for us. A commitment to the land, and a commitment to parenting. What it means to care, to love, and be stewards of God’s creation.

I showed them that I loved them by helping to foster their own sense of wonder and awe; an adventurous spirit, a desire to explore nature and new frontiers, to thank God for the gift of Creation and to care for nature and all of God’s creatures and children.

I saw this over and over in the very way they mindfully cared for woolly caterpillars crossing the sidewalk, the manner in which they lifted and cared for small turtles, frogs, and toads, carrying them to safety with the gentleness and tenderness of a parent.  Nurturing God’s creation teaches children the value and dignity of the smallest bug, a precursor to caring for themselves, for the dignity of all humans, and coming to know a real sense of social justice, the humble beginnings of service.

For it is when they are small children that these values are best taught, and it begins by learning and growing as responsible stewards of God’s creation.

“For how many years did I wander slowly through the forest.  What wonder and glory I would have missed had I been in a hurry!” – Mary Oliver

Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

Laudato Si’ Project spent Saturday’s International Migratory Bird Day doing land stewardship at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Bayside, WI. This 180 acre property was once the pasturing grounds for the Schlitz Brewery draft horses. Much restoration work has been done on the land since then and our volunteers were happy to help.

Students from MUHS and Nicolet High School were given beautiful weather to complete our task of removing invasive garlic mustard and dames rocket from various woodland sections. Both these plant species were used in home landscaping and escaped cultivation. They compete very heavily with our native plants and do not provide a good food source for our herbivores. When removing these species, it is important to remove the whole root system to prevent them from growing back. We also hung them in trees to avoid re-sprouting.

Of course, anytime you are out in the woods you are blessed with finding unanticipated treasures. For us, we were able to stumble upon a Blanding’s Turtle which is “of Special Concern” in WI. We also saw numerous spring ephemeral wild flowers and a wild turkey hen sitting on her nest. This area of Lake Michigan coast line is characterized by beautiful woodland with deep gorges. We toured the property to learn a little more about its ecology and finished by skipping rocks on Lake Michigan.

International Migratory Bird Day

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This Saturday (and much of the month of May) celebrates our migratory birds. International Migratory Bird Day, IMBD, is an effort to bring awareness to our birds and help keep our common birds common. Mother’s Day weekend in the midwest is the peak of spring migration and gives us our first glimpses of birds that have spent the last 8 months in the neo-tropics. Many birders enjoy this time because they see their first of the year baltimore oriole on their jelly feeder, rose breasted grosbeak at their seed feeder, and bluebirds building their nest in the nest box. In fact, Laudato Si’ Project has been checking the nest boxes we have installed at various sites and we already have hatched bluebird and tree swallow eggs!

These bird migrants make incredible journeys up and down the continents every year and face tremendous challenges. Take our ruby-throated hummingbird for example. On its southbound journey in the fall it makes a straight, non-stop flight across the Gulf of Mexico- 500 miles!! Our birds migrate using major “flyways” which include following coasts, mountain ranges, and rivers. In WI, we are blest with the Mississippi Flyway and in southeast WI, birds love to follow Lake Michigan North.

The focus of this years IMBD is “Helping Birds Along the Way.” All of us can do this on our properties to help. Of course, many of us feed birds which is a great way to supplement their diet in this energy demanding time. A more longterm approach would be ensuring you keep some area of your property natural for the birds. This might include prairie or woodland. These sites, no matter how small, create critical food and nesting sites for birds.

Another way to help birds is through your purchase choices. Let’s focus on a tropically grown commodity-Coffee. Coffee is our largest food import and second only to oil for any import. This means, what is happening down in Costa Rica, Belize, Columbia, or Brazil is really important to our nesting birds that spend 3/4 of the year there.  One way to ensure that your coffee consumption isn’t stripping our birds of wintering grounds (pun intended) is to purchase “shade-grown” coffee. Shade grown coffee utilizes a canopy of trees within the coffee plantation allowing birds and other wildlife to be supported. See photos below depicting a shade-grown plantation vs a traditional mono-culture plantation. You can also look for Organic and Rainforest Alliance Certifications to support sustainable agriculture.

 

You can shop for sustainable coffee online but almost all grocery stores carry some sort of sustainable option. Pick n’ Save carries Cafe’ Fair brand which is shade-grown,  organic, and fair trade. I call it the tri-fector of sustainability, taking into account the health of both the environment and humanity.

There is no better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than with a little birding. Lots of events are taking place all over the state and you can see some on our Events Page. So this month, look up into the trees. Enjoy these winged treasures. There is a lot of beauty to be found in our natural world but we need to stop, listen, and look.

All you birds of the air, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever. Daniel 3:80

Laudato Si’ Project in the National Catholic Reporter

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Check out this issue of the National Catholic Reporter. It highlights our stewardship work with Cristo Rey High School as part of the worldwide Mercy2Earth activities that took place around Earth Day. The article speaks of events ranging from stewardship work days like ours to prayer services or nature walks. Over 800 actions took place in 31 countries around the world and were registered on the Global Catholic Climate Movement website. The article also speaks of the 2016 creation of Care for Our Common Home as the 8th spiritual and corporal work of mercy.

Work-Day Fundraiser

Saturday was our work-day fundraiser at the Schoenstatt Retreat Center in Waukesha, WI. Student’s from MUHS helped clear and mulch branches from a massive pruning project on the grounds. Schoofs Greenworks donated funds from the job to Laudato Si’ Project to help pay for our 2 acre prairie planting on the Schoenstatt Property this Fall. Schoofs Greenworks has also been a Laudato Si’ Project business member for 2 years. We were able to use the mulch generated Saturday to create a mulched border around our native butterfly garden that we seeded last year (see that blog post HERE). They will also be donating two truck loads of mulch to be used on our newly created woodland nature trail as part of an Eagle Scout Project this summer.

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Student’s planting the 4000 square foot Butterfly Garden last fall

With the end of April near, we decided to put up our final wood duck house in the Schoenstatt wetland. Water temperatures in the high 40’s was no obstacle for these brave volunteers. Special thanks to Leroy Meyer for donated these hand made wood duck boxes that we have used at several project sites. Wood ducks are one of Wisconsin’s most gorgeous birds and one of only two ducks in WI that nest in tree cavities (thus the nest box simulating that cavity). The other type is the hooded merganser which was present in the wetland during our time there.

Raising Backyard Chickens

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My Daughter Enjoying Our Backyard Chickens

Written by Executive Director of Laudato Si Project Joe Meyer

The industrial food movement has allowed Americans to have more food available than ever before. No longer did we need to worry about the season or the distance, we could have what we wanted when we wanted it. Of course, there are some real social and environmental consequences to this. Namely, the creation of energy intensive, low nutrition foods at the expense of water and air quality, biodiversity, and the small family farm.

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A industrial chicken operation or CAFO-Confined Animal Feeding Operation

Many people are expressing their dismay with the industrial agricultural system by trying to buy local, organic foods at farmer’s markets, participating in CSA’s, or growing the food themselves. The goal of these individual efforts is to reduce our agricultural footprint on the land and eat healthier in the process.

As WI conservationist Aldo Leopold said best There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” 

Many Americans want to know where their food is coming from and how it is grown. This has resulted in the increase of “Backyard Chickens.” Raising chickens yourself allows you to have fresh eggs, organic if you choose, whenever you want. It will cost you much less than the $5+/dozen you would pay in the store for organic free-range eggs, although there may be a small investment to get started: building a coop, any fencing, etc.

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I began raising chickens 4 years ago with the goal of being able to have fresh eggs daily and allow my children to experience where their food comes from (and have fun with the chickens in the meantime). There are a lot of questions when it comes to raising your own chickens so having a great “go-to” source is key. An online forum called Backyard Chickens: http://www.backyardchickens.com is the best on the web and any question at all can be answered by browsing their categories. Before raising chickens you might wonder “Do I need a rooster so that my chickens lay eggs?” (the answer is no). “What causes an egg to be brown vs white?” (the answer is it depends on the breed and you can tell by ear feather color: white ear feathers-white eggs, brown or dark feathers-brownish eggs).

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“Girdie” Our 3 year old Barred Rock laying hen who has begun to function more as a pet

Many people also decide to raise meat birds or broiler birds as they are often called. Usually these are specific breeds that produce more meat (like the very common cornish cross, also called Frankenbirds, which matures in a crazy fast 8 weeks and produces all that leg and breast meat we have come to expect). I prefer to choose more standard breeds that take around 18 weeks and tend to have more flavor and are not such freaks of selective breeding. Many of the birds I choose are hearty for our Wisconsin winters and can either be meat birds or laying hens. Typically, I will have the hens lay for 2 years and when their egg production declines, use them as a meat bird.

This spring, we ordered 36 new chicks. These day-old chicks came from a hatchery called Murray McMurray. I have had great success with their birds and you can choose from a huge selection of bird breeds. I chose 6 different breeds consisting of Red Star, Black Star, Buff Rock, White Rock, Partridge Rock, and Barred Rock. They are really fun to watch and, of course, to hold as well. In about 2 months time they will be big enough to mix them into my existing flock of birds.

So, you don’t need to be an expert to raise chickens. You can start small, just a few birds, and let the fun drive the process. Most townships now allow chickens to be raised but may have restrictions on “hen-only” or what type of enclosures. Even of you can’t raise them yourselves try to find a local small-scale farm to get your eggs or chicken meat (CSA’s or farmer’s markets work great for this). There will be a dramatic taste and nutritional difference and as Leopold quoted above, we will know where our breakfast comes from.

Happy Earth Day

In case you missed our Friday interview on Relevant Radio, you can listen to it HERE

On this day that we celebrate this amazing gift of Planet Earth we have been given, take a moment to pray through the following ecological examen.

Ecological Examen by: Joseph Carver, SJ

  • All creation reflects the beauty and blessing of God’s image. Where

was I most aware of this today?

  • Can I identify and pin-point how I made a conscious effort to care

for God’s creation during this day?

  • What challenges or joys do I experience as I recall my care for

creation?

  • How can I repair breaks in my relationship with creation, in my

unspoken sense of superiority?

  • As I imagine tomorrow, I ask for the grace to see the Incarnate

Christ in the dynamic interconnections of all Creation.

Let’s finish by praying a portion of a prayer that Pope Francis included in Laudato Si’ 

God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!

You can find more prayers, videos, and resources HERE

“The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains – everything is, as it were, a caress of God.”  -Pope Francis, Laudato Si’

New: Care for Our Common Home Patch

Patch

We are excited to announce the creation of a Care for Our Common Home patch. With the generous support of the Shambarger Family, we were able to create a patch that can be used to educate and encourage stewardship in a wide variety of settings. The patch itself is 2.5 x 2.5 inches with a plastic backing and it even has an optional button hook if you don’t want to stitch it on.

Laudato Si’ Project created recommended guidelines for the earning of the patch that are age specific. You can access these on our website. The guidelines are broken up into 2 age groups; ages 5-10 and ages 10+. Of course, teachers or leaders have the flexibility to design their own guidelines as well.

The intention is that families, scouts, parishes and schools can utilize these guidelines in assisting young people in earning the Care for Our Common Home pa