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.
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.
Male wood duck and male hooded merganser- our two cavity nesting ducks
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.
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.
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).
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.
Buff Rock, Red Star and White Rock Chicks
My son holding a Barred Rock Chick
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.
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
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’
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 patch. The guidelines consist of an educational component; to learn about Care for Our Common Home and a stewardship project; to put into practice our call to care for this planet.
Reflection by Wyoming Catholic College Senior Thomas Raab
Remember the Real and Be a Saint
The world has forgotten something of vital importance. It has forgotten reality. Man was made to be fully alive and to really live in a real world that really is real. The endless distraction of the totally artificial and the virtual, with their flashing lights and promises of pleasure, have made man forget. There was once a world in which our not too distant grandfather’s lived: a world altogether ancient, mysterious, wonderful, and above all, unapologetically real. That world still exists, but it exists outside the narrow frame of our technology. It is a world neither screen-deep nor mundane, but enchanting. Our fathers lived better than we do because they were closer to the soil. This enchanted world still exists, but we have forgotten how to touch it because we have stopped trying. In order to save the remnant of this secular age, we must remember the real and be saints.
The whole world exists as reality and as sign simultaneously. God gave it a depth and richness that can enrich man if only he touch it. The artificial, however, can give nothing back to man that can enrich him, because all it has is what man has already given it. Reality, however, has been given to man as a gift that fills him while at the same time convicting him that it is not the end but points to a more perfect state. Nature, with its mountains, trees and stars, raises man’s eyes and mind upwards to that eternal place. I would remind the reader that sin entered the world when man decided he could be God. Reality, the objective world, whispers to man that he is not. Hence I readily make the striking claim that if every man sat outside more, alone, in silence, under a vast starry night, perhaps while smoking a pipe, there would be less vice in the world.
The wilderness is a shockingly real place that can fill man with something other than himself. The reality of death, suffering and powers beyond our control may just be shocking enough to beat the sentimental relativistic atheism out of man. A man cannot give what he does not have. As long as man remains trapped in his artificial surroundings, he will be stuck in a perpetual cycle of trying to fill himself with himself and only being left empty. It is an endless hell of trying to lift himself by his bootstraps and only getting angry because he hasn’t succeeded at all and now his back is sore.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that all knowledge begins in the senses and that this beginning of knowledge, which he calls the poetic mode, is the most certain.The poetic mode occurs in two ways: the gymnastic (raw sensible contact with nature) and music (song, poetry, story, etc). If all we bring in through our senses (internal and external) is the artificial, then we are formed without an inherent conviction of natural law, a sense of right and wrong, or a sense of God. In more modern times we have tricked ourselves into believing that the mind is the only part of man that is really educated. We have forgotten what our forefathers held as true, that the whole person must be educated, starting with the senses. The way to educate the senses is to habitually put them in contact with the real. Then hearts will be filled with that which points to God and heaven. God is a poet because gave man the gymnastic and musical modes through which to touch His enchanted cosmos: creation and Scripture. He designed man in such a way that he must touch the real in order to touch sanctity.
In order to love God, we must first love the things He has made. Live a more real life; a more rustic life. Sing more of the good old songs that are grounded in the real and in virtue and the truths of human nature and the divine. The restoration of humanity and of culture will only occur if man remembers that he is a real being like the rocks and the trees, not an artificial and arbitrary one like the computer you’re probably reading this on. Go out and gaze at the stars. Go sing an Irish folk song or find someone to teach you. Cut out as much screen time and artificiality as your state in life allows you to. In the evening, don’t watch the latest Netflix show. Go on a long walk by the river in silence amidst the cool night air. Turn off the radio and learn to play an instrument. Stop wasting your time on facebook and read Plato. These will do more for your wisdom and sensibility than any amount of modern technology will.
We become like that which we sense. Like produces like. Fill your life with the real, with the beautiful, the good and the true. If we make it a habit of living in and sensing the real, which points to God, divinity and eternity will be more apparent to us who have been made blind. The chapel will no longer be empty, as T.S. Eliot writes, but we will sense God there again, not because He was gone, but because we were.
2016-2017 Student Stewardship Award: Jacob Baisden
Jacob Baisden is a Marquette University High School student with a passion for the environment. He has been very active with Laudato Si’ Project since its beginning in 2016. He is hoping to pursue a career in conservation or environmental science. Jacob has logged over 20 hours of stewardship work for Laudato Si’ Project. Below are some pictures from various work outings he has helped with. You can also read a blog reflection he wrote in the fall of 2016- Click Here
Laudato Si’ Project has really allowed me to be a good steward to the land. It has given me knowledge and ideas for what I want to do for a career and how to inspire others. It has shown me that being a good steward should not be done alone but in a group where we are stronger. -Jacob Baisden
Savannah Restoration Team
The brave group of students ready to go on the Owl Prowl
Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and Marquette High School student and faculty volunteers
Milwaukee Audubon Society and MUHS students working at the Kolterman Prairie
Written by Joe Meyer; Executive Director of Laudato Si’ Project
Well, its Spring time and our stewardship work days are in full swing. Cristo Rey High School joined us and we spent Saturday at the Schoenstatt Retreat Center continuing our woodland restoration. Christo Rey High School brought out Freshman and Sophomore students, faculty, staff, administration, and family members, all excited to take part in this project. The main objective was to remove the buckthorn, an invasive tree species, to allow regeneration of the oak and hickory trees in the woodland. This also allows more sunlight to hit the open woodland ground, benefiting native wildflower and grass species.
During our morning work time, a vast amount of the buckthorn had been removed and stacked from the woodland. These giant brush piles are havens for wildlife ranging from rodents to birds. A 1/3 mile nature trail is also being created through this beautiful 13 acre woodland as part of an Eagle Scout Project. This will give an opportunity to those on retreat to walk, reflect, and pray while in a beautiful woodland.
Much of southern WI was historically oak savannah and prairie. These specific ecosystem types benefit certain kinds of plants and animals that are dependent on it. This is what our efforts are aiming for-trying to recreate a habitat type that will benefit those species which have seen great decline in recent decades.
Students from Cristo Rey also learned about geology and ecology of southeast WI and connecting it to our call as stewards of Our Common Home. This is the second visit from Cristo Rey High School. They came out in Fall to work on the same woodland. See our October post Here. We look forward to their continued partnership with us.
Prairies are ecosystem types dependent on burning to renew the nutrients and stop primary succession. Another added benefit to burning at this time of year is that it knocks back the cool season, non-native grasses that often compete in prairies. This year we burned a little over 3 acres so far. The now black earth will warm quickly and cause our native grasses and wildflowers to wake up. It is also important to rotate burning to ensure that some areas are left undisturbed for insect larvae and to increase plant diversity.
Prairie fires were common in southern WI because of Native Americans starting the prairies and oak savannah’s on fire to attract wild game to the fresh grass shoots. Lighting fires were more common in northern WI. Prairie plants have extraordinary root systems and are unharmed by fire. On average, there are 20,000 pounds of roots in 1 acre of prairie!!
For conducting a controlled burn, preparation is key. Ensuring you have fire breaks (mowed paths, driveways) is a key component. Burning when the relative humidity is 50-70% and the wind is less than 10 mph is also helpful. A “back burn” into the wind will allow you to create a fire break by having all the fuel burned in the area the fire will eventually head towards. After the “back burning” is done, you can set “flanking” and “head” fires to complete the burn. The 3-acre section shown in the video below took roughly 40 minutes to complete. You will also see the use of a “drip torch”, which utilizes a diesel-gasoline mixture and allows you set set line fires quickly. Other safety equipment used are water hoses, water spray trailers, backpack water sprayers, and flat shovels.