Indiana Promise campus visit (kids and pollinators)

Last month we hosted some 1,500 kindergarten and 1st graders from across Marshall County for “Walk Into the Future,” a whirlwind tour of academic life at Ancilla College. In conjunction with The Center at Donaldson, it was organized by Marshall County Promise, encourages all students to prepare for their future by opening a 529 savings account and saving for their future education needs.

It’s these unique partnership opportunities that I think makes The Center at Donaldson a very unique place.

Each class made quick rounds at various stations. I had the “nature table.” Since I only had 5 minutes with each group, I tried to keep it simple. I put out my college insect collection and a colorful map of N. America’s native bees.

A representative fraction of N. America’s 4,000+ species of native bees.

I tried to make the connection between food and bees. Y’all like apples and blueberries and strawberries and almonds, right? Each one started as a flower. Only the flowers that got visited by bees made fruit. Take care of the bees!

Who’s ever eaten an apple?

There were already little kids who knew about pollen and nectar. We gave them each a paintbrush and had them visit a flower (audibly buzzing as they went) to pick up some pollen. Then they “flew” over to another bucket of flowers and pollinated another one. Now that flower could make a fruit, nut, or seed. We get to eat, and all the wild animals get to eat.

It’s not very often we get to speak into the lives of little kids. They grow up pretty fast. The broad outline of our conception of the world is shaped at a very young age, and it’s important to teach them that our fate is tied to these small, hard-working, underappreciated neighbors.

We read a lot about future calamities in some far off time. 2100 … by 2050, etc. Scientists are now telling us that the decisions we make today (in regards to the atmosphere, nutrient cycles, etc) will actually reverberate for centuries.

It’s important to remember that these “far off” dates are within the lifespan of little ones we have already named. By 2050 my daughter will be in the middle of her career. By the end of the century, Lord willing, she may still be in the land of the living and in need of clean water and healthy food.

As Wendell Berry wrote, “Invest in the millennium.”



a brief moment for beauty

Monday we were doing some chainsaw work around the edges of an oak woodland, getting fire lanes prepped for the prescribed burning season. Cutting fire lanes allows us to more quickly and safely cover more ground with the same amount of staff. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention…

Most of the flowers by now have turned to seeds. Pollinators are migrating, hibernating, or receiving their final meals before dying as adults. At this time, we usually turn to colorful leaves for the fall splendor beauty. But leaves don’t have all the color yet.

But in a wet patch in the woods we stumbled across several of these beauties:

Trying my best at a quick phrase to describe the scene in a few words, I came up with this:

Jack be nimble
Jack be quick
Jack uses color as a bully pulpit

Not my best work (or my best photo), but it’s the first thing that came to mind.

I at first thought that these were fruits of Arisaema triphyllum, (Jack-in-the-pulpit) though I had a suspicion that I was wrong.  When I returned the following day to collect seed I noticed that the shriveled vegetation was still attached. It was distinctive enough that I realized it was Jack’s cousin, the Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium).  I’ll take the seeds to a less biodiverse patch of wet woods to help spread the population.

Here’s what the leaves look like during the summer:

Unedited photo by Bob Gutowski ( CC BY 2.0

There’s a lot of tension, chaos, and pain in our world right now. It’s important to not forget why it’s all worth struggling for. There is beauty all around us, but we have to slow down and contemplate it, to relish in its own sheer lavish existence.

Make time today for a walk, for a sit, to pick up a seed or watch the birds. Your soul needs it.