“New Rule Outlaws Sale of 44 Invasive Plants”

Head over to the Indiana Native Plant Society’s website to get an update on this important piece of legislation that was recently signed by Governor Holcomb.

Particularly useful is Ellen Jacquart’s simple slideshow that elucidates these changes. See also the coverage by IndyStar.

What does this mean?

(c) Except as provided in subsection (d), with respect to any species identified in subsection (a) a person must not: (1) Sell, offer or grow for sale, gift, barter, exchange, or distribute a species [as of Apr 2020];(2) Transport or transfer a species [as of Apr 2020]; or (3) Introduce a species [as of Apr 2019)].

Generally, this is good news! Certain species can cause real economic, agricultural, and biological damage (go back up and click on the slideshow to get Jacquart’s great explainer).

Looking at the list, I see some familiar faces from my journeys around the 1,100 acres that comprised The Center at Donaldson.

Tree of Heaven is a fast-growing and stinky tree, a profilic seed producer. If you cut it down, it gets pretty “angry” and resprouts with a vengence. Fortunately, it’s not a major problem here (yet).

Garlic Mustard is familiar to our woods, and widespread. We recently had a garlic mustard pulling party, and our new Moontree co-worker Liz made some yummy pesto out of it!

If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em! Liz & two Maria Center residents helped me pick 5 big bags full this spring.

Black Alder is a wetland tree that lines much of Lake Galbraith. Fortunately, it’s rather contained as it is. It is relatively easy to distinguish this from our native Speckled Alder, which we also have on the property.

Don’t get me started on Mugwort… it’s everywhere, and has established a big presence at Moontree soon after the Moontree prairie was planted. It forms solid stands that excludes pretty much everything else.

Last June we were treated by the presence of Dodder on a patch of Mugwort. Dodder is a native parasitic species that is orange, stringy, and rootless. It has no chlorophyll and can’t photosynthesize. It didn’t really make a dent in the Mugwort, but we let it do it’s thing!

The mystery of Dodder!

Asian Bittersweet is what you typically find in beautiful fall wreaths. Beautiful, but incredibly invasive and destructive. Make sure you opt for the native variety, and if you can’t tell the difference, please don’t buy or plant it! We have it in several places.

Poison Hemlock is common in our ditches. Beautiful feathery green leaves and a large white umbel for a flower. But it spreads rapidly and cause very severe reactions when the oils come into contact with your skin.

Autumn Olive and Bush Honeysuckle species are exotic shrubs that are prolific seeders and pretty much ubiquitous. We try to keep mature plants from going to seed. The used of prescribed fire can also help keep these at bay, to some degree. Unfortunately, we still have a couple Bush Honeysuckle plants that were installed in the landscaping.

Well, you get the picture. There are several more species on the list that I’ve found on the property. Currently, I just don’t have the time or staff to address them all, so I’ve developed a sort of triage system, where certain species are tackled first, and certain populations given priority based on the landscape context.

One very unfortunate omission from the list of 44 was Bradford pear. It’s a very common non-native flowering tree that landscapers use. But the fruits are spread near and far by birds and are very fertile. They aren’t even good for landscaping, and are often brought down by heavy winds. Even the DNR is vocal in the press about refraining from planting these and replacing standing trees.

Fortunately, there are many native species available that are beautiful, pest-tolerant, and well-adapted to our soils and climate. With a little research and effort, one can find a variety of bloom times and colors available as well. This little bit of intention goes a long way towards the first principle of ecological management, medicine, and probably religion as well: “First, do no harm.”

I’ll end with one last photo of a special native herbaceous species, one found in high quality Indiana forests throughout the state. No one has an official record of this plant occurring in Marshall County. I took this photo in Tippecanoe County recently, and it was the first time I saw the species.

I won’t tell you where, exactly, as poachers would likely steal it and sell part of the plant for a good sum of money. Poaching is posing a major threat to this species in some areas. Do you know what it is?

Bioblitz registration page is live

The registration page on Moontree Studio’s website is now available for the 2019 Indiana Academy of Science Bioblitz. Beetle safaris, s’mores, and camping, oh my!

This has long been a dream of ours… and we are so excited to invite the public to learn about the world around them through the lens of science and exploration.

And how’s this for synchronicity… See the link below about the latest report on the state of ecosystems and biodiversity. It’s time!

Phase Two of Solar Panel Installation to Begin at The Center at Donaldson

This came out 2 weeks ago and I just realized I had forgotten to put it up on the blog. Enjoy this press release!

… … …

For Immediate Release- Phase Two of Solar Panel Installation to Begin at The Center at Donaldson

DONALDSON, IN – The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ are proud to announce phase two of a renewable energy effort with two additional solar panel installations at The Center at Donaldson.

“The Center at Donaldson has a long history of making choices beneficial to our planet – from our geothermal heating/cooling, to hybrid and electric cars, to LED lighting throughout our campus. So, this extension of our solar project is another step in a healthy-planet direction following guidance in Laudato Sí from Pope Francis,” said Sister Judith Diltz, PHJC, Provincial of the American Province of The Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ.

A 515 kilowatt (DC) ground-mounted installation at Ancilla College will supply 75% of the electricity needs for the Residence Halls and college classrooms. An additional 41 kilowatts will be installed on the roof of Lindenwood Retreat and Conference Center, covering about 33% of the building’s demand. Altogether, installing these 1,500 solar panels is like removing 60 homes from the electrical grid.

Here is the majority of our Phase 1 installation. These arrays have 256 panels and are 75 kW (DC) in size. There is an additional 24-panel array at Moontree Studios.

This renewable energy installation follows The Center at Donaldson’s journey into using electric vehicles to reduce air pollution and save on transportation costs. A plug-in hybrid that runs on both gasoline and electricity is used for longer journeys, while a fully electric car is used regularly for local and regional trips. The solar panels produce enough energy annually to power over two million miles of vehicle travel.

The Center at Donaldson continues their work with the Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy (aire-nc.org) on this project. Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy (AIRE) specializes in working with non-profits to effectively own and operate renewable energy systems.

Steve Owens, Co-Founder & Executive Director of AIRE said,“Not only are Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ taking responsibility for their own carbon emissions and demonstrating that such actions are practical and economically sound, they’re leading by example. There’s a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, which embodies what is so wonderful about Poor Handmaids’ ongoing renewable energy initiatives: ‘preach always; sometimes use words.’ This story is still unfolding and there’ll be more innovation we’re certain, and we hope others will take note and learn from these inspiring Sisters.”

Green Alternatives of Kokomo, Indiana will be installing the panels over the summer, with the system commissioned and powered on by fall.

Earth Week recap

Lots happened leading up to Earth Day 2019 and extended into a whole week+ of programming!

A group from the community petitioned the Marshall County Commissioners to adopt a resolution in support of Earth Week, encouraging our residents to attend and participate in community initiatives.

L-R: Jacob Baylis (MC Health Dept), Debbie Palmer (MC Soil & Water), myself, Mike Delp (MC Commissioner), Marianne Peters (Recycle Depot), Christine Stinson (MC Health Dept)

We also visited Jefferson Elementary school and did an Earth Day presentation for some 3rd graders.

We capped the presentation with a wildflower “seed bomb” project, rolling in milkweed & other seeds into some clay, then using Earth Day to get outside and throw the little seed-bombs out into the wild! It was a blast.

We capped the community events with the 2nd annual Earth Hug Boogie festival. You can see more on it’s Facebook page.

Last but certainly not least, a team of us organized a week of lunchtime Earth Week programing, this year around the issue of food. The text below is from a summary e-mail that was sent out after the event, and includes links to photos and video. Enjoy!

the boys taste test some cricket-based chips and snack bars during Earth Week

Thank you to all who were able to come out to our 2019 Earth Week programming in Cana Hall. This year’s theme was FOOD. We wanted to make all the resources & videos available to those who were unable to attend, and for those off-site.

A big round of applause for the organizing committee & all the many co-workers & Sisters at TCAD who assisted in making this possible.


Hunger and Poverty Snapshot for Indiana (Bread for the World)

Boosts and Blocks of Building Wealth (Fair Economy)

50 foods for healthier people & a healthier planet (WWF & Korr; NPR coverage; also, recent big news on a nationwide roll-out of Impossible Burgers)


Food & Social Justice (52 min), featuring:

*Arleen Peterson, Director of Operations, Sojourner Truth House; Board Member, Northwest Indiana Food Council

*Angela Rupchock-Schafer, Director of Development and Communications, Marshall County Community Foundation; Board Member, Bread for the World; Chair, Marshall County Food Council

*Laura Dwire, HEAL Program Manager, St. Joseph Community Health Foundation

our three AMAZING panelists with a Sr. Germaine photobomb! 🙂

Future of Food (44 min), featuring:

*Danielle LaFleur, Community Outreach Coordinator, St. Joseph Health System; Member, Marshall County Food Council

*Christine Stinson, Administrator, Marshall County Health Department.

*Chris Kline, Senior Instructor and Sustainability Director at Culver Academies; Member, Marshall County Food Council

Food Production & Farming (46 min), featuring:

*Sam Erwin, Owner/Operator of Indiana Berry and Plant Company

*Tim McLochlin, Director of Agriculture, Ancilla College

*Robert (Bob) Yoder, Agriculture & Natural Resources Extension Educator, Purdue University

Photos can be found at The Center at Donaldson Facebook page.

Until next year… “Love the Earth, Eat Local!”