Natural Perspectives: Make every day at home Earth Day

Earth Day falls on a Sunday this year.

The folks at Bolsa Chica celebrated Earth Day on April 14 with tours, live snakes, and even a bounce house for children. The Amigos de Bolsa Chica, the Bolsa Chica Conservancy, the Bolsa Chica Land Trust and the California Department of Fish and Game put on the event.

Vic had a station at the event where he showed people how to survey for migratory birds. Kids visiting the station were shown how to use binoculars, then asked to count the birds on the mudflats in front of them. Some of the younger kids weren't able to count as high as the number of birds!

While Bolsa Chica is important as a natural habitat, Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Central Park is important as an education center. At Shipley, visitors can learn about habitats, native plants, and wildlife, as well as conservation of natural resources. For example, Shipley has an awesome setup for collecting rainwater from the roof of their interpretive center, and also has a great compost demonstration facility.

The folks at the Shipley Nature Center will celebrate Earth Day at 9 a.m. Saturday. They will have lots of beautiful California native plants for sale. It will be a great opportunity to get a trio of Douglas iris, a columbine or two, or some native sages.

Planting at least a portion of your yard in California native plants is a great thing to do for water conservation, as well as to create habitat for local birds, bees and butterflies in your yard.

Speaking of butterflies, the Friends of Shipley Nature Center will have a butterfly house at their Earth Day event where people can see Monarch butterflies. These butterflies choose milkweeds on which to lay their eggs.

Vic and I were thrilled when Monarchs visited our butterfly garden this spring and laid eggs. The caterpillars ate the milkweeds down to bare stems, formed chrysalises, hatched out and flew away to the north. Our yard was filled with Monarchs when they hatched. I was hoping to watch one as it emerged, but they all managed to pump up their wings and fly away when I wasn't looking.

The Friends of Shipley Nature Center are also having a lecture on composting at 2 p.m. Saturday. If you aren't composting already, I urge you to get in on the fun.

Vic and I have two compost bins going at all times. We just love making compost. We layer fruit and vegetable peelings with leaves that we save in the fall. Garden trimmings, crushed eggshells and coffee grounds all go into the compost bins to become rich compost for my vegetable garden.

Our chickens do their share by providing us with chicken manure and used straw bedding, both of which make excellent compost. By the time the compost comes out of the bottom of the bin, it is rich garden gold.

And it's full of worms and their castings. If you have ever bought worm castings, you know how expensive they are. We make our own. The worms eat what we put into the compost bins and leave their castings behind. That's mostly what comes out the bottom of our bins.

However, what we are doing is not technically vermiculture. The Friends of Shipley Nature Center will talk about that too at the lecture.

Vermiculture is raising worms in a different type of device than a compost bin. The products are worm castings and worm tea, which is a liquid that comes out of the vermiculture bin. But it's not a kind of tea that you'd want to drink. It's for your plants. They will love it.

I compost for a number of reasons. First, it keeps dozens of trash bags of leaves from going to a landfill. Second, it avoids having to put food waste down the garbage disposal. Third, I save a lot of money because my own compost is a cost-free substitute for store-bought fertilizer.

Vic and I also collect and store rainwater for use in the yard and garden. Three of our rain barrels are right next to the compost bins, making it easy to use stored rainwater for keeping the compost moist. It needs to stay moist to decompose the contents in a timely fashion.

When it is planting time, I just dig out the compost that I need and put it into the raised beds. I usually pick out some of the worms and feed them to the chickens. It's a real circle of life thing, with their manure providing nitrogen to the compost, and the worms feeding the chickens.

Vic and I try to make every day at home Earth Day. We compost, grow a lot of our own fruits and vegetables, keep hens for eggs, and collect rainwater to use in the garden. Our yard is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Backyard Habitat.

Actually, the front yard is also a wildlife habitat, with most of our California native plants growing in front. We have areas that are planted with sages and milkweed to attract butterflies. Our pond in front provides water for birds, insects, and the occasional small mammal. And the hedges around the perimeter of the yard provide cover for critters.

This Earth Day, why not look at your lifestyle and see what else you can do for the environment.

You can support organizations that are dedicated to preserving and restoring habitat or educating the public about nature and conservation.

You can make changes in your own life to use fewer material goods (think about reusable bags for trips to the grocery store), conserve water (get a rain barrel, plant a native plant garden, or take shorter showers), or grow a garden this summer.

Planet Earth is in crisis, and it is up to each and every one of us to make whatever changes we can to avert that crisis. You can do it. We can help.

VIC LEIPZIG and LOU MURRAY are Huntington Beach residents and environmentalists. You can reach them at lmurrayphd@aol.com.

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