Ginger Davis, Conservation Administrator
As we all know, things have to happen a bit differently in light of what we are dealing with as a society with COVID-19. Now that we have hired FlatLand Resources (a planning, design-build and project management firm) contracted to conduct the Feasibility Study, it was time to get some additional input from our community. This was going to be in the form of an Open House. We want to engage our public for their input into the project. Public input will also play an integral role on how Stony Creek is stabilized and restored.
To address these needs and the current situation, we created the Stony Creek Feasibility Study website. This website allows us to gather information and hear your concerns, thoughts, and desires for Stony Creek. If you unfamiliar with Stony Creek, it is the stream you cross over on Hwy 37 as your headed into Noblesville from the south. It is also the creek that is blamed for the water backup along Allisonville Road on the south-side of Noblesville every time we have a flood. This creek has been in the news in the past because of some of the cleanup from the Firestone plant.
Now we have a chance to do something to address the erosion and other issues we see along the way, but the only way we can do that is by knowing who is experiencing these issues and where they are. The project site extends from 37 to just past Allisonville Road, where Stony Creek enters the White River.
Please consider helping us by filling out the form on the website, adding your information to the mailing list, and participating in the future of Stony Creek. This project is supported by a LARE grant, matching funds by community members, and in-kind efforts provided by the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Through this study we hope to find out what can be done to improve the erosion situation, increase wildlife and aquatic habitat, and return this valuable natural resource to a high quality site within our community. Visit the website and let us know what you are most interested in!
Andrew Fritz, Urban Conservation Technician
Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.) is a non-native plant commonly found within most residential and commercial landscaping here in Hamilton County, Indiana. They are picked for their low-cost, low-care maintenance, conspicuous flower, and ability to create ground cover. However, some daylilies have been known to spread from manicured landscaping into wild areas. If you are looking for native species of landscaping or wildflower plants to replace daylilies, consider some of the following options below. These often are commercially available, grow within similar conditions to daylilies, have a conspicuous flower, and can create good ground cover. Furthermore, they benefit the ecosystem by providing food and shelter for pollinators.
To purchase these plants locally or on-line, please visit our “Where to Buy Native Plants” page on our website.
To see a more extensive list of options, click here.
Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum)
Nodding Onion - Illinois Wildflowers Link
Sundial Lupine (Lupinus perennis)
Illinois Wildflower Link
Ontario Blazing Star (Liatris cylindracea)
Illinois Wildflower Link
White Wild Indigo (Baptisia alba)
Illinois Wildflower Link
Orange Coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida )
Hairy Beardstongue (Penstemon hirsutus)
Andrew Fritz, Urban Conservation Technician
It’s probably no surprise that as our life with COVID-19 sinks-in and folks are able to spend more time at home, that our office would receive more calls and emails about gardening and growing food. While there does not seem to be any shortage of food or lack of supply within the food-chain despite the empty appearance of shelves at grocery stores, it has got us, you and me, thinking more about food independence and where it comes from.
The Hamilton County SWCD offers technical assistance to residents of Hamilton County who are interested in starting a garden or improving their current one while committing to conservation practices like cover crops, no-till, crop rotation, composting, and more (view garden conservation practices here). While it is difficult at this time to meet in-person, we do offer our services via email or phone. We also have an extensive list of resources on our website here.
One of the important The roles of Soil and Water Conservation Districts is to protect and enhance our soil resources for the productive benefit of those who use it. During this time it seems more important than ever to protect our soil and water resources so that they can sustain us with resilience and abundance into the future.
Please contact Andrew Fritz at Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Claire Lane, Urban Conservationist
For the past year, the SWCD has been working to establish and gain support for a Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA). We are proud to announce that the Hamilton County Invasives Partnership (HIP) is launching this spring. While launch events including the state CISMA conference, spring sustainability invasives workshop, and Weed Wrangles are facing postponements and changes in the face of COVID-19, we are working to shift to webinar and online education as we launch this effort.
HIP is an open group of county landowners and property managers, municipality and parks representatives, conservation organizations, and more and WE WANT YOU. A variety of committees are forming surrounding education, technical assistance, volunteer coordination, and more. Anyone interested in learning more is welcome to join us at our monthly meeting—you do not have to be an expert!
More information is available on the HIP webpage where you can also sign up for the CISMA newsletter.
2020 Hamilton Invasives Partnership Meeting Schedule
1st Wednesday of each month, alternating day (12-2) and evening (6-8) meetings (some exceptions)
Location: Annex Building – Hamilton County 4-H Fairgrounds, 2003 Pleasant St. Noblesville, IN 46060
Mark McCauley, Ginger Davis, Andrew Fritz, Claire Lane
The elusive morel. What could be more iconic to outdoor enthusiasts in the Spring in Indiana? I can remember my first find so many years ago, about 1977. I wasn’t even really looking for them at that time, as I didn’t even know what they were. As I was walking along some bottom ground near Wildcat Creek, I came upon this unusual looking fungus sticking up out of the ground under the shade of some lower growing trees. None of my family had ever hunted these delicacies, and to my knowledge, had ever eaten them either. It was all new to me. Being curious, I plucked it off, took it home, and stuck it in the fridge. The next day I was at our local bait shop getting some much needed supplies to fish, and I mentioned my recent find to Evelyn, the establishment owner. She became much more excited than I thought would have been reasonable, considering my “insignificant” find, I thought. She said, “you know what you’ve found boy? You have a yellow sponge mushroom (morel)!” She went on to tell me how absolutely delicious they are, how to fry them, etc. I listened with great curiosity, but to be honest, I never ate that first morel. I just wasn’t quite positive that something that looked that weird could actually be edible. However, that has all changed now!
Every Spring since, I have made annual treks through hill and dale in various places around Indiana looking for morels. Some years I am successful, and some years not so much. The season will soon be upon us, and there are some things I have learned over the years that could be helpful to readers of this article who want to know the secrets of successful morel hunting. Here it is ….I always find them close to the ground, no lie! But jokes aside, to be honest, there are a few tips that might be helpful. One thing Evelyn always told me, was to “start looking when oak leaves were the size of squirrel ears”. That is a pretty good guide, but I have also found morels much earlier than that, and much later than that as well. In some years, there have kind of been two seasons as well, where the weather was suitable early and produced an unexpected growth, then turned unfavorable for a few weeks, but returned with good weather to produce a second flush of morels. Not common, but it has happened.
Hunting Morels in the Forest Ecosystem
Imagine this: You’re walking through the woods on a cool spring morning, looking at the fresh new growth of the year, thinking about the that flower or that leaf and wondering how long it has been part of this forest family. And there it is, the Crown Jewel of the spring forest. Towering like a turret, ruling over the rest of its soil subjects. The sacred morel. The morel is a wonderous thing to the nature lover. It is the best way to spring out of cabin fever and enjoy nature again after a harsh or depressing winter.
Morels in the Forest Ecosystem
Humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy these fungi. The tiny insects that we rinse off before cooking relish morels, too. Below ground, morels form symbiotic relationships with roots of many trees, helping them get nutrients. As saprobes, morels decompose dead leaves and wood, which replenishes the soil with organic matter and nutrients.
Mushrooms exist most of the year as a network of cells (mycelium) living in the soil or in rotting material. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops mushrooms, which produce spores that, once released, can begin new mycelia elsewhere.
Morels live in and on the edge of forested areas, and often around dead and dying trees. Old apple orchards as well as ash, elm, and oak trees make good hunting grounds, too. Early in the spring as the ground is warming, you'll find morels on south-facing slopes in fairly open areas. As the season progresses, go deeper into the woods and onto north-facing slopes. Well drained sandy soils like near creek bottoms also make good hunting spots for morels.
When a tree reaches the stage of decay where its bark is slipping off its trunk you'll often find lots of morels around it.
There are several types of morels Common, True or Yellow Morel, Black Morel, Half-Free Morel, and False Morel. Now don’t be fooled and watch out for differences between them. The true morel is scrumptious and delicious breaded or used in sauces and other mushroom dishes. The False Morel can cause stomach pain or worse.
For more information on identification, check here.
The distinction between the two is the pitted surface. Morel’s have distinct pockets in the cap, where as the false morels are wavy in appearance. Another good distinction is how the cap is attached to the stem and what is in the inside of the stem. In a true morel, the cap and stem act as one and the cap is attached at the top of the stem. However, in a false morel the stem is attached inside the cap and the cap covers the stem. Slice them open to be sure. Once inside the stem look to see what is inside. A true morel is completely hollow inside. But as always, when in doubt throw it out.
I also have to add a standard disclaimer: don't eat anything solely on the basis of what you've read here. If you're new to morel mushroom identification, have an experienced hunter take you out and check your first finds.
Where do you look for morels? The answers will vary depending on what part of the state you ask. Avid hunters will tell you, around the base of sycamores and tulip poplars (the State tree). Some will say around dying elm trees (that have the large sheets of bark falling off, and easy to see from a distance). Yet others will say under old apple trees (most old farmsteads have areas where apple trees are still living or were in the past). I ran into just such a place hunting the grounds around Mississinewa Reservoir. There were no buildings left on this bluff I came upon, but some existing old apple trees did exist, and sure enough, there were the morels, but only the stumps! Someone had evidently known the location and beat me to it. The weird thing about morels is, you can follow all the hunting tips, but then you may just find one in you yard, or even the gravel driveway, or some other unexpected place. In general, the majority are found in the usual suspected places with the right growing conditions.
When should you start looking for morels? Soil temperature is a good indication of when to start looking. Around 45-50 degree soil temperature is the right time for morels to come up. Also, there needs to be moisture, so when you combine a recent rain, along with those soil temperatures, there is a good chance morels will be up. Some also say it’s good to hunt south facing slopes early in the season, since the idea is that those soils will warm up sooner in the spring. There are also several different types of morels. You may here hunters talking about greys, blacks, yellows, and even “spikes”, and each has a preferred timing to come up as well, with the big yellows being the last to emerge.
Why do morels seem to grow more under certain trees and in certain locations? It is not well understood, but there is a theory that morels have a symbiotic relationship with the roots of trees, meaning the tree provides them certain things, and they in turn provide the tree with certain benefits, all underground of course. The morels we see are actually the fruiting bodies (flower) of the much vaster web of fungi (mycelium) underground. When a tree is stressed, such as an ash tree dying from ash borer damage, it stops producing nutrients that the mycelium needs to survive, so the response of the mycelium is to produce fruiting bodies (morels) to disperse it’s spores and survive! That is also the reason avid hunters visit recent forest fire areas in the spring following the prior year’s fire (more common in the western states). Yet, some morels still seem to pop up under perfectly healthy trees as well, so it’s all still somewhat of a mystery, and I think that is part of the fun of the whole subject.
Grow your own Morels
You can grow your own morel mushrooms. It’s easy, but it may or may not be entirely predictable.
There are two popular ways in which to go about it: by purchasing your own mushroom spawn (online or otherwise) or by creating your own slurry from mushrooms that you have harvested. The basic idea is that you spread the mycelium onto a suitable site where mushrooms are likely to grow well. Mycelium are the spores that mushrooms use to reproduce and spread.
Like the unpredictable nature of finding morel mushrooms, there is no exact science to growing them. However, there are best practices to get you on your way. Below are some websites that do an excellent job of explaining how to grow morel mushrooms when considering timing, location, and methods.
As long as humans have traveled across the earth, they have purposefully, and sometimes unknowingly, transported plants, animals, insects, and other organisms on their bodies, in shipping containers, on their shoes, etc. When an organism is brought to an area it did not traditionally grow, it is considered non-native. When a non-native species causes harm to the environment, human health, and the economy, it is considered an invasive species. Unfortunately, many invasive species can decimate the forest habitat where mushroom hunters seek morels, where wildlife seek out their dinner or a place to brood their young, or the forest or park habitat you take refuge in as a recreation space. Invasive species like Asian honeysuckle and garlic mustard are kept in check in their native ecosystems by a balance of predators and competing organisms. Outside of their natural habitat, in your favorite mushroom spot perhaps, they can take advantage of their new environment and completely outmatch their native predecessors.
For example, Japanese bush honeysuckle is an upright deciduous shrub which arching branches that grows 6 to 20 feet tall. It leafs out, or produces leaves, before our native shrubs in the spring and this advantage allows it to shade out native species like dogwoods and spring wildflowers. Honeysuckle forms dense thickets that are void of any other vegetation. This disrupts the food chain and habitat of all the insects, birds, and other wildlife that depend on the native species that can no longer grow there.
Garlic mustard is native to Europe and has a biennial life cycle, so it completes its life cycle over a two-year period with a basal rosette stage the first year and flowering in year two. When it does flower, each plant can produce thousands of seeds that can remain dormant in the soil for a decade. Not only does garlic mustard crowd out native spring ephemerals like trillium and violets, it also releases a chemical into the soil that hinders the growth of other plans. Garlic mustard plays to win in our forest ecosystem and often does.
Honeysuckle and garlic mustard are just two examples of the many invasive species that invade our woodlands and eliminate habitat for the species we do want—like morels! If you are a morel hunter, you belong in the fight against invasive species. Luckily, Hamilton County is launching a Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) dedicated to battling invasive species across our county. We are doing this through education and action, and we welcome you to join us. Our CISMA is made up of parks department and city representatives, master gardeners, environmental advocates, hunters, hikers, lovers of the outdoors, property owners, and everyone in between. Additionally, the SWCD is offering free on-site invasive species technical assistance for property owners (woodland/acreage properties get preference) in addition to our tool loan program where you can check out supplies to address invasive species. If you are a morel lover, invasive species matter! Be part of the solution and keep the hunt alive!
So, what does all this have to do with the Soil and Water Conservation District you may ask? Well, there are a lot of connections, actually. For one thing, if you go out to hunt morels, you will be exposing yourself to the beauty of our natural resources, and that often results in a greater appreciation for what we have been blessed with, and an increased urge to be better stewards of our natural resources. It can also be a good time to learn about our woodlands and become familiar with many tree species and how to identify them. You can also take inventory of issues you may see while out on your own property or that of a friends, or even on public land that allows morel hunting. You may see problems like soil erosion, invasive plant species, potential tree issues (i.e. emerald ash borer), opportunities for improvements (i.e. wildlife habitat), and more. So, it’s not all just hunting the illusive morel that may result in a benefit. Just be sure to hunt safely, always get permission and know the rules for the land you are on. Let someone know where you are going, and carry a cell phone when possible. Most importantly, learn about what IS a true morel, and once you find one, (if desired) cook well and eat a small quantity at first, just to make sure your body is fine with consuming them. Happy Spring hunting !
Madison King, Intern
With this new spring season comes new potential to be environmentally friendly and to make more conservation based choices. When you think about switching from the old way of doing things to a more eco-friendly way, the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s more work. Fortunately this is not the case and shouldn’t stop you from helping protect the natural resources around you.
For spray cleaner: Combine and store in a spray bottle 2 cups water 1/4 cup white vinegar; Consider adding 1/4 tsp. lavender oil for a pleasant scent.
For deodorizing cleaning: Mix one part vinegar and one part water in a spray bottle to clean countertops, floors, stovetops and other appliances. Scrub dishes, surfaces, and stains with a lemon that has been cut in half and sprinkled with baking soda on the flat side. Avoid cleaning windows, marble, glass stovetops, and wood with baking soda as it can be abrasive.
2. So, how’s your New Year’s resolution going? As the four month mark draws near, many of us have admittedly slacked off on the fitness adventures we embarked on in January. Throw some spice back into your routine and get healthy for the environment’s sake. That’s right, we said it. Studies show that physically active individuals pay, on average, about $1,500 a year in medical costs compared to those that don’t exercise. Those prescriptions, medical exams and doctors visits all come with significant eco costs. American hospitals generate approximately 6,600 tons of waste daily . As much as 85 percent of that is non-hazardous solid waste, such as paper, cardboard, food waste, metal, glass and plastics, according to Practice Green Health. Worried about those hefty gym fees? instead find a jogging buddy, download yoga classes online, or get out that bike again and commute to work.
3. Spring is all about getting outside, dusting off the grill, and having a good ‘ol fashioned cookout. Before diving into this one, we want to point out that we are not trying to step on any grill master's toes. The debate between charcoal and propane is a tough one: Which one produces more flavor? Which is cheaper, faster? And most importantly, which is more eco-friendly? We consulted a recent study by Environment Impact Assessment Review to answer this one. According to the study, “The overwhelming factors are that as a fuel, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) is dramatically more efficient than charcoal in its production and considerably more efficient in cooking.” The two grilling methods were defined by their overall footprint, with charcoal using 998 kg of CO2, almost three times more than propane, which used only 349 kg. When purchasing a propane tank, make sure there is a trade-in option. Most retailers will let you bring in an empty tank in exchange for a decent discount on your next tank.
4. Want the freshest, most affordable, organic vegetables possible with absolutely no food miles? Starting an at home garden is a great solution. It may seem like a lot of work, but the outcome will yield more than just fresh produce. Having a backyard garden reduces fuel usage associated with transport. But the best part: You can save money on groceries! The key to starting your own garden is picking the right spot, the best crops for your area and learning to maintain a healthy ecosystem. For more information about starting a garden, or questions about a current garden contact Andrew Fritz at email@example.com
There are so many easy adjustments you can make to your everyday life to help protect our natural resources. Let us know in the comments below what you’re doing this spring!
Taylor Wilson, Conservation Technician and Outreach Assistant
It's that magical time of the year—spring cleaning time! It can be incredibly rewarding to go through your home, remove the clutter, and empty your junk drawers. Old batteries, a keyboard, a can of old paint, left over products, and of course all the junk mail that gets set on a counter and forgotten about. As satisfying as it can be to Marie Kondo your house, all of that stuff has to go somewhere. This spring make sure your unwanted materials are disposed of properly to keep our soil and water resources clean.
When unwanted materials end up in our soil and water, it can cause detrimental effects to the environment. While the negative affects of hazardous materials are obvious, plastic can also have a strong effect on these resources. In fact, 33% of all plastic products end up in our soil and water according to the UN Environmental Program. Chlorinated plastics leach into the surrounding soil and water causing a myriad of issues with the wildlife that lives there.
Other side effects of this is the wildlife living among our trash and its lack of aesthetic appeal – leaving us with an unsatisfying feeling. Nature often serves as an escape from everyday life, but it feels impossible to forget the manmade world when you’re seeing trash everywhere. Use these tips to make sure you are protecting our wonderful natural resources.
What you can do now:
1. Make sure your stuff makes it to the right place.
This seems obvious, but the majority of litter comes from trash and recycling that hasn’t been securely disposed of. You have probably noticed the increase in paper and plastic drifting around on windy trash days. When taking your bins to the curb, make sure they’re contained and covered. If you’re taking the time to recycle, make sure the recycling gets to the truck!
2. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle.
In addition to making sure your trash is going to the right place, make sure your recycling is as well. According to the EPA, only 8.4% of plastic waste was recycled in 2017. Now is the time to take steps to avoid all that plastic, glass, and other materials going straight into a landfill. Hamilton county has several free ways to dispose of your unwanted materials for free like the recycling center on Pleasant Street in Noblesville, and curbside recycling! For more information on how to recycle, check here.
3. Don’t throw away Hazardous Waste!
There are several household objects that are classified as hazardous waste. Hamilton County supplies residents with a free place to safely dispose of these items in order to make sure they are disposed of properly or recycled, if they can be. Their website has all the information you need to know what can and cannot go to the curb, and where to take other trash.
How do we prevent this in the future?
At the end of the day, no one likes living, working, and relaxing in a cluttered house. Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between clutter and mental health. A better, more cost effective, and healthier alternative lies in a saying you’ve heard before: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In this article we’ve talked at length about how to recycle, but the real solution to the problem lies in reducing the number of products we need and reusing what we do need before we throw it out. Don’t forget that Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle aren’t just three options, they’re an order of operations. Don’t forget that DIY crafts from old materials, selling used objects online, and buying less are acts of environmentalism!