Andrew Fritz, Urban Conservation Technician
From when I was a child and into high school, I often went out to the woods on the land where I grew up with my beagle dog, Sawyer. I’d pick a sitting spot, usually perched up on a mild ridge of higher elevation, and watch Sawyer put his nose to the ground, stick his white-tipped bobbing tail to the sky, and sniff out rabbits. Over the course of the next hour or so I’d sit, watch, and listen as Sawyer coursed with the subtle contours and shape of the land. He’d disappear behind worn ancient sand dunes, remnants of when current Lake Michigan reached far into northwest Indiana, only to reappear moments later sniffing and cajoling a rabbit in my direction. He would waddle to the edge of a wetland and look into it. I’d look into it, too. He’d find nooks and crannies – the kind where most of life happens beyond sight – examining each spot, following a phantom invisible path that the evolution in his nose could detect. Even when Sawyer would disappear for longer stints, I could hear him rustling through layers of dead leaves off in the distance. On a calm day it was quiet enough to hear for miles. But even when the wind blew, I could still hear him amidst the dappling canopy above, the groans of trees as they swayed, or in the rustling of grasses that grazed my shoulder. On occasion, if the wind was just right, I could smell the rich earthy aroma of the sandy soil ridge where he scratched to get a better scent. There were some days I felt a deeper trust of the space and allowed myself to sit longer. On these days I’d witness a sort of magic on display on the surface of the land. The shadows, animated by the changing perspective of the sun, moved an otherwise inanimate landscape. I’d sense the changing temperature of the air and soil and feel, at one moment, the afternoon warmth brush my left cheek, and then, like turning a page in a book, an evening cool response on the right cheek.
It’s hard to imagine my life would be the same without my years spent gazing at the landscape of my youth. It’s fascinating to imagine our early human ancestors doing the same thing – watching how animals, like Sawyer, guide our psyche into hidden realms of the landscape, sitting patiently for nothing in particular except for maybe a mystery revealed and leaving us wanting for more.
Today at 38 years old I look back at this time of contemplative, contentful, and curious observation - I never once made a judgement of my experience. I only noticed and learned. But I didn’t learn the names of things or how processes and earths systems worked. I learned a kind of knowledge that goes beyond the intellect and into the deeper aspects of my humanity; what some call the interior landscape. I can’t help but think that, because I sat in an unconditional acceptance of this landscape, it’s forms and contours, its way of relating to me, that it also reminded me of who I am, and, like the topography of the land, also enlightened the contours of my life. This is what I’ve come to call ecoforma; a whole acceptance of the landscape as it is. As a byproduct of its acceptance, it also accepted me and provides a mutual nurturing relationship of transformation. Ecoforma is to imagine that every living thing, even though different on the surface in form and habit, mirrors one another in the deepest way. Ecoforma is the recognition that we cannot be human without the Earth or the land we walk on. Ecoforma is when our posture and way of being reciprocates this acceptance.
There were also mosquitos and ticks, poison ivy and sand burs. There were incredibly hot days and sometimes very cold days. I am aware that for some a particular landscape can trigger traumatic events in their life. Some landscapes can be confusing, mysterious, complex, or seem unsafe. In other words, discomfort and unpleasantness can sometimes interrupt the gaze of acceptance. Though I didn’t know it at the time, there were also invasive plant species that likely impeded the health of the forest. If I sat there today with the working knowledge that I have now, it would be easy for me to imagine managing the forest to be healthier or to manage its appearance and pleasantness so that there would be fewer interruptions. I might want to spray for mosquitos at the risk of culling birds and bats that require them. I may want to remove the shrubs and distorted trees so that I could see further into the woods and feel a comforting safety. Doing so would remove the hidden trails and nooks and crannies that Sawyer found delight in. I would lose whole registers of sounds that played among the different plant and insect communities. Maybe even the soil aroma would change. But I would feel safer from distraction and worry. If I were to do this, my relationship to the landscape would change and its transformative benefits alter. This relationship is what could be referred to as egoforma; where my concerns impose the needs of the ecosystem, economy, and the well-being of myself and others. It does not see the whole and or accept the whole. Egoforma forgets that to be human is also to be of the Earth. But it’s great at managing, controlling, and being productive. Egoforma is conditional.
Ecoforma and egoforma does not limit us from caring for a space. What they are attempting to describe is how our attitude or posture toward the landscape reveals to us the type of relationship we have to the land. In other words, the way we manage and view the landscape is a mirror into who we are.
Truthfully, we likely exist somewhere on a spectrum between the two that changes with time, mood, culture, knowledge, and life experience. Yet, as the complexity of world events continue to interrupt our awareness of safety and comfort it may be more necessary to liken ourselves toward an egoforma attitude.
The two words, ecoforma and egoforma, are created using two Latin words, ego/eco and forma, together. Eco, in Latin, means “relationship.” Ego, in Latin, means “I”. Forma, in Latin, means “form, contour, figure, shape; appearance, beauty, an outline, pattern, design, or condition.”
Annual Meeting Recap
Taylor Wilson, Conservation Technician and Outreach Assistant
The Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District held the Annual Meeting on February 20th to showcase their activities in 2019. During the meeting the District celebrated conservation, honored conservation awards winners, and held an election for a board supervisor. This year the District hosted Melissa Widhalm from the Purdue Climate Change Research Center to speak about climate change and Building Resiliency for Tomorrow's Climate.
Each year the district awards organizations and individuals for outstanding work in protecting our natural resources. Conservation awards for 2019 included Jason Armour from the City of Fishers Storm Water Program was awarded the Outstanding Partner of Urban Conservation award. Kim Gauen was awarded the new individual partnership award for Outstanding Partner of Urban Conservation The Nature Conservancy was awarded the Partner in Conservation award. Amy Jo Farmer of Farmers Gold, Inc. won the River Friendly Farmer award, and Jennifer Jacks from Sand Creek Elementary won Outstanding Natural Resources Educator. Doug Quear was also recognized with a Service Award for his contribution as Soil and Water District Board Supervisor since 2007.
Attendees re-elected Jared Kakasuleff as a supervisor for the Hamilton County SWCD Board. After the vote Hamilton County Council member Ken Alexander graciously conducted the oath of office. Jared is a grain farmer who lives in Arcadia, Indiana and has served 14 years on the SWCD board. Supervisors on the SWCD board give guidance and insight to the SWCD’s activities. The board meets once a month to discuss the goals of the District in relation to their five-year strategic plan. Board members serve a three-year term and donate their time to provide conservation leadership and help to protect the natural resources in Hamilton County.
COVID-19 Event Updates
Claire Lane, Urban Conservationist
Statewide CISMA Conference Postponed
The statewide CISMA (Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area) conference originally scheduled for March 26th has been postponed until August 20th, 2020. Tickets will be honored on that date. More information on CEUs, an agenda, and registration options are all available at www.cisma2020.eventbrite.com
Postponed- 2020 Spring Sustainability Workshop- Invasive Species
The annual spring sustainability workshop, this year focusing on invasive species and their management, has been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We hope to reschedule this event for later in 2020 and will also be sharing a series of videos and/or online webinars and resources to help you learn about invasive species this spring. Hamilton County Weed Wrangles
At this time, Weed Wrangles status is being decided on a case by case basis as there are developments. Check the Weed Wrangle website or with the event host directly for confirmation of even status. In late April and on Saturday May 2nd, the Hamilton County Invasives Partnership will be hosting a series of Weed Wrangles across Hamilton County. These events will be perfect opportunities to join with other like-minded individuals for a volunteer workday targeting invasive species that are threatening beloved local natural areas.
At Weed Wrangles, volunteers (supervised by an expert) across America are learning to identify and manage invasive plants. Six Weed Wrangles are being held in Hamilton County and we invite you to find one to be part of. Visit our Weed Wrangle webpage for more details and to learn how to sign up! https://www.hamiltonswcd.org/weedwrangle.html
Hamilton County Parks Weed Wrangle (Noblesville) 4/22/2020 from 1pm - 3pm
Potter's Bridge Park Fishers Spring Service Day 4/25/2020 from 8am-1pm Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve
Teter Organic Farm and Retreat Weed Wrangle (Noblesville) 5/1/2020 - Event is full
Fishers Weed Wrangle 5/2/2020 from 9am - 12 pm
Cheeney Creek Natural Area Hazel Landing Park Week Wrangle (Carmel) 5/2/2020 from 9am - 12 pm Hazel Landing Park
Westfield Weed Wrangle 5/2/2020 from 9am -12 pm Midland Trace Trail
Noblesville Weed Wrangle 5/2/20 from 9am-12pm Dillon Park
Ginger Davis, Conservation Administrator
During this unprecedented situation while we are directed to stay at home and self-isolate to curb the spread of COVID-19, we want to ensure you that we are still available to the public to help with conservation efforts. The Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District is doing its part to help direct people to conservation resources and technical assistance, but in a slightly different way. We are still operating as an essential service and preforming required duties to ensure our directives are met. The purpose of a Soil and Water Conservation District, or SWCD (also referred to simply as a district), is to provide information about soil, water and related natural resource conservation; identify and prioritize local soil and water resource concerns; and connect land users to sources of educational, technical, and financial assistance in order to implement conservation practices and technologies.
At this time of year, we typically are out at site visits and assisting the public with technical assistance while also providing conservation education and leadership. We will still go visit sites, but may ask to do it alone and for landowners to stay inside and follow up with phone or email message. We are still available for appointments and will still be providing technical assistance. We may have individuals submit videos or pictures of issues first to help us direct services better. We will still assist you to the best of our abilities while ensuring our staff and partners are safe during this time.
We recognize the importance of social distancing and want to ensure the health and safety of our community. Unfortunately many of our workshops and events have been cancelled or put on hold. We are doing our best to look for alternative and creative ways to conduct our meetings, hold informational sessions, and gather input from our community. If you have ideas of topics you would like information about, please let us know.
It is the policy of the general assembly through the Soil and Water Conservation District to provide for the proper management of soil and water resources, the control and prevention of soil erosion, the prevention of flood water and sediment damage, the prevention of water quality impairment, and the conservation, development, use, and disposal of water in the watersheds of Indiana to accomplish the following:
(1) Conserve the natural resources, including wildlife.
(2) Control floods.
(3) Prevent impairment of dams and reservoirs.
(4) Assist in maintaining the navigability of rivers and harbors.
(5) Protect the water quality of lakes and streams.
(6) Protect the tax base.
(7) Protect public land.
(8) Protect and promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the people of Indiana.
(9) Protect a high quality water resource.
(10) Protect and improve soil quality.
If you see or have a conservation or natural resource concern, please reach out for help. We will do our best to connect you with the right resource to address the issue, reach out to the right partner for help, or refer you to the best course of action to address this natural resource concern. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (317) 773-2181. If we do not answer the phone, please leave a message and we will get back to you within one business day.
Sulfur Products, Timing, and Rate
Mark McCauley, Resource Conservationist
Over the years we have received several questions from customers of our soil testing program regarding the recommendation to apply sulfur to help lower the pH of their soil. We have observed over several years of testing, that many urban soils tend to be too high in pH. If you remember lessons from science class, high pH indicates an alkaline condition, whereas low pH indicates an acidic condition. The pH of soil is critical, as it also affects the availability of other nutrients to plants. To lower the pH, A&L Lab (our partner in the program) often recommends applying sulfur, and sometimes iron. That is where we often get questions about why, what form, etc. I recently read a good article from A&L, and although it is targeted more at typical corn-soybean producers, the information is still good for anyone wanting to learn more about the topic of “sulfur”.
A&L Great Lakes Laboratory Article
Over the last few years many growers and crop advisors have concluded that they must supply sulfur for their crops to thrive. However, there remains confusion about which product to use, when to apply, and how much to use. The good news is that there are numerous products available that are affordable, but it is critical to pick the right product, or products, to best fit a grower’s application options.
Sulfur fertilizers deliver sulfur in three different forms, sulfate (SO4-), thiosulfate (S2O32-), or elemental sulfur (S8). However, plants can only take up and utilize sulfur in the sulfate form. Applying sulfate containing fertilizers, such as ammonium sulfate, means that the sulfur is plant available as soon as the product dissolves. Fertilizers containing thiosulfate require an additional step to become plant available. The conversion of thiosulfate to sulfate is an oxidation reaction that is both chemical and biological. The portion that is converted chemically will become available relatively quickly with little influence from soil temperature. The rate of availability from the portion that is converted biologically is highly dependent on soil temperature, moisture, and pH. However, in normal growing conditions, most of the sulfur applied as thiosulfate will be available within a couple weeks. Sulfur supplied in an elemental form must go through a biological conversion to become sulfate. The rate that this process occurs is entirely weather dependent. However, it is generally estimated that about half of the elemental sulfur will become available during the growing season.
The timing of fertilizer applications in the Eastern Corn Belt is generally confined to post-harvest, pre-planting, or early in-season. Since much of the phosphorus, potassium, and liming materials are applied post-harvest, this provides an opportunity to blend a dry sulfur product with these, but which one? In most cases, sulfate forms should be avoided in the fall. While it may be convenient to blend ammonium sulfate or potassium sulfate with another dry fertilizer, these are the most prone to being lost before the next growing season. Most sulfate containing fertilizers are highly water soluble and sulfate is highly leachable from the soil profile. The exception to this is gypsum, which is calcium sulfate. While it is a sulfate form, it is not as soluble as most other forms. For the greatest efficiency of fall applied sulfur, elemental sulfur should be used. The cold, wet soil conditions over the winter months are not conducive for the biological conversion to sulfate to occur. For pre-plant and early in-season applications, sulfate and thiosulfate forms are a good option to ensure availability to the growing crop. In a dry fertilizer pre-planting application, blending ammonium sulfate with urea is a good option. At planting, a small amount can be applied as ammonium thiosulfate in a 2x2 starter, but this should be a minimal amount to avoid damaging the seed since ammonium thiosulfate has a high salt index. Ammonium thiosulfate can be applied at higher rates in a sidedress application in-season because higher salt concentration is farther from the actively growing roots. While elemental sulfur can be applied in the spring, it should be done in conjunction with a sulfate form to ensure early season availability.
Choosing the right rate of sulfur is also important to maximize the benefit of the application. A common practice is to apply a crop removal rate which is approximately 15 lb/acre in a 200 bushel corn crop or 70 bushel soybean crop. However, the total crop uptake is about double the crop removal rate. Soils do release a small amount of sulfur from organic matter decomposition, and a small amount is deposited from the atmosphere in rainfall, but in many cases, this is not enough to supply total crop uptake, even if a crop removal rate has been applied. On soils with low organic matter, well drained, or very low testing sulfur levels, application rates should be closer to a total crop uptake amount. On soils with higher organic matter, poorly drained, or medium to high soil tests, a crop removal rate should be sufficient.
Sulfur is a critical plant nutrient that should not be overlooked. Fertilizer inputs should be managed to ensure that it is provided to the crop when it is most needed and in a form that will be available to the growing crop.
original article can be found here: https://algreatlakes.com/blogs/news
Mark McCauley, Resource Conservationist
It may not quite seem like it, but Spring has arrived and things are definitely turning green! In fact, flower bulbs, like daffodils, have already pushed through the soil and have bloomed in many locations! For gardeners everywhere, we are beginning to think about what we may want to plant where, and what preparations may be needed to prepare this year’s beds. One good idea is to have your soil tested. This is especially important if you have never done it, or if it has been a few years since the last one. Depending on the “crop” you intend to grow (i.e. vegetables, flowers, trees, lawn), you may need to apply certain amendments to create the ideal growing conditions. A healthy plant is more productive and resilient to adverse conditions (i.e bad weather, disease, harmful insects, and competition from weeds).
Taking a soil sample for testing is really pretty simple. We have all the instructions on our webpage. Basically, you will want to obtain a representative sample for the specific area you want to treat, whether that be a vegetable garden, a lawn, a shrub bed, etc. Once a soil sample is obtained, it should be mixed and brought into our office, and 2 cups will be taken from that to send in to the lab (which we can do that). The lab requires 2 cups of soil to complete their analysis. Results are usually available within about 4 days, and those can be emailed directly to you.
When you get your results, you will receive is a list of the current nutrient levels, the pH (how acidic or alkaline your soil is), the organic matter content, and a few other things (which an explanation sheet will be provided for). You will also receive recommendations on what nutrient types to apply (dependent on your intended “crop”), how much of each nutrient, how to adjust the pH if needed, and when to do all of this.
Our Basic Test - $35 includes organic matter, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, CEC, pH, and buffer pH.
Our Complete Test- $45 includes the Basic Test plus conductivity, boron, copper, iron, manganese, sulfur and zinc. I
f you are interested in completing a test this spring, or any other time of the year, just follow the directions on our web site and submit a sample to our office. We will be happy to help.
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