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Mercredi, 27 août 2014

Thanks, Ruth!

By Rachel Garber

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Here's to you, Ruth Shipman.

I was roaming around back country roads the morning of this writing, camera in hand, when I spotted a broad-brimmed straw hat, just a bit higher than the charming picket fence surrounding a luscious garden. Someone was working in their garden - what a great photo op! I braved the barking dog to make my way to the garden. Halfway there, I heard someone calling my name. Surprise! The behatted gardener knew me.

Second surprise! It was Ruth Shipman. Ruth and I were fellow marchers in the World March of Women in 2000. That's where we met. And then we made contact now and again over the years - just often enough for me to know that when Ruth meets a worthy cause, she tackles it with alacrity and energy.

And she has found a new cause: Milkweed and Monarchs.

Yes, someone did read the Rachel Writes column of two weeks ago - Thank you, Ruth! I wrote about how the Monarch butterfly migration to Mexico and back is on the point of collapse. And about how we contribute to that collapse by so diligently destroying the one plant they depend on - milkweed.

The Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants. As caterpillars, they eat the milkweed leaves. That's where they cocoon, and that's what saves them from being eaten by predators - their milkweed food makes them taste so bad no one wants to eat them.

I remarked how diligently we cut down roadside vegetation, including milkweed. Ironically, on my way to Ruth's place, I passed the monster mower doing its job along her road. And that's the first thing Ruth said to me. "We should have talked to them before they mowed!"

Milkweed likes sunny spots to grow in. That explains its affinity for roadsides. But not all the plants have been mowed down, and if you look for them, you can find their broad leaves and distinctive seedpods. Ruth had already researched how to collect the seeds for planting next year. The window of opportunity is about right now - you have to act with alacrity to capture the seeds before they sail away on their silky parachutes, or comas. They sail away as soon as the pods split open.

Here's what to do. Once you've located a plant, check it every day. As soon as the pods have turned brown and before they split open, put a bag over the pods and shake the seeds into the bag. You can also tie the bag over the pods and come back to retrieve it later. Another trick is to tie a rubber band or zip-tie around the seed pod. That prevents the seeds from ejecting when the pod splits open.

You can't rush it. If you squeeze a pod and it doesn't open easily, it doesn't usually contain mature brown seeds. If they're not brown and hard, they won't germinate next spring.

If you've picked a whole pod, the next step is to dry the pods in an open area with good air circulation. Strip the seeds and their comas from the pod before they fly away, and put them in a paper bag. Shake the bag vigorously to separate the seeds from their comas. Then cut a small hole in a bottom corner of the bag and shake out the seeds.

Store the dried seeds in a cool dry place protected from mice and insects - for example, in a sealed plastic bag or other container in the refrigerator.

Next week, I'll explore the next step - the mysterious vernalization. Or you can read all about it at

And next spring you can find Ruth's abode by the border of milkweed plants alongside her lane. And, we hope, the Monarch butterflies in her garden.


Myrna MacDonald's light yoga classes start Tuesday, September 16, at 10 a.m. at the Sawyerville Community Centre, 6 Church Street. Bring your own mat. Info: 819-875-5393.


Jennifer McMullin continues the outdoor yoga sessions at the Sawyerville Community Garden every Monday and Thursday at 7 p.m. Bring your own mat or blanket to lie on. Everybody is welcome, and it is free.


The Sawyerville Community Garden is offering its surplus vegetables free for the taking. Look for the box on a table in front of the garden, and gratefully take what you need. I hear there's "a ton of tomatoes."


The Sawyerville Annual Roast Turkey supper is afoot. There will be turkey with all the trimmings, homemade rolls, pies and beverages, thanks to the Sawyerville United Church. Their kitchen is abuzz with all the preparations for a feast for some 400 people. It's at the Sawyerville Catholic Church, 6 Randboro Road, on Thursday, September 4, starting at 4:30 p.m. All for the little price of $12 per adult, and $6 per child aged 6 to 10. Yum.


Anglican: All are welcome to a Deanery Service at the St. Barnabas Church in North Hatley on August 30 at 10 a.m. No Anglican services will be in the Haut-Saint-François on that day.

Starting in September, Sunday services are at 9:30 a.m. in Bury and 11 a.m. in Cookshire. And the annual harvest celebration is at St. John's Church in Brookbury on September 7 at 6 p.m. - the last chance this year to worship at this beautiful little historic church. Visitors welcome (819-239-6902).

Baptist: In Sawyerville, the worship service is at 9 a.m. in French, and 11 a.m. in English. Sunday school is at 10 a.m. in English and French. The bi-weekly and bilingual Children's Community Club meets on Saturday August 30 and September 13 and 27, from 2 to 3:30 p.m., at the church, 33 Cookshire St. (819-239-8818).

United: Sunday service and Sunday school are at East Clifton United Church on August 31 at 10:30 a.m. Check message at 819-889-2838 for service location on September 7. Also, the United Eaton Valley Pastoral charge is now on Facebook. Use it to learn about upcoming events and more, or to contact the minister, Rev. Tami Spires.

Do you have news to share? Call 819-300-2374 or email by September 2 for publication September 10 and by September 15 for September 24.

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