Essay: Remember Our Friends in Nature this Winter

In 2015–16, Elizabeth G Fagan wrote the monthly column “Green Talk” for the Ozaukee County News Graphic on behalf of Mequon Nature Preserve. Fagan’s experience as a professional writer spans more than 30 years. She frequently took the photos accompanying her “Green Talk” columns.
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November

Elizabeth G Fagan, Elizabeth Fagan, Lake Michigan's Left Coast, lakemichigansleftcoast.com
Green Talk November 2015

The lovely weather this autumn [2015] is attributed to El Niño, an irregularly occurring climatic event. Southern Wisconsin is forecast to see, on average, a warmer, drier cold season. While we prepare for winter, plants and animals with whom we share our corner of Wisconsin do the same. Consider these special preparations for the El Niño winter ahead.

A mild winter can mean armies of garden pests next spring. To discourage them, cut back perennials and prune trees of dead wood. Leave shrubs uncut but watch for mice and voles who may nest around them.

Leave the leaves! Fallen leaves are natural mulch and compost. They are protection for such creatures as toads and salamanders, fellow soldiers against insect pests. If you rake, wait until spring and watch out for the good guys who might be hiding.

To seed native species, wait until there’s fallen snow, then scatter seeds across the top. These plants need cold. They sink down into the snow to soften before they germinate next spring. Spread them and leave them uncovered before the ground freezes, and you will feed a variety of critters.

November 2015 Green Talk by Elizabeth Fagan
November 2015 Green Talk by Elizabeth Fagan

Fresh, open water is a scarcity in winter. An all-season water feature in your landscape is fantastic for creatures great and small. But a heated birdbath or container of water replenished every few days will do the trick.

Keep watering your vegetation until the ground freezes. New trees and evergreens especially need lots of water to get through winter. The upcoming El Niño may be the strongest yet, and with lower precipitation, your own watering could really make a difference.

To feed or not to feed? Birds, yes, with often-filled feeders and suet to build fat and provide energy to face winter’s cold. Feeding deer, coyotes, and larger mammals is not recommended.


Elizabeth Fagan, Lake Michigans Left Coast
Elizabeth Fagan, Lake Michigan’s Left Coast

Elizabeth G Fagan is a writer and artist who resides on Lake Michigan’s shoreline in southeastern Wisconsin—a place she calls Lake Michigan’s Left Coast.

Fagan attended The Hammonasset School, a private arts high school in Connecticut, where she began writing and taking photographs. She earned a BA in English at Grinnell College (Grinnell, Iowa) and the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC). She has an MA in Linguistics with a specialization in teaching English as a second language (ESL) from UIC. Fagan later gained an associate degree in Web Development from DePaul University in Chicago.

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