By Sharon Reily, Reference Department
You may have recently read distressing headlines predicting mass extinctions of species of animals and plants. Most alarming is the U.N.’s new report on biodiversity and ecosystems asserting that up to 1 million species of plants and animals are now threatened with extinction, some within decades, including 40% of all amphibians, 33% of marine mammals, and another 33% of shark, shark relatives and reef-forming corals. Since May is Endangered Species Month, this is a good time to explore where information on endangered species comes from. Who collects and analyzes the data? Who decides which plants and animals make it onto the endangered list? What is the processing for getting on the list? Once an animal is added to the list, who determines what steps are required to protect it? Which animals are currently considered to be in the most danger, and which threatened animals are making a comeback?
The Endangered Species Act
In the 1960s, due to hunting, habitat loss and use of the toxic pesticide DDT, the bald eagle had suffered a drastic decrease in population that left only 417 breeding pairs accounted for. In 1966, public outcry over the decline of our national bird and other animals motivated Congress to pass the Endangered Species Preservation Act. The Act eventually evolved into The Endangered Species Act (ESA), which was signed into law in 1973 by President Richard Nixon. The bald eagle was one of the first animals protected by the ESA.
The ESA is our nation’s most powerful tool for protecting wildlife. Its purpose is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The ESA is administered by the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (responsible for terrestrial and freshwater organisms) and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service (responsible for marine wildlife such as whales and also fish like the salmon that live in the sea and migrate to fresh water to breed).
Under the ESA, a species can be listed as “endangered” or “threatened.” An “endangered” species is in danger of extinction while a “threatened” species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. All species of plants and animals, except for pest insects, are eligible to be listed in both categories. Currently, 1471 animals and 947 plants species are on the ESA’s endangered list.
The ESA lists species as endangered or threatened based on five factors:
- Damage or destruction to their habitat
- Overutilization of the species for commercial, recreational, scientific or educational purposes
- Disease or predation
- Inadequacy of existing protection
- Other natural or manmade factors that effect a species’ continued existence
Numerous other organizations monitor and report on endangered species, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Center for Biological Diversity. They don’t have the regulatory powers of the ESA, but they do provide valuable information used by the ESA and other conservationists.
Animals and plants can be added to the endangered list in one of two ways. Either biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service add candidates based on the findings of their own assessments, or they respond to a public petition. Under the act, anyone can submit a written petition, and must be notified within 90 days whether the request warrants further research, which must be completed within a year. Thirty days after a listing is added, it becomes effective.
Once a species is on the list as either endangered or threatened, the ESA protects it and its habitat by prohibiting interstate or international trade and “take” of the listed animal. Take means “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect” a member of the species. Listed plants are not protected from take, although it is illegal to collect or harm them on Federal land. They’re also protected from commercial trade.
The Endangered Species
The ESA and other conservation organizations haven’t been able to save every species. Three species of birds went extinct in 2018 – two songbirds from Brazil (the Cryptic Treehunter and the Alagoas Foliage-gleaner) and the Po’ouli from Hawaii.
Nearing extinction are the vaquitas (a small dolphin-like porpoise), the northern white rhino, and the red wolf. Only 30 vaquitas remain in the world. The last male northern white rhino died at a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya last March, and only two females are left. In the U.S., only 40 endangered red wolves remain in the wild and they could become extinct in the next 8 years.
Other endangered species are well known:
- Amur Leopard
- Cross River Gorillas and Mountain Gorillas
- Hawksbill and the Leatherback Sea Turtles
- Sumatran Orangutan
- Sumatran Elephant
- Saola (an antelope-like animal discovered in Vietnam in 1992)
- Black Rhino, Javan Rhino and Sumatran Rhino
- Pangolin (Scaly Anteater)
In April the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it is considering adding giraffes to its endangered list and will begin an in-depth review that can take several years.
But there is also encouraging news. While only 39 species have been declared fully recovered in the ESA’s 46-year history, scientists estimate at least 300 species would have been lost to extinction without the law. According to the National Resources Defense Council, 99 percent of the species granted protection under the act have managed to survive until today.
Some of the success stories include:
- Bald Eagles: recovered from less than 500 breeding pairs to nearly 70,000 birds today.
- Humpback Whales: increased in such numbers that in most habitats, they’ve been delisted.
- Grizzly Bears: numbers are still low, but they’re beginning to rebound thanks to aggressive conservation efforts.
- Florida Manatees: population has increased to the point that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in 2017 that the mammals had been downlisted from Endangered to Threatened on the list.
- California Condors: there are now over 400 birds, up from only 23 in 1982.
- Grey Wolves: starting to make a comeback.
- Whooping Cranes: still endangered with only 800 living today, but the numbers were once in the 20s.
- Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep: after being added to the list, the bighorn has come back from the brink of extinction. Its population is slowly on the rise, although it is still endangered.
In addition, the American peregrine falcon, Eggert’s sunflower, and the red kangaroo have recovered enough to be delisted, meaning they’re no longer in danger.
For more details on specific species and to find out how you might be able to help or get involved, check out the websites of these conservation organizations:
- Center for Biological Diversity: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/
- National Audubon Society: https://www.audubon.org
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): https://www.iucn.org/
- The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): https://www.nrdc.org
- The Sierra Club: https://www.sierraclub.org
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF): https://www.worldwildlife.org
If you’d like to learn more about the ESA and endangered species, see the attached sampling of books available at WCPL. Read the rest of this entry
By Sharon Reily, Reference Department
Originally published March 23, 2018
You’ve all seen the ads that spring up [ha, ha] this time of year marketing cuddly bunnies and brightly-dyed baby chicks as wonderful Easter gifts for your children. If you’re thinking about buying one, DON’T DO IT!! Amy Mott, president of the Clover Patch Sanctuary, a rabbit and small animal rescue organization right here in Franklin, says “You wouldn’t give your child a reindeer for Christmas. Why would you give him a bunny or duck or chick for Easter??” Amen. If you succumb to their fluffy cuteness, you’ll basically ruin the life of a living, breathing creature to provide a brief diversion for your child. A huge percentage of bunnies, chicks and ducklings given as Easter gifts are abandoned as soon as the novelty wears off. What happens to these unfortunate animals next is not a pretty picture.
How did bunnies, hot pink chicks and ducklings become associated with Easter anyway? One theory emphasizes the Easter Bunny’s pagan roots, especially the rabbit’s connection to Eostra, goddess of the spring and fertility. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate. But according to Catholic Online, the tradition of the Easter Bunny has distinctly Christian origins. The ancient Greeks thought rabbits could reproduce as virgins, a belief that persisted until early medieval times, when the rabbit became associated with the Virgin Mary. In medieval manuscripts, rabbit images served as allegorical illustrations of her virginity. It is likely that German Protestants invented the myth of the Easter Bunny for their children. Even in earliest folklore, the Easter Bunny came as a judge, hiding decorated eggs for well-behaved children.
No matter how the connection with Easter originated, rabbits, chicks and ducklings have not benefited from the association. The Easter holiday seems to bring out the bunny, chick and duckling lovers in people. They think such animals are perfect “starter pets” to teach children responsibility. So they make an impulse buy and their child goes wild with joy for a day. Reality soon sets in as it dawns on parents that these animals are not the “low maintenance” pets they’d imagined.
According to National Geographic, vets and insurance companies consider rabbits exotic pets, so medical care can be more expensive than for a cat or dog. Rabbits need a lot of exercise and shouldn’t be stuck away in a cage. This means they need to learn to use a litterbox. They’re also prey animals and generally don’t like to be picked up by humans, whom they view as predators. The result is that children who want to cuddle with their baby bunny can be frustrated when it doesn’t respond the way they expect and they quickly lose interest. Many parents don’t realize that rabbits can live more than 10 years, a commitment comparable to adopting a dog or cat. When that once-adorable baby bunny matures at between three and six months old, it can become aggressive and even destructive. Male rabbits will also spray urine if not neutered. Proper exercise, litterbox training, and spaying or neutering curb the problem for most rabbits. But many impulse buyers don’t expect and can’t commit to that level of responsibility, and they scramble to surrender the animals.
Rabbits are the third most popular pet in America after cats and dogs, but according to the Humane Society of the United States, they’re also the third most abandoned – and euthanized. It’s unclear exactly how many rabbits originally sold as Easter pets are abandoned each year. But rescuers in shelters all over the country report a spike in calls after Easter from people trying to unload their unwanted bunnies. Clover Patch Sanctuary’s Amy Mott estimates that “80-90% of our adoptable rabbits were once Easter gifts to children. We can judge that fairly well by the timing that they came into rescue.” Many more rabbits – possibly thousands – are abandoned outdoors, a cruel death sentence for these domesticated animals possessing no survival skills or instincts.
Chicks and ducklings don’t fare any better. At Easter, fuzzy brightly colored chicks and ducklings can be too cute to resist. To achieve the brilliant hues displayed by some chicks, a dye is actually injected into the incubating egg. Other chicks are sprayed with a fine mist of dye immediately after hatching. Farmers, hatcheries and others who dye chicks claim the process is harmless, but animal rights workers say the experience is stressful for the birds. In addition to the trauma of being dyed, the bright colored feathers help make them seem more like disposable toys than living animals. Many states ban the practice of dyeing and selling chicks. In Tennessee, it is a Class C misdemeanor to “sell, offer for sale, barter or give away baby chickens, ducklings or goslings of any age, or rabbits under two (2) months of age, as pets, toys, premiums or novelties, if those fowl or rabbits have been colored, dyed, stained or otherwise had their natural color changed.”
But non-dyed chicks and ducklings are still sold as Easter gifts, and like bunnies, they are not ideal beginning pets for children. They can be quite messy. They are extremely fragile and can die from overhandling or being dropped, especially in the first few days before the child’s excitement wanes. Chicks and ducks may also present hazards for children. They can scratch and peck with sharp talons and beaks, but worse, they may spread the bacterial disease Salmonella, which can be especially dangerous to children and the elderly. When the birds preen, they spread the bacteria all over their feathers. So it’s best to avoid contact with them, or at least wash hands thoroughly immediately after touching.
Many people who buy adorable Easter chicks and ducklings have no capacity or intention of caring for adult fowl. Like bunnies, the unwanted birds are often handed over to shelters where they may face euthanasia if they’re not adopted. When abandoned outdoors, they have no experience foraging or avoiding predators. Easter ducklings, many of which are byproducts of the food trade, can swim, but unlike wild ducks, they can’t fly and are vulnerable to temperature changes and make easy targets for predators. One Florida farmer who offers to take unwanted Easter pets does not hide the fact that he will use them for food. He offers to keep them happy while they’re alive, but in the end, he says, “we’re all part of the food chain.”
There are plenty of great alternatives to giving live animals as Easter gifts. Consider:
- Plush rabbits or chicks
- Chocolate bunnies and candy birds and eggs
- Books and games about bunnies, chicks and ducklings
- A visit to a reputable, educational petting zoo
- A birdhouse or feeder to attract wild birds
- Bunny, chick or duckling figurines
- Make a gift in your child’s name to a rabbit or small animal rescue organization
I’ll let Amy Mott from Clover Patch Sanctuary have the final word on bunnies, chicks and ducklings as Easter gifts: “There is never a reason to give a child a live animal as a present for Easter or any other holiday and/or birthday. Animals are not ‘things’ or objects. The only way to put the breeders out of business is to stop buying from them. The chain has to stop. In this day and age of information and compassion it’s really time to get on the ball with ending the antiquated practice of gifting animals to children. They have to learn from adults that all creatures great and small are worthy and special in God’s eyes.” That really says it all.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I am NOT saying that rabbits and poultry cannot be great pets for the right people in appropriate situations. Rabbits make wonderful pets for owners who understand their needs and are committed to caring for them their entire lives. A list of helpful books you can borrow at WCPL on raising rabbits is attached to this article. Visit the House Rabbit Society’s website, rabbit.org, to learn more about rabbit care. We’ve got an excellent resource – Clover Patch Sanctuary – right here in Franklin for anyone seriously interested in adding a rabbit to their family. Check out their website!
Raising backyard chickens is increasingly popular, and the library has some great books on the proper care and housing of chickens and other poultry. Within Franklin’s city limits, it is suggested that homeowners keep no more than four to six hens (no roosters). Check Franklin city codes for rules on housing, noise levels, and cleanliness. Be sure to consult your neighborhood’s homeowners association regulations for other restrictions regarding keeping backyard chickens.
Read the rest of this entry
By Sharon Reily, Reference Department
Do you have piles of expensive magazines stashed around your house? Do you sometimes find it inconvenient to visit the Library to access your favorite periodicals? Check out Flipster, the Williamson County Public Library’s new digital resource that gives you instant access to popular magazines on your computer, smart phone, or tablet. It’s as easy as flipping a page . . . there’s no clutter . . . and it’s FREE!
You can choose from 57 different magazines on a variety of subjects covering sports, business, entertainment, home and garden, men’s and women’s health, food and cooking, news and politics, and travel.
GETTING STARTED WITH FLIPSTER
On Your Computer:
Go to WCPL’s website (wcpltn.org) and click on the eLibrary box on the homepage.
Scroll down and click on the Flipster link on the left side of the screen.
In the top right corner of your screen, click Sign In.
Enter your library account number in the box and click Login.
You’re now signed in and you can start reading free digital magazines on your computer!
On Your Smart Phone or Tablet:
Download the Flipster app on your smart phone or tablet from the App Store or Google Play Store.
Open the app and click Get Started.
In the Find My Library box, click Allow to let Flipster search your location for nearby libraries that offer Flipster.
Then lick Log In next to Williamson County Public Library.Enter your library card number and click Login.
You can now start reading digital magazines on your smart phone or tablet!
FINDING AND READING MAGAZINES
Once you’ve signed into Flipster, you can access magazines in several ways:
- Search for a specific magazine by title.
- Browse for magazines by subject.
- Scroll through all magazines by clicking the right arrow.
Simply click on the magazine cover to open it.
- Click All Issues to see other editions of the magazine.
- Click Pages to see thumbnail images of all the pages in the issue.
- Zoom in or out on a page by clicking the zoom buttons.
- Click the right arrow to advance to the next page or click the back arrow to go back a page.
That’s all there is to it! But if you’d like additional information on using Flipster, to go https://ebsco.libguides.com/flipster/flipsterapp, where you’ll find more detailed instructions, tips, FAQs, and video tutorials.
With Flipster, you can free space taken up by paper issues of magazines, save money on the cost of subscriptions, and read your favorite magazines whenever and wherever you’d like. Enjoy your digital magazines!
By Sharon Reily, Reference Department
Would you like to download eBooks, eAudiobooks and comics, stream movies and TV shows, and listen to music through one source – for FREE? Welcome to Hoopla, the Library’s newest digital resource! You can enjoy Hoopla’s hundreds of thousands of titles on your computer, tablet, or smartphone! And guess what? On Hoopla there are NO WAIT LISTS and NO LATE FEES.
According to Hoopla’s website: “You can stream titles instantly through your desktop browser or the Hoopla mobile app. If you use our mobile app, you can also download titles to your device for offline playback later, where Wi-Fi may be unavailable. Titles are automatically returned and removed from your device at the end of the lending period. “
GET HOOPLA AND CREATE YOUR ACCOUNT
Setting up a Hoopla account is simple. Download the Hoopla app on your smart phone or tablet from the App Store or Google Play. You can also create a Hoopla account on your computer on the Hoopla website (https://www.hoopladigital.com/).
Click Get Started Today and follow the onscreen prompts to sign up for your new account.
- If you’re on your computer, you’ll need to click Allow Location Access. On a smart phone or tablet, turn on Location Services in your Settings. This allows Hoopla to identify the location of your library.
- You’ll be asked for your email address and password. Make up a password (not your library card number).
- After reading Hoopla’s terms and agreements, click Agree.
- Once you’ve entered your email and new password, Location Services will search for libraries near you and display several. Choose Williamson County Public Library.
- You will then be prompted to enter your library card number and PIN. Your PIN will be the last four digits of your library card number, unless you have changed it in the last couple of months.
That’s it! You can start browsing for titles and begin streaming or downloading immediately. If you run into trouble setting up your account, call the Reference Desk at 615-595-1243 and Reference staff will be happy to help you. You can also check out some instructional videos from Hoopla Digital on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/hoopladigital/videos. These videos demonstrate how to use Hoopla on a variety of devices, including your TV.
GET YOUR TITLES
On Your Computer:
If you’re using Hoopla on your computer, you’ll see the home page when you log in:
Click BROWSE to see lists of popular, recommended or featured titles by genre:
Or search by title, author, artist, or series.
Click BORROW to check out the title or click the HEART to add it to your favorites.
Click READ to begin your book.
On Your Smart Phone or Tablet
If you’re using the Hoopla app, when you log in you’ll see your “My Hoopla” page.
Click an icon at the bottom to browse through the genres or click the magnifying glass to search by title, author, artist, or series.
Click the question mark for “how to” instructions and tutorials, and as you browse through the different genres, you can add titles you’d like to borrow in the future to your Favorites list. Click the HEART to access your Favorites.
When the search results are displayed, click the cover of the title that you’d like to borrow.
Click BORROW and then click READ to begin your book.
A FEW RULES AND REGULATIONS
You’re allowed to borrow 4 titles a month. But as a special bonus from WCPL, you can borrow 8 titles until the end of March 2019. So get started right away!
- eAudiobooks and eBooks: 21 days
- Movies and TV shows: 3 days
- Comics: 21 days
- Music: 7 days
That’s really all there is to it! Enjoy!
By Sharon Reily, Reference Department
Most of us don’t realize how much food we waste each year. It’s awfully easy to toss leftovers and less-than-perfect produce into the trash. Wasted food numbers are staggering. It’s estimated that in the U.S., 72 billion pounds of still-usable food (worth $218 billion) goes to waste each year and that approximately 25 to 40 percent of food grown, processed, and transported in the U.S. will never be consumed. Much of this food that is still safe and edible could be used to feed hungry families or be composted. But according to the EPA, approximately 94 percent of it ends up in landfills, where it takes up a lot of space and generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Let’s take a look at a few simple things we can all do to help reduce food waste, and then focus on one of the best methods of utilizing uneaten food – composting.
Several local organizations are on a mission to “rescue” unused food to feed hungry families and divert it from landfills by methods such as composting. Second Harvest Food Bank and the Nashville Food Waste Initiative work with businesses, food service companies, farmers, and individuals to gather food before it goes to waste, distribute it to groups serving the hungry, and keep it out of landfills. Sustainable America suggests ways to become involved in food rescue. Their websites (listed at the end of this article) offer a wealth of information about how we can help in these efforts.
On a smaller scale, there are lots of ways we can reduce food waste in our own homes, and most of them rely on plain old common sense:
- Plan weekly shopping lists carefully to avoid buying too much food. Think of all the money we can save if we buy only as much food as we can use.
- Consider how many meals we’ll eat at home in a week versus the times we’ll eat out.
- Think about how many meals can be made with each food item and shop accordingly. Don’t buy in bulk unless all the food can be used before it spoils.
- Learn how to store different fruits and vegetables properly to keep them fresh longer and preserve or freeze what can’t be used immediately.
- Shop in the fridge first! Use what’s already there before buying more.
- Learn the difference between “sell by,” “use by” and “best by” dates.
- Get creative using safe edible food parts not usually eaten, such as vegetable scraps, in casseroles, stir-fries, and soups.
Some inedible food will remain even with careful planning, but much of it can still be diverted from landfills. One great way is to compost. Most of us can create a compost pile in our own backyards or at least collect waste material to be taken to a composting facility, such as Compost Nashville.
Benefits of Composting
Compost is simply decomposed organic material and composting is the natural process of recycling organic material such as leaves and vegetable scraps into a rich soil amendment called humus. The EPA lists several key benefits to composting:
- Enriches soil, helps retain moisture, and suppresses plant diseases and pests.
- Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.
- Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
There are many different ways to make a compost pile. WCPL and its branches have several books on composting and there are many detailed composting instructions available online. Watch the WCPL website (wcpltn.org) for information about a program on composting coming in August 2019.
Here are a few composting basics.
- Select a location with good drainage that is easily accessible from your kitchen.
- Choose a partially sunny or shady spot. Too much sun will dry out the pile and total shade may keep it too wet.
- Your compost unit can be as simple as an actual “pile” of materials in your yard, or you can build or purchase more complex composting devices such as various bins and tumblers. You can also compost indoors with worms, using special stacked worm bins. Eww!
Compost is made up of three main ingredients:
- Brown materials, which provide carbon: dead leaves, branches, twigs, bits of cardboard, shredded newspaper, torn-up paper towel and toilet paper rolls, and small bits of cardboard
- Green materials, which provide nitrogen: grass clippings and other yard debris, fresh uncooked vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds
- Water, which provides the moisture required to help break down the materials
Some materials should NOT be added to a compost pile. Avoid:
- Coal or charcoal ash
- Dairy products
- Diseased plants
- Fats, grease, or oils
- Fish or other animal bones
- Pet fecal waste or used cat litter
- Invasive weeds or plants that could root or germinate in the compost
- Any yard debris that has been treated with chemical pesticides
Establishing a Compost Pile
- Begin your pile with equal amounts of browns and greens added in 4-inch layers. You could also just toss them in haphazardly, but the decomposition process will take much longer.
- Water the pile. Keep it moist but do not let it get soggy.
- After the initial setup, add greens and browns as they become available. Cover fruit and vegetable waste with several inches of compost materials.
- Yard debris will decompose more quickly if it is broken into small pieces.
- Stir the pile occasionally with a shovel or pitchfork.
The compost process can take anywhere from three months to two years. Compost is ready when it looks like very dark soil and has a sweet, earthy smell. To test it, put a small amount in a plastic bag. Sniff before sealing. Reopen the bag after a few days. The sample should smell the same as it did before. If it smells worse, your compost needs more time in the pile.
Compost is an amazing amendment to your garden soil and can be applied in several ways. Think of it as food for dirt. Spread it over your lawn to nourish the grass, or mix it into garden soil.
- Give your vegetable garden plenty of compost in the fall. Spread several inches of compost on top of the existing bed, then till it into the soil in the springtime.
- Put a handful of compost in each hole when you’re planting.
- Once plants begin to grow quickly, you can add a half-inch layer of compost around the base of the plants. Provide “heavy feeder” plants such as tomatoes, corn, and squash with 1/2 inch of compost monthly.
- In the spring, loosen the top few inches of annual and perennial beds and mix in a 1-inch layer of compost.
- In the fall, apply a 1-inch layer of compost as a mulch to protect plant roots from freezing and conserve moisture.
- Potted plants and window boxes:
- Nutrients in potting soil may be depleted as plants grow. To replenish them, add an inch of compost to potted plants and window boxes twice a year.
- You can make your own potting soil using two parts screened compost to one part sand or perlite.
- Brew a compost “tea” by steeping compost in water and use it as a foliar spray or a soil drench.
Clearly, composting can be a win-win endeavor. It allows you to cut down on the amount of unused food that otherwise would end up in a landfill. It creates a great, nutritious supplement for your garden. Why not plan to begin a compost pile as your next garden project?
SOURCES AND FURTHER READING: Read the rest of this entry
Late summer and autumn are not always the most beautiful and fruitful times for many of our plants. Our vegetable patches have stopped yielding and our flowers are faded and brown. But this is the perfect time to gather seeds you can use to start your gardens next year. Here are just a few benefits of collecting and saving seeds.
- It’s fun!
- It’s easy!
- It’s economical! The price of a packet of seeds seems to increase every year. The seeds you collect from your garden are free.
- You can share or exchange seeds with friends – a great inexpensive way to try new plants.
- Your favorite plant may not be readily available at local nurseries, but if you save seeds you can continue to enjoy it in your garden year after year.
- Many varieties of heirloom plants are lost over time. They actually become extinct! You can help preserve different heirloom plants by collecting, saving and replanting heirloom seeds.
- By raising many generations of plants, you’ll be able to see how certain traits are passed on, and how you can select the qualities you want to bring out. Over time, you can even “customize” your plants to suit your backyard conditions and your tastes.
- You can benefit your community. If you collect more vegetable seeds than you can use, which is likely, you can donate your surplus seeds to a community garden that gives free fruits and vegetables to needy families.
Collecting and saving seeds is an ancient tradition. For thousands of years, farmers collected and saved seeds to insure the next year’s harvest. They also studied the results of their plantings and then saved and sowed seeds from the best plants, fine-tuning the plants to meet their needs and match local growing environments. This selection led to a genetic diversity of crops adapted to many growing conditions and climates, and created a large base for our food supply.
While farmers and hobby gardeners collect and save seeds to plant and share, seed vaults or banks do just the opposite. From the beginnings of agriculture (possibly as early as 8000 B.C. in what is now Iraq), farmers understood their seeds needed protection from the weather and animals. Scientists have discovered evidence of seed banks in Iraq from as far back as 6750 B.C. Today, there are more than 1,500 seed banks around the world that hold a wide variety of seeds to preserve crop diversity and act as insurance against disease and natural and man-made disasters that might wipe out the world’s seed reserves. The best known is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, often called the “Doomsday Vault,” located in a remote frozen mountain in Norway. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a huge international project with the capacity to store 4.5 million varieties of crops for a maximum of 2.5 billion seeds. Currently, the Vault holds more than 860,000 samples, originating from almost every country in the world.
Amid all the interest in preserving and sharing seeds, libraries around the country have started seed exchanges, and the Williamson County Public Library joined that movement in March of 2015. The first year of our seed exchange, we “checked out” (gave away) more than a thousand packets of flower, vegetable, fruit, and herb seeds. It was suggested – but not required – that those who participate in the program collect seeds from their gardens this fall and return a few of them to the Library in the spring so we can keep our seed exchange going. Go to WCPL Seed Exchange to find out how our seed exchange works and see a list of helpful resources on seed collecting.
If you want to learn more about harvesting your seeds, the Library is hosting a program on Collecting and Saving Seeds with UT/TSU Horticulture Extension Agent Amy Dismukes on Monday, September 17 at 1:30 pm. Registration is required, but the program is FREE and open to anyone who is interested in attending. Just call 615-595-1243 or click here to register.