Recently, a chattering and busy group of youngsters and their mothers enjoyed a class dubbed Flora & Fauna Tour of Native Garden & Kid Craft with Oak Forest neighbor Lauren Simpson, creator of St. Julian’s Crossing Wildlife Habitat. It was an educational event with a threefold purpose: to learn about critters in the garden, craft and fellowship.
The group started out exploring the garden and observing its wildlife as Simpson explained how to build a wildlife habitat, while the children looked at flowers, learned about the flowers butterflies love and the types of insects found in the gardens. Next on the agenda were crafts. The children created tissue-paper butterflies, decorated silhouettes of butterflies and made lady beetles out of paper plates. During a break between crafts, Simpson read a book to the children about growing trees from seed.
Everyone went home with seeds for pollinator plants (half were harvested from Simpson’s garden, dried and packaged by her) with information included regarding planting and growing each plant.
“The great thing about native plantings is that they generally require less management to look beautiful. On sunny, warm days, there are dozens and dozens of insects foraging here — which makes my heart so happy,” Simpson said. “I love doing kids’ activities! It’s always so fun to watch their faces light up when they learn about bugs.”
In addition to sharing her love for wildlife (yes, including insects!) and gardening by inviting interested people to visit her gardens as well as through speaking engagements in which Simpson discusses the creation of wildlife habitats and wildscaping, pollinator gardens and pollinators themselves, Simpson’s gardens in her yard in Oak Forest are certified as 1) a Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch, 2) a Certified Butterfly Garden by North American Butterfly Association and 3) a Certified Wildlife Habitat Garden by National Wildlife Federation. She recently taught a three-hour class on pollinators and the challenges facing them at The Woodlands Township and is scheduled to speak at the Wild Gardening Festival at the National Butterfly Center in Mission in April.
Neighbor Jaime Santana said of Simpson: “I learned in a graduate school children’s literature course at UH that it’s often easy to see who the hero of a story is, simply look for the person who loves and/or who is loved by kids or animals. Think I found that person.”
Simpson left me with this thought: If we each created a wildlife habitat in our yard or focused simply on planting pollinator plants in our gardens along with adding a fresh water source for critters, we can actually make a difference one yard at a time by becoming a stepping stone for bees, butterflies and myriad other critters so important to our ecosystem.
Please visit St. Julian’s Crossing-Wildlife Habitat on Facebook to learn more.
The Oak Forest Homeowners Association sends a big shout of thanks to all who came out and enjoyed its first fall festival – OAKtoberfest! Blue skies and cool breezes were the order of the day on Saturday, Oct. 26 at Candlelight Park as several hundred neighbors from throughout the community enjoyed trick or treating at 30 vendor booths, face painting, cookie decorating, cupcake decorating, Sweet Frog’s yogurt, a fantastic pumpkin patch with 500 big, gorgeous pumpkins, children’s games, a Halloween costume contest, samples of Platypus Brewing’s craft beer, Hula Dog Food Truck’s Hawaiian hot dogs and more.
The owners of Platypus Brewing, Sean and Rachna Hanrahan along with Morgan Hughes, really pulled out all the stops by bringing four of their custom-brewed specialties and happily stood for four hours explaining each brew as people asked about them (delish brews with names like “Kiss My Piney,” “Bobby Dazzler” and “Ole Chit” (try saying “Ole Chit” with an Australian accent and see if you don’t giggle). At one point, there was a lively discussion among two Aussies (Sean Hanrahan and Hughes), an American (Rachna Hanrahan), a gentleman from Argentina (Sebastian Skalany) and a fellow from Mexico (Juan Septien), all neighbors with four of them from Oak Forest and one from the Heights, and it struck me how wonderfully diverse our community has become.
Special thanks to Oak Forest Homeowners Association’s Director of Community Relations Sara Heald for organizing the event, the OFHA Board for supporting the event and volunteering (Elizabeth Villarreal, Martha Mears, Ken Mears and Thais Diefenbaker), and to these very generous sponsors: Resource One Credit Union sponsored children’s games, Billy Hartman and Hartman & Associates provided the incredible pumpkin patch and everyone left with a pumpkin, Avenue CDC, Aqua Clean Pools, Threadfare Children’s Boutique, Eric Fontenot of Edward Jones, Girl Scout Troop 122008 (tireless young ladies who helped at least 225 children decorate cookies for four hours!), Lauren Fickes, Meg’s Makes and Bakes who supplied 250 handmade sugar cookies for decorating, and Miracle Fence Works for making it possible. Kudos to the outstanding area vendors who joined in and set up beautifully decorated trick or treat booths and showed our neighbors some love. It was a wonderful time!
Everyone involved made the event a smashing success and all the children left Candlelight Park with great big, sticky smiles and that, neighbors, is what it is all about.