Apocalypse Not Now: How to Make Seedballs and Celebrate the 2012 Winter Solstice

“How do you think the apocalypse will happen? Do you predict a nuclear war? Or an alien invasion, extreme fire, WW3, global warming, flooding, etc.”

–from a recent web chat quoted in the Wall Street Journal on the supposed ending of the planet this Friday

Many of us will still be sleeping Friday morning when the sun moves directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at precisely 5:12 AM in San Antonio.  We’ll experience the official start of winter.  It will be the longest night and shortest day of the year, and 2% of Americans will expect it to be their last.   The end of the world.

Earth

Will the world end Friday? Nope.  Photo via NASA

Millions of survivalists, doomsday believers and new age spiritualists are buying into the false notion that the world ends this Friday.   A false reading of the Mayan calendar largely accounts for the madness.   The calendar ends a cycle this year, but will flip to a new cycle, “like an odometer,” according to a video released by NASA.

Scientists have contested the silly notion with facts, data and mathematical formulas, but  like the prevailing disregard of science on the subject of climate change,  millions of people are convinced that this Friday, December 21, the 2012 Winter Solstice, will be our last.  Sellers of survival gear, “doomsday pods” and apocalypse kits are whistling          cha-ching all the way to the bank.

Let there be seedballs

Let there be seedballs! Skip the Apocalypse talk and help make next year’s wildflowers happen by making seedballs.   Photo by Monika Maeckle

We choose to celebrate the arrival of winter with an annual rite of making seedballs.   Some folks bake Christmas cookies.  Others craft tamales.   We like to mix soil, clay, water and seed with a generous dash of chile pepper to make seedballs, a facilitator of wildflowers, the nectar sources and hosts for next year’s butterflies.

What are seedballs?

Introduced in the 70s, seedballs are a form of “guerilla gardening” whereby seeds, soil and clay are mixed together into tidy germination bombs that are said to have an 80% higher success rate than simply broadcasting seeds onto soil.  Adding red potters’ clay to the mix protects the seeds from being blown away by wind and a dash of chile pepper makes the seeds less tasty to insects and birds.

Seeds for Seedballs

Collect seeds now for seedballs.  Photo by Monika Maeckle

Generally, seedballs don’t require watering and you should NOT bury or plant them.  Simply toss them in a vacant lot, your front yard, or a wildscape situation like a ranch or roadside.  Wait for rain to melt away the clay casing, and nature will do the rest.

Monika Maeckle, Annie Schenzel, Shelley Ericson make seedballs

Skip the Apocalypse party and have a seedball gathering instead.  Photo by Hugh Daschbach

Seedball recipes vary as much as those for Christmas cookies.  Some seedball aficionados recommend a 3:2:1 ratio of soil, clay and seed, adding nutrient rich ingredients like worm casings or other natural fortifiers.  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center encourages a concoction that includes sifting, humus with good bacteria intact, your local soil, and

What do you need to make seedballs?  Seeds, soil, clay and water

What do you need to make seedballs? Seeds, soil, clay and water–and chile powder.  Photo by Monika Maeckle

sand.  I’ve had great success using three parts local or potting soil, one-two parts red potter’s clay powder (purchased from a pottery supply) and one part seeds. The clay binds the ingredients and keeps the balls intact.  Add water until you get a workable dough that allows you to roll a spoonful of seedball mix into a ball that doesn’t stick.  If you find that your seedball dough is too watery, just wait.  The soil soaks up the excess liquid with time.

Mix well until you get a consistency that easily formed into seedballs.

Soil, seeds, red clay, water–and chili pepper. Mix until you get a consistency that is easily formed into seedballs.  Photo by Monika Maeckle

Put them on newspaper to set up and then add my secret ingredient: red chile pepper.  The pepper discourages insects, birds and other critters from denigrating or eating the seeds, giving them a better chance at germinating and becoming wildflowers for pollinators.

Seedball properly planted

Seedball properly tossed.  Throw them wherey they won’t compete with grass. Make sure it has contact with soil. Photo by Monika Maeckle

Once the seedballs set up, usually after 24 hours, store them in paper bags for later use or toss them right away.

When you toss them, make sure they land where they can make contact with soil, as in the photo above.    If the seedballs have to compete directly with grass, leaves or forbs, germination rates of the seeds decrease.

Remember to use only native seeds for wildscaping situations. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

Seedball

Seedball improperly tossed. Make sure it makes contact with soil. Photo by Monika Maeckle

Texas Butterfly Ranch Seedball Recipe

  • 3 parts local soil or potting soil
  • 1 – 2 parts red potter’s clay powder, also known as “terracotta powder” at pottery supply stores
  • 1 part native wildflower seeds
  • Water, as needed.
  • Newspaper and cookie sheets for drying seedballs
  • Stainless steal bowls or pots for mixing
 
 ****
 
1.  Assemble ingredients.
2.  Mix soil, clay and wildflower seeds together in bowl.  Mix well.
3.  Add water to attain dough-like consistency, much like tart or pie dough
4. Pinch off or use spoon to grab gumball-sized amounts of the mix.  Roll between your palms to get round form.  Drop onto newspaper covered cookie sheet to dry.
5.  Sprinkle generously with red chile pepper.  Let set for 24 hours.
6.  Toss and wait.  Nature will do the rest.
 
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Happy Winter Solstice! Celebrate with Seedballs, a Recipe, and Step-by-Step Directions on How to Make them

As many Texans climb into bed tomorrow night and the sun moves directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at precisely 11:30 PM Central Standard Time, we’ll turn the corner on the shortest day and longest night of 2011.  It’s the Winter Solstice.  From here until mid June, the days will get longer.

Let there be seed balls for the Solstice! Chile pepper discourages insects and birds.                                                                –Seedball slideshow photos by Hugh Daschbach and Monika Maeckle

Spring marches our way–something to celebrate.  Some folks will bake Christmas cookies.  Others will craft tamales.   And some of us will combine soil, clay, water and seed–with a generous dash of chile pepper–to make seedballs.

What are seedballs?

Introduced in the 70s, seedballs are a form of “guerilla gardening” whereby seeds, soil and clay are mixed together into tidy germination bombs that are said to have an 80% higher success rate than simply broadcasting seeds onto soil.  Adding red potters’ clay to the mix protects the seeds from being blown away by wind or consumed by insects or birds.   Generally, seedballs don’t require watering and you should NOT bury or plant them.  Simply toss them in a vacant lot, your front yard, or a wildscape situation like a ranch or roadside.  Wait for the rain to melt away the clay casing, and nature will do the rest.

Seedball recipes vary as much as those for Christmas cookies.  Some seedball aficionados recommend a 3:2:1 ratio of soil, clay and seed, adding nutrient rich ingredients like worm casings or other natural fortifiers.  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center encourages a concotion that includes sifting, humus with good bacteria intact, your local soil, and sand.  I’ve had great success using three parts local or potting soil, 1-2- parts red potter’sclay powder (purchased from a pottery supply) and 1 part seeds. The clay binds the ingredients and keeps the balls intact.  Add water until you get a workable dough that allows you to roll spoonful of seedball mix into a ball that doesn’t stick.

Put them on newspaper to set up and then add my secret ingredient: red chile pepper.  The pepper discourages insects and birds from denigrating or eating the seeds, giving them a higher chance at germinating.  If you find that your seedball dough is too watery, just wait.  The soil soaks up the excess liquid with time.

Once the seedballs set up, usually after 24 hours, store them in paper bags for later use or toss them right away.  Remember to use only native seeds for wildscaping situations. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

Texas Butterfly Ranch Seedball Recipe

3 parts local soil or potting soil
1 – 2 parts red potter’s clay powder, also known as “terracotta powder” at pottery supply stores
1 part native wildflower seeds
Water, as needed.
Newspaper and cookie sheets for drying seedballs
Stainless steal bowls or pots for mixing
 
 ****
 
1.  Assemble ingredients.
2.  Mix soil, clay and wildflower seeds together in bowl.  Mix well.
3.  Add water to attain dough-like consistency, much like tart or pie dough
4. Pinch off or use spoon to grab gumball-sized amounts of the mix.  Roll between your palms to get round form.  Drop onto newspaper covered cookie sheet to dry.
5.  Sprinkle generously with red chile pepper.  Let set for 24 hours.
6.  Toss and wait.  Nature will do the rest.
 
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Happy Summer Solstice! Sun, Bats or Butterflies, Cycles of Nature Restore the Soul

Today, at 12:16 PM Central Daylight Time, the Summer Solstice occurs, marking the astronomical moment when the sun reaches its northernmost point in the sky, resulting in the longest day of the year.

Bats on Congress Ave. Brid?ge in Austin. Remind you of butterflies?

Bats at Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin.  Remind you of butterflies?

Solstice means “sun stands still.”  The day has been one of celebration for millenia. The Summer Solstice festival at Stonehenge in Wiltshire County, England,  started with the Druids and is probably the most well-known.  Thousands of revelers make the June pilgrimage.

Here in the U.S., we might be tempted to use the extra daylight to work.  But why not take a cue from the Druids and celebrate the reassuring cycles of nature by doing something special?

Monarch butterflies at Cerro Pelon, Michoacan
Monarch butterflies at Cerro Pelon, Michoacan.    Remind you of bats?

Nature’s cycles can restore the soul.   From the turns of the sun and moon to the Monarch migration each fall, these natural, predictable events provide balance to the chaos of climate change, drought, wildfires and crazy floods.   And the dreadful economy.

A group of friends and I will celebrate tonight by heading down to Austin’s Congress Avenue bridge.   There, up to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats will swoop from the eaves shrouding Ladybird Lake, just as the sun sets on Summer Solstice 2011.

Hundreds of spectators share this ritual every summer evening between March and October. In autumn, the bats respond to a cyclical clue and migrate to Mexico for the winter.  Just like Monarch butterflies.

Happy Summer Solstice.