Monthly Archives: June 2013

Dealing With Flood Debris

By Rebecca Willison


It’s been over a month since Muskoka experienced a 100-year flood event, and recovery efforts continue today. The rushing waters swept away the chairs, docks, containers, canoes and woody debris left in the waterfront area of many homes and cottages, only to deposit them downstream.


Debris, like this garbage can floating down the Muskoka River during the flood in April, may eventually end up on your property. If this happens, it is your responsibility to dispose of it correctly.


So what do you do with the debris that has washed up on your property? Who should you call to have it removed? The simple answer is: no one. Garbage and debris that washes up on your property is your responsibility to dispose of properly, not the Ministry of Natural Resources’ and not the municipality’s. To make this easier, often a municipality will waive the tipping fee at the landfill for a limited time. Check with your local municipality to see if this is available to you.


Any waste related inquiries, including flood-related and debris wash-up questions, should be directed to the District of Muskoka Public Works Department at (705) 645-6764 or Disposal locations can be found on the District of Muskoka website at or in your Waste Management Guide.


Not all debris is bad


Not everything that washes up on your property needs to be removed. Natural debris, such as logs, branches and rocks, may actually improve the wildlife habitat on your shoreline and can be left in place unless it causes a safety hazard.


Woody debris on your property can help protect your shoreline from erosion. Turtles use logs to bask and fish use underwater branches and logs to hide from predators and lay eggs. On land, logs provide essential habitat for small mammals, certain woodpeckers, toads and salamanders, many of which are species at risk.


Prevent future issues


Take a few minutes to look around your property and note where items are stored, both during the summer and the winter, as well as the likelihood that they will be damaged or swept away in a future flood. Chemicals typically kept near the shoreline, such as gas and oil, are especially damaging when they get into the water and should be kept in a secure location well above the high water mark. Use the recent flooding as a guide for where you should and shouldn’t keep possessions on your property.


Having a healthy shoreline with lots of native trees, shrubs and vegetation will help reduce erosion on your property during a flood event. Take a look around at properties affected by the recent flooding and you will notice that properties with a natural shoreline received far less damage than those with the vegetation removed and replaced with turf grass. Possessions on your property are also more likely to stay put.


With an expected increase in precipitation and storm events due to climate change, it likely won’t take 100 years to experience another 100-year flood event in Muskoka. It’s in our best interest to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws at us in the coming years.



Past articles are available in this blog under the Watershed Notes Articles category or under Past Articles in the Resources section.


Will There Be Nature For Our Kids?

By Valerie Fieldwebster


Somewhere in our childhood, each of us has had a close encounter with nature. Some of us may have had great forests in our backyards, where we were allowed to roam for hours unhampered by an adult agenda. For others it may have been a creek running through a city.


Most of us, I dare say, have confessions to make. Nature may not have always fared well in our childhood hands. As a young child I loved Monarch caterpillars. I learned that the best way to catch them was to lie on my back in a patch of Milkweed, and I collected the sleek looking larva by the dozens. I kept them in a box and fed them all kinds of leaves; every kind except Milkweed.


Psychologists are now placing more and more importance on the time children are allowed to spend outside exploring nature. These experiences have connected us to the natural world around us, making us more aware of the systems.


The idea that, because of my consumption patterns, future generation may not have the opportunity to lie on their backs in a field of Milkweed plants disturbs me. I wondered if I was being irresponsible with the earth’s resources, so I decided to check my ‘Ecological Footprint’.


I highly recommend this activity. I went to 4 different website which provided ‘Ecological Footprint’ calculators. Each website asks a variety of questions about your eating patterns, transportation, if you ever purchase used items and how often you fly. At the end up pops your final score. How many earths would it take if everyone lived as gluttonously as I did?


Different calculators will give you different results, so try a few different ones to get a general idea of how sustainable your lifestyle is. I found out that if everyone consumed resources as I did we would need somewhere between 1.6 and 5.5 earths to support us.


What I found very valuable was that each website also gave me ideas on how I can live more within the earth’s resources. My vegetarian diet gave a small food footprint, but commuting to work made me look like a Sasquatch! Here a few websites for you to try:



So what were some of the suggestion I found, other than changing to CFL light bulbs?

  • Line drying clothes saves 3 to 4 kilowatt hours per load – about 5 pounds of carbon dioxide.
  • By installing water saving devices, households can reduce their water footprint by 60%.
  • Recycling one metric ton of paper saves 17 trees.
  • Repair things as much as possible and only buy products that are designed to last.


None of these individual actions are difficult to implement, but collectively they can add up to a more sustainable lifestyle.



Past articles are available in this blog under the Watershed Notes Articles category or under Past Articles in the Resources section.


Compost Tea – A Natural Fertilizer You Can Feel Good About Using


By Dylan Moesker


Backyard gardening simply put, is an amazing thing. It is a hobby for some and a lifestyle for others. We can grow delicious and healthy food while not only getting back to nature, but also giving back to nature. Something we can all agree on is that in the end we want a generous yield for all our time spent preparing and maintaining the garden, and that’s where fertilizers come into play.


For years people have been trying to maximize their garden yield, often by using chemical fertilizers. Generally speaking, the idea is that by adding a calculated mixture of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K) to a garden, we give plants a quick boost of essential nutrients.


Unfortunately, this is only a short-term solution for the plants. Soil does not benefit from these fertilizers because they can acidify your soil, as well as break down soil structure. In the long run, chemical fertilizers can negatively affect your plants. Also, more people are becoming aware that the chemicals from these fertilizers can leach down into the water table, causing more negative impacts than positive ones.


My proposal to you is not only environmentally friendly but also a long-term solution, and it’s called compost tea. This mixture is as simple as it sounds and can safely be applied directly to soil and foliage of the plant; while at the same time have no negative impact on the environment.


Compost that is either purchased or homemade can be used to make compost tea.  Put some compost into a bucket and add water. A common ratio is ¼ compost to ¾ water. Aerate the mixture for 12-24 hours – a simple fish aquarium stone works great for aeration. This mixture is then sprayed directly over your soil, as well as over the foliage of plants to provide a nutrient boost, and increase the organisms in your soil.


Compost is packed with soil organisms called microbes, which are bacteria that break down organic matter so that plants can take it up. This is why spreading compost over your garden can prove extremely beneficial to the health and yield of your plants. When compost is aerated, it increases the extraction of these microbes and creates an environment that promotes microbial reproduction – which means more organisms and more nutrients for your plants and soil. It’s essentially an all-in-one fertilizer that you can feel good about using.


Why is this so important? The truth is that soil, like plants, is a living organism and needs food too. Plants benefit from soil with good structure and plenty of organic matter – something chemical fertilizers can’t do but organic fertilizers can. On top of providing your plants with essential nutrients, spraying the leaves of plants with compost tea can actually prevent foliar diseases such as powdery mildew.


So there you have it. An organic fertilizer that promotes plant health, soil structure, and won’t break the bank. Give it a try, since results can often be seen in a matter of a few days


Happy gardening!



Past articles are available in this blog under the Watershed Notes Articles category or under Past Articles in the Resources section.