Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
May 21, 2002
Written by Sarah Coulber

Spring WildflowersOver 40 people of all ages came out to enjoy the sunshine for the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist’s (MVFN) Spring Nature Walk May 11th. Martha Webber, an expert botanist who specializes in edible wild plants and the folklore that surrounds them, shared her beautiful woods and extensive knowledge with the group.

Surrounded by singing birds, we sampled wild leek, day lilies, dandelion jam, violets, fiddleheads and teas! (See below – for some recipes). Much was learned that day, including that these wild plants, often called weeds , are packed with valuable vitamins and minerals – such as violets having lots of vitamin C and dandelions having iron, vitamin A and calcium and more!

Martha also pointed out that the speckled alder twigs were once used as a toothbrush, keeping teeth and gums clean and that the prickly ash twigs were invaluable in numbing toothaches. Another neat tidbit was that after the famous Boston Tea Party, where the supply of tea was destroyed, people turned to the spirea plant “Meadowsweet” as a substitute.

Many thanks, Martha! (Martha conducts outings, classes for adults and a Nature Camp for kids. Call her at 613-839-5217 for details).

The next MVFN event is June 2 where all are welcome to bring a lunch and meet at Union Hall (where Tatlock Road/County Road 9 and County Road 16 meet) at 8:30am to carpool out to some Lanark Community Forests where we’ll be joined by forest and ecology experts to help us identify and observe its unique features. Also on June 2, as part of Arts Fusion in Almonte, join Mike Yee of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority who will be conducting streamside studies for all ages at the Mill of Kintail in Almonte at 10:00am, 1:00pm or 2:00pm (call the Mill at 256-3610 for directions to the Mill). Call Sarah Coulber at 256-2162 or visit our website for more information.

Martha Webber’s Wild Edible Plant Recipes

Green LeavesPlease remember to harvest wisely…take only 1/3 of the plant or less (can’t always do this with roots, though!) and leave enough plants in the area you are harvesting from  so that it will continue to thrive in that area and ensure there will be enough for other humans and animals!

Marinade (used for jerusalem artichokes)

All amounts are approximate…adjust to taste

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp  olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
chopped wild leeks

Let sit overnight

Dandelion jam

2 cups packed dandelion florets (remove green bracts)
the juice of 2 lemons (~1/2 cup)
2 tsp wild ginger or the equivalent of the commercial type
1 package of Sirto
3 cups water
4-5 cups sugar

Mix all ingredients except sugar.  Bring to a boil and once boiling, add sugar.  Let boil for 1 minute.  Leave it to cool and then bottle.


Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

Annual General Meeting

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Union Hall

7:00 p.m.

About thirty members were in attendance

Board members in attendance: Sandy Atack (chair), Cliff Bennett, Jim Bendell, Yvonne Bendell, Sarah

Coulber, Su san Fisher, Margaret Lalonde, Eileen Hennemann, Karen Richter

1. Welcome by President –Sandy Atack welcomed all to the Union Hall expressing admiration for

the rustic and cozy setting. She highlighted activities of the past year (available under #6

Programme report). On the environmental level, Sandy mentioned the MFVN involvement with

the Mississippi Mills Steering Committee for the Community Official Plan, with the community

forests of Lanark, and with Friends of the Eastern Ontario Trails (re: TransCanada Trail). She

expressed thanks to Mike and Jean McPherson for maintaining the tower at the lagoon and for the

management of the Keddy book sales.

2. Approval of agenda – Moved by David Atack, seconded by Janet Fytche that the agenda be

approved. All in favour. Carried.

3. Approval of minutes of the annual general meeting of May 17, 2001 – Moved by Cliff Bennett,

seconded by Yvonne Bendell that the minutes be approved. All in favour. Carried.

4. Treasurer’s report – Acting Treasurer Cliff Bennett presented the annual financial report, details

which were published in the last newsletter. The financial records have been perused by Michael

Doyle. Moved by Cliff Bennett, and seconded by Sarah Coulber that the treasurer’s report be

approved. All in favour. Carried.

5. Membership – Eileen Hennemann reported our current status at 121 memberships with 82 paid.

Moved by Eileen Hennemann, seconded by Cliff Bennett that the Membership report be approved.

All in favour. Carried.

6. Programme – Sarah Coulber reported on this year’s events and outings:

September : Christie Spence of the Canadian Nature Federation “National Parks”

Nature Walk at Gerry Lee’s with Gerry Lee and Rob Lee, Canoe Trip to Dalhousie Lake area

October : Laurie Whyte “Bears”

November : “A Photgraphic Journey” with Jim Robertson

December : Old Fashioned Christmas Party, Christmas Bird Count

January : Joost Harwig “Burnt Lands Alvar”

February : Bruce Di Labio “Owls”, Winter fun at the Hollbach’s

March : Trees, Shrubs, Vines and Perennials that Attract Birds” with Ed Lawrence

April : A panel of people gave an update to the EOMF’s Forest Certification

Project,Cliff Bennett led a Square Bash for the Breeding Bird Atlas Project

May : Spring Nature Walk at Martha Webber’s, AGM

June : Tour of our Community Forests, Streamside Study with Mike Yee in conjunction with Arts

Fusion, Shaun Thompson of the MNR leading a walk on the Burnt Lands Alvar

Moved by Sarah Coulber, seconded by Eileen Hennemann that the Programme report be approved.

All in favour. Carried.

7. FON – This report was given by Al Seaman in the absence of Marie Seaman. FON is an umbrella

organization with valuable work on behalf of nature issues. MVFN receives a lot of resource

material.. Two regional meetings were held one in Perth, and the other in VanKleek Hill. Priority

items for FON are urban sprawl and promoting the species at risk legislation. Members of MVFN

are invited to attend the FON Annual General Meeting at Port Rowan, Ontario, May 31 – June 2,

2002. Moved by Al Seaman, seconded by Cliff Bennett that the FON report be approved. All in

favour. Carried. Cliff Bennett will attend this year’s FON Conference and AGM as the MVFN


8. Newsletter – Eileen Hennemann reported that the newsletter has just been distributed with the next

issue to be released in August. Please check out the MVFN website at for ongoing

information, a members’ message board, and weekly trivia question. MVFN appreciates the hard

work of Christine Birkett as webmaster. Moved by Eileen Hennemann, seconded by Margaret

Lalonde that the Newsletter report be approved. All in favour. Carried. One hundred and sixty

copies of the newsletter are printed and distributed as well to schools, other naturalist groups, and


Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
April 23, 2002
Submitted by Cliff Bennett

Lanark County Forest Certification Project

Forest FernA small but enthusiastic group of members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists met at the Almonte United Church on April 18, to receive an update on Forest Certification. Guest presenter was Scott Davis, coordinator of the Lanark County Forest Certification Project. This meeting was a follow-up to an initial forest certification meeting held by MVFN in October of 2000. MVFN members are always concerned about what happens to our forests.

Scott Davis opened the session with a visual presentation explaining what forest certification was and how the Lanark County Group Forest Certification Project was organized. The Lanark Forest Group Project is a function of the Eastern Ontario Model Forest.

Forest certification is based on the concept of sustainability and provides for 3rd party verification that forest management practices comply with established standards. The programme is voluntary and market based in order to give consumers choice. Through the purchase of certified forest products, the buyer makes the statement of supporting forestry practices that ensure wildlife habitat needs and the environment are not compromised. In Europe, demands for certified forest products greatly exceed the supply.

Scott went on to explain the formation of the Lanark Group Project was to test the feasibility of group FSC forest certification for owners of small woodlots. Funding for the project comes from the Richard Ivey Foundation and is the first of its kind in Ontario. One aim of the Group is to develop non-timber forest products such as maple syrup.

Two local operators, Terry O’Conner of Clayton and Bert Treicher who owns forests around Robertson Lake in Lavant, were introduced as panelists for discussion with the audience. A lively question and answer session followed on topics such as quality of certified products, financial viability and marketing.

The evening was hosted by MVFN member Franziska Von Rosen, who introduced the guest presenters. MVFN member Jim Bendell conducted the question and answer period and presented the guests with a copy of the book Biotic Forest Communities in appreciation.

The next MVFN event is a Spring Nature Walk with host Martha Webber, who will discuss edible wilds. This event will be held on Saturday, May 11. Details available on or the local newspapers. Also coming up; the Annual General Meeting of MVFN, May 16, at Union Hall.

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
April 23, 2002
Submitted by Cliff Bennett

MVFN Holds Successful Spring Bird Count

WoodpeckerAn exercise in saturation birding occurred on Sunday, April 21 when twenty -one members and friends of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists met in Appleton to take part in the club’s first annual Square Bashing bird census. The skies were clear but a brisk northern wind reddened everyone’s face and hands. Organized by MVFN Past -President Cliff Bennett, the event was an introduction to the second year of the five year Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas (OBBA) programme.

The whole province is divided into ten km. squares for the purpose of conducting the OBBA. MVFN has undertaken to cover one of these sections, identified as the Appleton square.The early morning Sunday birders were divided into six teams and each team was assigned a series of twelve point counts. With topo map and count sheets in hand, they set off to stop at each point, count everything heard or seen, compile their results and return to base. With so many counters in the field at one time, very few birds escaped notice.

The final tally for the count include forty-eight species of birds, totaling 3265 individuals. Collecting the highest score were Canada geese, with 2034 counted, followed by red-winged blackbirds, a mere 228. In spite of the cold wind, most birds were active with their mating rituals. An exception was a colony of purple martins in Appleton. They were huddled by their holes on the leeward side of the martin house, soaking up the sunshine but not moving one feather.

Over the next two months, individual birds listed at specific points in the square will be followed up, in the search for successful breeding evidence. During the 1980 ‘s OBBA , ninety-seven species were confirmed breeders in the Appleton square. So far, during the first year’s efforts, MVFN has listed twenty-seven confirmed as breeding. Special thanks go out to all those who took part in Sunday’s square bashing exercise.

The next MVFN event, Saturday, May 11, will be a walk in the forest to study edible wilds, conducted by noted authority on the subject, Martha Webber. For more information call Sarah Coulber, 256-2162 or visit the MVFN website at

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
April 04, 2002
Cliff Bennett

Sewage lagoons are wonderful places to spot water and shore birds.

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The Almonte Lagoons, noted in Clive Goodwin’s definitive revised edition manual “A Bird-Finding Guide to Ontario”, is within the membership area of Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN). With this in mind, MVFN established a trail and observation tower.

The trail to the tower, with entrance from the 8th Conc. of Ramsay, in Mississippi Mills, Lanark County, goes along a cultivated field and through an abandoned pioneer farm yard. The tower, named the Potvin Tower after the donators, is a three level playground structure and overlooks the western lagoon. With a spotting scope as well as binoculars, birders can easily scan the surface and shores as well as the surrounding countryside. View photos below.

Erected in 1996, the trail is open to all interested naturalists. Although the whole area is posted with no trespassing signs, birders are most welcome as long as they accept entrance at their own risk. A new sign stating so is posted on the main gate, across from the Auld Kirk Cemetery.

Directions. From Almonte, travel west on County Road 16, Wolf Grove Road, one mile, to Ramsay Conc. 8. At this intersection you will find the famous heritage Auld Kirk church. Turn north, go about 200m and park alongside the road. You will see the sign on the main gate with an arrow to the trail entrance, about 20 m further.

Remember to leave nothing behind but your thanks.

Take nothing away except pictures.

Good birding!