November 2015 Volume 2, Issue 1

Seed Ball News

Katrina, Paul, and Brian, make Kokedama, Japanese hanging moss balls, during a power outage. We're always up to something!
Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm excited to get the Mudslinger back on the press and share with you all the good things that are going on at

I've got a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. It's deeply satisfying to work every day making the world greener and help others do the same. Thanks to your generous patronage, this past year we've donated thousands of seed balls and hundreds of pounds of our matrix to educational events and nature centers around the country. Additionally, we dedicate time each week to community service and education. Whether it's making seed balls with art therapy kids or giving tours to conservation groups, education is a central tenet of our mission. 

We've also continued our seed ball research and have made great strides in both seed ball fertility, storage, and keeping the costs very reasonable. We're working towards eliminating the least green component of our matrix, vermiculite! The new recipe is being implemented on a species-by-species basis as we complete testing.

I have to hand it to my crew for their attention to detail, their enthusiasm about seed balls, and their research, creativity, and dedication. Our growing product line reflects the imaginations of everyone in the workshop. 

I hope you enjoy this issue of The Mudslinger. It features articles by Katrina Weakland, Staff Scientist (Geography) and Brian Moyer, Staff Scientist (Biology).  I would be remiss not to thank our Production Manager, Paul Berkley, who keeps the workshop in tip-top shape and realizes innovations in production, maintains quality control, and optimizes logistics!  

Have a warm and satisfying Thanksgiving! 10% off US native wildflower seed balls
Checkout code: USwildflowers

Dr. Blake Ketchum,  Founder,

Open for Business: Green Gifts at

Bamboo markers, one of the many deep green gifts we carry under $10!
The holiday season is here and what a perfect time to share your love for the environment with unique eco-friendly gifts for family and friends!  We've carefully selected a collection of novel and sustainably manufactured goods for you. Many of these awesome gifts are less than $10. These green goods will make great stocking stuffers or the perfect addition to our wide variety of native seed-balls products. Here is a sneak peak of just a few of our new diverse sustainable gift collection.
Visit our gift shop

Plant of the Month
Blue Camas - The original sweet 'potato' of North America

Camassia quamash

The Camas Prairie near Fairfield, ID. Photo courtesy of Magnus Manske, Wikimedia Commons.
This year, many of us will enjoy a sweet tasting tuber with our traditional Thanksgiving meal.  Although the sweet potato (I. batatas) originated in the tropics of Central or South America, it was rarely used  by native people living in cooler regions of North America. Blue Camas (Camassia quamash), a Pacific North West native wildflower, did provide a bountiful harvest of sweet “potatoes” for many tribes in the region.  Its bulbs become increasingly sweet after a long, slow cooking process, thus they were one of the most widely traded foods.  Despite their considerable economic value, Camas bulbs were sustainably harvested from family owned plots every few years.
Today, the tasty bulbs are uncommon and difficult to find in large numbers.  Unfortunately, many of the traditional gathering sites, including Weippe Prairie and Camas Prairie in Idaho and the Willamette Valley in Oregon, have been lost to agriculture.  The restoration of camas prairies and access to camas bulbs is a priority of many Indigenous groups. At one time, “When camas was in bloom in wet meadows, the flowers grow so thickly that they look like a blue lake” (Murphey 1959:14). Buy Blue Camas Seed Balls

By Brian Moyer, Staff Biologist. November, 2015.

Animal of the Month
The Squash Bee

Peponapis pruinosa

Squash Bee having a fine time of it! Photo by Douglass Moody at the California State University of Fullerton, CA.
As we prepare to reap the bountiful benefits of the fall harvest crops that inspired our Thanksgiving traditions, we should be thankful for our native pollinators. There are nearly 4,000 diverse varieties of native bee species in North America that go unnoticed for their vital ecological services. Many native bees tend to stand in the shadows of its popular European cousin the "honey bee," but in fact native bees have been more effective at collecting pollen years before the honey bee arrived and tend to have a special symbiotic relationship with native plant species. One specific native bee, the Squash Bee, is responsible for providing many of the gourds we associate with Thanksgiving dishes and décor.  

Squash Bees, Peponapis spp., are specialist bees who focus their pollination on the Cucurbitacea (squashes, pumpkin, and gourds)  family. The native bee has an expansive range throughout America’s as a result of the commercial use and spread of Cucurbits. The small bee has similar physical characteristic to honey bees, but they are have a larger body build, swift and more effective in flight, and forages for pollen in the early morning. Unlike honey bees, the squash bee are solitary bees and do not have colonies. They build their nest in the soil in close proximity to cucurbit patches and produce one generations per year.  Similar to the honey bee, native bees are being threatened as a result of habitat fragmentation, climate changes, and excessive use of pesticides on agriculture farms. To help the native squash bee population, avoid tilling your garden or bordering areas near your garden. Tilling disturbs and destroys their nests. If you notice small dug out holes around or near your cucurbit plants, this is generally the entrance to their nest. If you are out in your garden early enough you will see them emerge from the holes to tend to their flower.

This year let’s savor every delicious bite of pumpkin pie because without native pollinators, who provide us with the fundamentals ingredients to our Thanksgiving traditions?

By Katrina Weakland, Shop for Our Herb & Veggie Seed Balls
Staff Scientist. November 2015.

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