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Ice Shaking Up the Environment
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Ice Shaking Up the Environment

Last week residents in Ontario and Quebec were waken up at night from loud booming sounds. What was the cause of this? Well, you may not believe it but it was from ice! Ice or frost quakes, as they are called, are when crashes occur from the breaking up of ice. These quakes are scientifically known as cryoseisms, and they are caused by water in the ground expanding at cold temperatures. Once the water expands, the ice and ground below cracks and crumbles causing loud noises. Not only are there loud noises, but these ice quakes can even shake the ground. In Ottawa, Nature Canada's staff member Julia Gamble said "At first it felt like snow or ice was cracking and sliding off my roof.  I worried about my new car on the driveway getting damaged.  It happened again and I sort of felt panicked as though someone was on the roof or meteors or parts of a plane were striking it." Another staff member, Ted Cheskey also heard these loud noises from his home. "As I was woken from a sleeping state, I am not sure exactly what I experienced, but my recollections are that there was a loud cracking/rattling noise that sounded like tree branches scraping across the roof" Ted commented. "It was nothing like the popping sounds that the house makes when it adjusts to the colds, but I might even describe it as a sort of “swoosh” sound". Similar noises were also reported in Toronto last January where the temperature dropped suddenly to about -23C overnight. At that time, Dave Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, indicated that a wet December month coupled with sudden cold temperatures makes it an ideal time for frost quakes.  It was noted in a previous article that he said, “It’s the perfect storm for these ice quakes or frost quakes. It’s sort of like nature yawning and groaning.” He also pointed out added that people are more likely to hear the noises at night as sound carries further. As you can see, ice can surprise us with its capabilities and it important that we study ice. Why? Because ice has the ability to provide us with information on the environment around us. Ice is a large indicator of climate change in various regions, and scientists dedicate their time to studying its movements. By studying the movements of ice, it informs scientists with how the Canadian ecosystem is changing. Would you like to help monitor these changes in our ecosystem? If so, join IceWatch today! This program allows anyone to learn about and record ice in their own neighbourhoods! IceWatch For more information on the previous ice quakes, click here.

Inside the Mudlake Biodiversity Project
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Inside the Mudlake Biodiversity Project

“Do we have this one yet?” Harold Sotomayor asked his friend and project partner Patrick Killeen after we came across a white capped mushroom covered by bushes to the side of the trail. “Well, let’s snap a photo of it anyways, just in case.” Welcome to the world of the Mud Lake Biodiversity project, an ongoing citizen science experiment in which the goal is to document and record every living organism in the Mud Lake Conservation Area of Ottawa, Ontario. The project, which has attracted photo contributions from outside members of the community, is a mix of deductive science and taxonomic gamification and has helped its creators learn a lot about their local environment and its biodiversity. [caption id="attachment_17602" align="aligncenter" width="300"]photo of the Mud Lake Biodiversity project team Patrick Killeen (left) and Harold Sotomayor (right)[/caption] Sotomayor explained the initial idea stemmed from the television show and video game Pokemon which he used to watch and play as a child. “When I started, the idea for the project was to create a catalogue like a Pokedex” Sotomayor said. “I genuinely thought we would come out here and find like five birds. I had no idea about how much I did not know.” Home to over 200 species of birds, around 50 varieties of moss and hundreds of different trees and plants, Mud Lake is a naturalist's dream. Located just west of downtown Ottawa, the area contains many ecological biomes including: a riparian section along the bank of the Ottawa River, a woodland area and wetlands around the lake itself. Unlike the mass of wildlife found at Mud Lake, the project has remained reasonably quiet and contained. For the past four years, Patrick and Harold have been making trips out to the lake with a camera and documenting any life they find. Nothing is omitted from the project. Plants, animals, fungi, insects... even bacteria and protists, which Harold collects and analyzes at home under an electron microscope, are included and added to the growing database and website. [caption id="attachment_17603" align="aligncenter" width="300"]photo of White breasted nuthatch at Mud Lake White breasted nuthatch at Mud Lake[/caption] “We began with just animals and plants, but once people started visiting the website, we sort of felt an obligation to expand and include everything,” Sotomayor said. Patrick Killeen, 20, makes up one half of the pair. He is currently a computer science student at the University of Ottawa and is credited by Harold as having the greater taxonomic knowledge of the two. “I wasn’t really interested in biology before the project,” Killeen said. “Growing up my dad would tell me stuff and I was sort of forced to learn the information. But then, after the project began, I actually wanted to learn so that’s when I gained a huge boost of knowledge.” Harold Sotomayor, 29, is the creative mind behind the enterprise. He is currently using the site to work on his programming skills while working part time and also managing the biodiversity project. The two have been able to parlay the project into educational opportunities with outside organizations. Harold and Patrick have led educational tours through Mud Lake with adult high school students as well as by leading tours at Nature Canada's fall BioBlitz event. [caption id="attachment_17604" align="aligncenter" width="200"]photo of microscope use Harold gets a close look at bacteria and protists under the microscope[/caption] The pair want the project to remain small and without ads and said their next goal is to include more of the areas diverse mosses and insects. For those interested in learning more about the project, or contributing to the growing collection of photos you can check it out at: www.mudlakebiodiversity.com. The site is also expected to receive a coming user interface revamp in the coming weeks with new graphics. Thank you to our guest blogger Dylan Copland for this post and photos. Dylan is a journalist and media specialist living in Ottawa, Ontario. He is currently volunteering with Nature Canada where he is writing about animals, nature and the people who love them. You can reach him at dmcopland@gmail.com and find his portfolio on the web at: dylancopland.wordpress.com.

Foresters volunteers join Nature Canada’s BioBlitz
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Foresters volunteers join Nature Canada’s BioBlitz

Nature Canada wants to thank the wonderful volunteers at Foresters for joining us at the Fall BioBlitz. Foresters insurance company partners with charitable organizations to support families and communities through volunteering events. The Fall BioBlitz was one such event. 15 volunteers joined Nature Canada at the Fall BioBlitz at Mud Lake to build bird and bat houses. In total 24 bird houses and 12 bat houses were constructed and donated to Nature Canada. We will work with communities to place the bird and bat houses in critical spots around the city to support healthy urban wildlife populations. Thank you Foresters volunteers! [caption id="attachment_16901" align="aligncenter" width="945"]photo of family building a bird house Building bird houses at the BioBlitz[/caption] [caption id="attachment_16900" align="aligncenter" width="945"]photo of people building a bat house Building a bat house at the BioBlitz[/caption] [caption id="attachment_16902" align="aligncenter" width="945"]photo of volunteers with complete bird and bat housees Foresters volunteers with the completed bird and bat houses at the BioBlitz[/caption] Photography by Susanne Ure.

Fall BioBlitz at Mud Lake, September 2014
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Fall BioBlitz at Mud Lake, September 2014

Thanks to everyone who came out to take part in the adventure and help us identify local wildlife at Nature Canada’s Fall BioBlitz. Over 150 citizens of the national capital region accompanied local expert naturalists on guided walks where they learned to identify plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles and more! [caption id="attachment_16892" align="aligncenter" width="300"]photo of birders Birding early in the morning at the BioBlitz. Photography by Susanne Ure[/caption] The BioBlitz brought out experts and amateur enthusiasts alike on one of the first brisk weekends of the fall to Mud Lake conservation area. Mud Lake is considered by many to be a wilderness gem in the heart of our busy city and is found within the Lac Deschênes- Ottawa River Important Bird Area. It was the perfect location for such an inventory. Easy to get to and containing various habitats in a confined area, Mud Lake is an ideal spot to connect to your NatureHood. A BioBlitz take many forms, but is generally an intense 24 hour survey of a location with a mission to identify as many living things as possible at the site. This event is part of a larger effort to learn more about the state of local biodiversity and catalogue changes over time in population patterns. It is also a great opportunity to connect urban citizens to nearby nature right in the city. [caption id="attachment_16893" align="aligncenter" width="300"]photo of moss Examining the aptly named fern moss. Photography by Susanne Ure[/caption] Each walk focused on a particular group of plants or animals. An ultraviolet light focused on a white sheet called-in night-flying insects for close examination after the sun had set. Birders, expert and aspiring, rose early to search out common and rare species. We even got an up close look at snapping turtle hatchlings that were making their way from the nest to the water. Not event rain could dampen the enthusiasm of those on the Saturday afternoon plant and reptile walks. The final species list included species listed as at risk in Ontario and federally including the snapping turtle and the butternut tree. All in all it was a very exciting 24 hours! We would like to thank everyone who came out to help us survey the area, in particular all the fantastic local naturalists who shared their expertise and helped to make the day such a resounding success! [caption id="attachment_16894" align="aligncenter" width="300"]photo of young snapping turtle. Snapping turtle hatchling. Photography by Sarah Kirkpatrick-Wahl[/caption] We hope you can join us for the next BioBlitz in the spring. Check out more photos from the event, learn more about how Foresters volunteers worked to help Nature Canada at the BioBlitz and read the full list of species identified over the 24hour period (coming soon).

Giving Our Planet One Day Off a Year
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Giving Our Planet One Day Off a Year

Mark your calendars! Did you know September 21st is Zero Emissions Days? This event aims towards giving our planet a break and reducing the use of fossil fuels in our everyday lives. What do this day entail? Here are some fun facts and ways to participate:

  1. This day was specifically chosen because the length of days and nights are equal!
  2. It is the same day as International Day of Peace and World Gratitude Day
  3. The Goal: Have minimal use of gas, oil, coal, or electricity generated by fossil fuels
  4. One way to do this is to eat food that does not require the use of energy to make, or prepare your food a day early
Join the fun and make a difference in the environment! Click here for Zero Emissions Day website. For more facts on this day, click here.

Photo Blog: Fall BioBlitz at Mud Lake, September 2014
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Photo Blog: Fall BioBlitz at Mud Lake, September 2014

This past weekend Nature Canada hosted a Fall BioBlitz at Mud Lake Conservation Area in Ottawa, ON. Over 150 local citizens came out to explore the area and learn the secrets of identifying birds, plants, insects, reptiles and more! Everyone had a great time enjoying the beautiful area and the brisk weather. Here are some photos from the event. [caption id="attachment_16768" align="aligncenter" width="945"]Participants in the birding walk got up with the sun to catch a glimpse of migrating birds at their most active time of the day. Many birds are never seen through the foliage, so expert birders rely on unique calls and even flight patterns to identify secretive birds. Participants in the birding walk got up with the sun to catch a glimpse of migrating birds at their most active time of the day. Many birds are never seen through the foliage, so expert birders rely on unique calls and even flight patterns to identify secretive birds. Photography by Susanne Ure[/caption] [caption id="attachment_16769" align="aligncenter" width="945"]chichadee This curious Black-capped Chickadee watched the birders right back! Photography by Susanne Ure[/caption] [caption id="attachment_16784" align="aligncenter" width="948"]Photo of fall warbler This young Black-throated Green Warbler is on its first migration journey from the Boreal Forest to South America. Many warbles migrate at night using the stars to navigate. Photography by Julia Gamble[/caption] [caption id="attachment_16770" align="aligncenter" width="945"]image of seed pods on a milkweed plant Seed pods on a milkweed plant. Milkweed has a contentious history and has been actively eradicated as it is listed as a noxious weed. Recently however, the public has come to understand the important role that milkweed plays in the Monarch butterfly life cycle and milkweed is beginning to flourish again. Photography by Susanne Ure[/caption] [caption id="attachment_16786" align="aligncenter" width="945"]photo of expert examining tree bark Jennifer is using a small hand held magnifying glass to examine the lichen on tree bark. Don't be afraid to look at the world from a new perspective. You might be surprised at the beautiful details that are easily overlooked. Photography by Susanne Ure[/caption] [caption id="attachment_16788" align="aligncenter" width="945"]photo of examining moss Moss is a complex group full of variety. This aptly named Wiry Fern Moss resembles tiny ferns. Mosses do not have typical root structures and thus rely on their leaves to absorb water and nutrients. Photography by Susanne Ure[/caption] [caption id="attachment_16790" align="aligncenter" width="950"]photo of snapping turtle hatchling Snapping turtles, a species listed as special concern in Ontario and Federally, nest at Mud Lake. We were lucky enough to see a few of the young hatchlings making their way from the nest site to the water at the BioBlitz. Unfortunately this little guy and a couple of his siblings were too small to make it over the curb to get off the road, so we gave them a hand by transporting them to a safe place with an umbrella. Photography by Sarah Kirkpatrick-Wahl[/caption] [caption id="attachment_16793" align="aligncenter" width="945"]photo of expert examining plants. Even the rain did not dampen our enthusiasm. Photography by Susanne Ure[/caption] Thanks to our wonderful experts for making this event possible. You can read full details of the event and see the complete list of species identified at the BioBlitz (coming soon).

The Rapid Growth of Community Gardens in Canada
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The Rapid Growth of Community Gardens in Canada

Vancouver now has over 75 of them; Halifax 25; and Ottawa, at least 40. No matter where you look in Canada, community gardens are becoming one of the country's quickest growing outdoor activities as more people look for a way to get outdoors, grow their own plants and get back to nature. A community garden is an urban green space allotted to the growing of plants by the public. All manner of plants can be grown, from herbs and vegetables to fruits and flowers. The green space is divided into plots and each plot is assigned to the public on a first come first serve basis. The spaces themselves are as diverse as the plants grown on them. Some are hundreds of plots large, while others only have allotments numbering in the single digits. [caption id="attachment_15490" align="aligncenter" width="300"]putting on netting Putting netting box to protect plants. Photo by Dylan Copland[/caption] The community gardens are typically run by local groups that may organize a single or group of gardens. Anyone can apply to be a community gardener, but in many cities, plots are being filled faster than new gardens can be created. Jordan Bouchard is the Interim Coordinator of Just Food's Ottawa-based community gardening network. He's seen first-hand the rapid increase of community gardens in the city. “Community gardening is growing quickly,” Bouchard said. “We've more than doubled the amount of urban gardens in Ottawa in the last five years.” It's popularity has grown to the point that city websites are warning of wait times to receive a spot. “Some waitlists are years long,” Bouchard said. “Because of this, many groups are working towards getting more set up in the city.” There are a multitude of factors behind the recent surge of popularity of community gardening. Some people, like community gardener Brad Mitchell, 47, find tending to a plot of fruit and vegetables a good reason to get outside and into nature. [caption id="attachment_15496" align="aligncenter" width="300"]flowers in garden Flowers in a community garden. Photo by Dylan Copland[/caption] “I like to get my hands dirty,” Mitchell said. “Some of the gardeners will go and plant fully grown vegetables, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of watching a plant grow from seed and raising it all the way up.” Mitchell spent five years waiting to get a shot at tending a space at the Laurier and Bronson community garden in Ottawa. While waiting, he volunteered by mowing the grass between plots, helping friends tend to their gardens and by doing general maintenance work around the site. Mitchell grows beans, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and other vegetables that all appeared to be growing well, but he said there are a few dangers gardeners should be on the lookout for. “Since the plots are so close together, everything grown is organic. Because of this, we get bugs and pests that will come in and eat the produce,” Mitchell said. He pointed to one of his leafier plants which was dotted with small holes and bite marks. Another problem gardeners face is thieves who will steal produce. Mitchell said he has lost a fair amount of vegetables to other humans who have picked freshly grown vegetables from his garden. [caption id="attachment_15497" align="aligncenter" width="300"]watering community garden Sylvia watering her garden. Photo by Dylan Copland[/caption] “I came in one day, and one of my eggplants was just gone. Then I came in the next day, and the second one was gone,” he said. “And not only that, but whoever took it had snipped off the buds, so no more would grow.” While taking food that a person has not grown is never encouraged, some gardens have begun to implement open pick spaces to combat food theft. The idea being that if someone is going to steal food from a garden, they should do so from a more communal plot that doesn't belong to any one particular gardening member. Despite the problems, Mitchell has now been growing for the past five years and said he still enjoys coming out nearly everyday to tend to his plants. While gardening may be a fun outdoor exercise for many, there are also practical reasons why one might choose to grow in a community space. Silvia Quintana, 50, works a patch of tomatillos at Ottawa's Strathcona park. She says that gardening gives her an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, but also has economic and practical benefits. “Tomatillos are very common in my home country Mexico, but not so much in Canada,” Quintana said. “Some people here know how to use them, but many people don't even recognize them.” [caption id="attachment_15498" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Tomatillos. Photo by Dylan Copland Tomatillos. Photo by Dylan Copland[/caption] Tomatillos (Physalis philadelphica) are used in salsas and dips like guacamole. Common in Mexico, Quintana says she would have to pay upwards of 15 dollars for a bag of them in a Canadian supermarket. “I come out every couple of days [to tend to the plants], but mostly for pleasure,” Quintana said. “They're a very hardy plant and can grow well on their own.” Quintana is able to reap multiple harvests per season from her tomatillos and says she has more than enough left over to give to friends and family. As the public's enthusiasm for local urban-agricultural spaces has increased, support and resources from government and non-profit groups has been made available to help those looking to garden in an urban environment. Vancouver has instituted tax breaks for landowners who develop green spaces on their property. The city now allows developers to classify community gardens as class eight recreational property, reducing the cost owed to the government to about a third of typical commercial property tax fees. In Ottawa, Just Food, in concert with garden organizers and the city government, works with an $85,000 a year budget to provide tools, equipment and construction and gardening materials to those looking to work in or organize a community garden. And in Halifax, the Halifax Garden Network organized a creative initiative in 2013 called the Urban Agriculture Tour which brought together a group of growers from the city. The gardeners toured a host of local growing spots and exchanged ideas on what to plant as well as thoughts on gardening techniques. For those who may be interested in joining a community garden, more information can be found on your city's community gardening network web-page including contact information of local garden organizers as well as helpful information on how to start working a new plot of land. [caption id="attachment_15494" align="aligncenter" width="201"]Scarecrow. Photo by Dylan Copland Scarecrow. Photo by Dylan Copland[/caption] Thank you to our guest blogger Dylan Copland for this post and photos. Dylan is a journalist and media specialist living in Ottawa, Ontario. He is currently volunteering with Nature Canada where he is writing about animals, nature and the people who love them. You can reach him at dmcopland@gmail.com and find his portfolio on the web at: dylancopland.wordpress.com.

Nature Canada’s Fall BioBlitz at Mud Lake
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Nature Canada’s Fall BioBlitz at Mud Lake

Fall is officially here! The BioBlitz will go on rain or shine, so dress for the weather and meet us for a day of fun in the sun or rain.

Come join Nature Canada for its annual fall BioBlitz Friday September 12 at 3pm until Saturday September 13 at 3pm at Mud Lake! Help us explore your NatureHood. BioBlitzes are a great way to get out and learn about nature from the experts as we survey Mud Lake and attempt to identify as many living things as possible in the area. Visitor events include guided walks, and tours where guests can learn to identify the diverse wildlife found at Mud Lake. Each guided nature walk will focus on a different topic including: song birds, water birds, mosses, insects, reptiles and amphibians. So get your binoculars and hiking boots ready and join us as we get up close and personal with a world of mystery right outside your door. [caption id="attachment_16029" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Michelle examining an insect Examining an insect
Photography by Susanne Ure[/caption] Check back soon for the full schedule and see which walk you would like to join, or come out for them all. Experts and beginners alike are welcome. We hope to see you all there! Friday September 12, 2014 3:00 pm - Birds You have heard him present the "Tweet of the Week" on CBC, now join Alex MacDonald as he searches for birds at this unique site. 4:00 pm - Trees, shrubs and grasses Join Patrick Killeen, lead taxonomist with the Mud Lake Biodiversity Project, as he wades through a sea of green. 7:30 pm - Evening Critters and Sounds Join Alex MacDonald to find what goes bump in the night at Mud Lake. Saturday September 13, 2014 8:00 am and 9:00 am - Songbirds Join Emily Bird on the search for the early bird when they are most active. Identify birds by song and sight. Bring your binoculars or borrow a pair from Nature Canada. Remember, the early bird catches the worm! 9:00 am - Waterbirds Join Alex MacDonald and be amazed by all the species you can see out on the water with the help of a spotting scope and binoculars. 10:00 am - Mosses and Lichens Join Jennifer Doubt and discover a world of mosses and lichens often overlooked. 11:00 am - Vascular Plants Join Alex MacDonald as he studies the "higher plants" of Mud Lake 12:00 pm - Trees, shrubs and grasses Join Patrick Killeen, lead taxonomist with the Mud Lake Biodiversity Project, as he wades through a sea of green. 1:00 pm, 1:30 pm and 2:00 pm- Reptiles and Amphibians Join Bill Halliday and Julie Chateauvert on the hunt for these frogs, salamanders, snakes, turtles and other wildlife. You might want to bring rain boots for this one! Multiple walks offered. [caption id="attachment_15350" align="aligncenter" width="300"]bioblitz participants Examining Mud Lake treasures
Photography by Susanne Ure[/caption] Don't have your own pair of binoculars? Don't worry! You can borrow one of ours. We have 8 pairs of binoculars that we will have at the Nature Canada tent for you to borrow to take on a walk. When you arrive check in at the Nature Canada tent to register for your walk. We will be meting at Mud Lake (northeast of Britannia Park) at the end of Cassels St just before the water filtration plant. Look for the blue tent. Mud Lake meeting location A special Thank You to all the experts who will be sharing their expert knowledge and passion with us at this event! funders

VIDEO: Ottawa Bird Day Parade Was in Flight!
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VIDEO: Ottawa Bird Day Parade Was in Flight!

How often do you see many different species of birds flying through the sky together all at once ? Maybe on the day Nature Canada organized the Ottawa Bird Day parade! Around 60 students from the Centennial Public School got creative and made puppets of many different species of birds to bring on their walk along the Ottawa River, along with masks they made to match their winged friends, and started their journey. These energetic birds ranged from a Red-Throated Hummingbird to an American Goldfinch, a Grey Goose and so much more! Once they reached Bate Island, located in the Ottawa river, they stopped for a quick snack of sunflower seeds. Once their "bird feeding" was finished, they grabbed their garbage and recycling bags and started to clean up and help keep the wildlife area clean. When all was clean, the hard-working students hopped on the bus back to school. It was a very fun-filled, educational day.    

6 steps to making your own seed paper
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6 steps to making your own seed paper

Seed paper is a type of handmade paper that contains plant seeds. It's made with recycled paper such as newspapers, magazines or envelopes and can be turned into cards, bookmarks, gift wrap or whatever your imagine can come up with. Once the paper is planted the seeds will sprout. Instant garden! This fun, easy activity is eco-friendly and made with simple materials. You can customize your seed paper by creating designs or adding colour to the papers. Things you will need

  • Scrap paper: can be from newspaper, magazines, old cards, flyers, etc.
  • Seeds: must be flat and small. It is best to use native seeds. Check with your local field naturalist club for ideas.
  • Water
  • Scissors or paper shredder (or tear by hand)
  • Blender
  • Old frame
  • Mesh screen
  • Staples or tacks
  • Container large enough to submerge your frame
  • Towels or paper towels
Step 1: Shred and soak the paper. Shred the paper into thin strips using your hands, scissors, or a shredder. Soak the paper in warm water for a couple hours. It is easy to just leave the paper soaking overnight.making seed paper Step 2: Blend the paper. Put the soaked paper in the blender, fill the blender halfway with fresh water then blend until the mixture is soupy. If you would like to add food colouring to colour your paper, now is the time. Step 3: Make the paper frame. Attach the screen onto the frame using staples or tacks and place the screen at the bottom of the large container so that the screen side is down. Step 4: Turn the blended pulp into paper. Pour the blended pulp into the large container and mix in seeds. Slowly raise the screen out of the pulp so the water may drip from it. When the screen no longer drips, gently pat the pulp to let more water drain out then place upside down on the towel with the pulp side down. Take the sponge, another towel, or paper towel and dab the screen to remove excess water. Slowly remove the screen and leave set to dry for at least 24 hours. A heavy object may be placed on the paper for the last couple hours to flatten it. add seeds to seed paper Step 5: Make it your own! Decorate and cut the paper as you please. Here are some ideas: creative seed paper Step 6: Plant the paper and enjoy your garden. Bury the paper under about half an inch of soil and place in a location which gets good sun. Water the soil lightly every day until the seeds sprout.

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