by Sally Blanchard
Pastor Nancy Slabaugh Hart’s congregation has long been concerned with how they can walk gently on the Earth and make careful use of their land.
When Deschutes County Land Trust contacted Hart to ask if Madras United Methodist Church would be interested in planting a garden with native plants to support wildlife, especially Monarch butterflies, the church decided it would be a positive project to do in a year where so many negative things seem to keep happening in our world.
They imagined a place of peace and welcome and beauty: a “Butterfly and Pollinator Garden” for wildlife and people to enjoy. They imagined feeding bees and hummingbirds as well as Monarchs. The garden was designed to look like a naturally occurring meadow.
Next it was time to get down to earth – literally.
At the beginning of October one of the church members brought his tractor and plowed furrows for the plants. Members planted over 300 native plants supplied by the Deschutes Land Trust. Two kinds of milkweed, globe mallow, penstemon, goldenrod, Townsend daisy, and lupine are among them.
At the moment the plants are small and not very impressive, but as all gardeners do when they plant, the church members look forward with hope to the spring to see what will grow and flourish.
Scientific studies show that Monarch butterfly numbers are decreasing suddenly and substantially. Monarchs migrate from Canada to Mexico and only lay their eggs on milkweed plants. The Land Trust hopes that by providing milkweed pockets along their migratory path they will help to support them. The garden will also provide migrating birds who have lost valuable feeding areas to the western wildfires, a place to feed and rest. The native plants were chosen to attract bees and birds.
The plot of land chosen for the Butterfly and Pollinator Garden is visible to people who visit the hilltop location in Madras on the way to the regional hospital. The hilltop is something of a social services hub for the community. Senior housing is under construction in the area and low-income housing is planned for the next two years. Hart hopes the new garden will increase the church grounds visual appeal and send a message of welcome to the community.
The Madras community food bank housed at Madras UMC serves a growing number of families in the town of Madras and several neighboring communities. Like many food banks it has seen a steep increase in need during Covid 19. They have adapted quickly to new ways to serve. United Methodist volunteers are known for their multiple food programs out of the church.
“Our lay leader says we are the church that feeds people. Now we’re going to feed Monarch butterflies too,” Hart said, smiling.