This Little Yard of Mine – Monarchs, Milkweeds and Music

It has been said that for any “movement” to succeed, a moving theme song is needed. That may be true. Bob Dylan’s “The Times, They are a-changing” and “Blowing in the Wind”; Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and Peter, Paul and Mary’s “If I Had a Hammer” are but a tiny sample of the soul-moving tunes that come to mind when thinking of the 1960s civil rights movement.

One of the charming successes of the public TV program Sesame Street is teaching children fun songs to celebrate life and nature with such little tunes as “Inch by inch, row by row…”

I love the idea of teaching our youth about taking care of nature through song (especially singing while gardening or walking or creek hiking or rock skipping or beach combing…) and impressing on them that their actions can make a positive difference.

Some may say planting a few milkweeds here and there will make no difference. I think this is wrong. Millions of students planting milkweeds and nectar flowers are immensely important in replacing critical habitat we’ve impacted or destroyed through development, urbanization or agricultural expansion.  The key is to remember the impact of the individual.  There is the added benefit of helping them fall in love with nature now. When they become our future voters and legislators they will vote to protect the land they love. Folks must first experience nature in order to appreciate it and then understand it before they will work to protect it.

So here is a fun video based on the perennial childhood favorite, “This Little Light of Mine” with monarch and milkweed related lyrics. It shows the importance of converting a section of “lawn of yawn” to a “lawn of love” for pollinators.  * The link could also be used in church school classes to introduce the idea of churchyard pollinator gardens.

When John Denver recorded the lyrics, ‘Almost Heaven, West Virginia’ in his mega-hit, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in the 70s, he could never have guessed that nearly a half century later, it would still be sung with light-hearted respect at WV university football games as an alternate “state anthem”.

At midnight in most WV college towns, people in the streets can still set their watches by the song being played at the stroke of midnight at area bars. Yep, it’s time to ‘take me home, country roads…” I was told this curious story in February the day after visiting the Rachel Carson House National Landmark in Silver Spring, Maryland by a young WV chef at a local diner. And I love the story. It reminds me of the immense power music has on our psyche.

I’ve asked a number of writer/performers to (please) write lyrics and music about the importance of milkweeds and nectar flowers that are so critical to maintaining food web integrity for monarchs and pollinators for future generations. Thus far, I don’t know if anyone has done so, and here’s another invitation!  So, like the childhood story of “Henny Penny” when no one would help her plant the garden, said, “then I shall do it myself.” And thus far, two fun songs have resulted.

“This Little Light of Mine” is the first one and it is to engage both the young and young at heart. The video’s music is used with permission from a CD recorded and produced by the Dor L’Dor Klezmer Band CD of Knoxville, TN. I created the slide show; Adrian Thysse of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada “chopped” the music and then looped it repeatedly so multiple verses could be enjoyed. Adrian also converted it from slide show format into a YouTube video for easier downloads. Here are the lyrics for the sing-a-long:


“This Little Yard of Mine”

1 – This milkweed of mine / It’s gonna bring to life
Egg–larva–pupa–adult / All four stages of life
Caterpillars eat 2 weeks / and grow 3,000 times!
Got Milkweed? – Magic seed! / While there’s time


2 – These little flowers of mine  /  feed hungry butterflies
Nectar is the fuel for life  /  It fuels their every flight
All shapes, colors and size  /  Blessings from the web of life
What a groove! So, let’s move!   /  While there’s time!


3 – Mexico’s monarchs need more trees   /  We must plant some pines
California needs more trees   /  They need Monterey pines
The West needs milkweeds too   /  & nectar flowers so fine
Plant the seeds – the habitat needs   /  While there’s time!


4 – Girls and boys are curious   / About all bugs that crawl
When we act with love   / They keep the wonder & awe
Our little nature friends    / need our encouragement
Let ‘em shine – so divine    / While there’s time!


5 – Insects get a bad rap from us   /  Since some sting and bite
But they pollinate most our foods   /  So we better treat ’em right
POLLINATORS  NEED  OUR  HELP   /  Our best efforts combined
No debate – we  can’t wait   /  While there’s time!


6 – Way-station is the name   /  For gardens with milkweed
Migration needs a billion flowers   /  To fuel their nectar needs
Learn about nectars here   /  An app & book & flicks
Milkweed beauties…Nectar smoothies   /  While there’s time!


7 – A helpful thing YOU can do   /  Gather seedpods when ripe
Send some to Kansas to Monarch Watch   /  To start the cycle right
Where’s a good place for a Waystation?   /  There’s NO place like HOME
Click those heels! – A big deal   /  While there’s time!


8 – I’m gonna plant a Waystation   /  And gonna post this sign!
Look who planted Waystations!   /  And they posted the signs!
Waystations have what monarchs need:    /  So says this sign !
It’s hope we need. Have faith in a seed.   /  Now’s the time!


Another spirited version of “This Little Light of Mine” by Bruce Springsteen is here:

The second tune is for a young adult audience. I played around with lyrics for a familiar Dixie Chicks’ tune, “Wide Open Spaces” since it reminded me of the ‘wide open spaces’ that monarchs must traverse in their 3000 mile migration trip from southern Canada to central Mexico each fall and back again in spring.  This link popped up when I Googled a karaoke version of the tune for a fun sing along:

“Wide Open Spaces – of Dixie the Monarch Butterfly”   lyrics by Ina Warren

1- “Who doesn’t know what I’m talking about? — Monarchs leave home and they migrate south
To find fir trees in a forest of their own — A place in the clouds, mountains in México
Forests recede and slopes lay fallow — Replanting trees – an act that’s hallowed
It takes the shape of the places out West — What does our future hold from all our excess?

We need Reforestation – Baby trees to grow up tall
To hold millions of monarchs – To keep them safe for all

2- She traveled this route as a child — Soaring and gliding, she never tired
In spring she WILL be coming back with the rest
To find milkweeds in Texas will be her BIG test

She needs Monarch Waystations  – Blooms to make a nectar shake
She needs nectar from flowers –  she sips them to migrate…


3- As her folks breed away, Dad leaves a spermatophore
Mom lands on a milkweed, where she lays eggs of “pearl”
She said it didn’t seem like that long ago
When she’d flown by there – en route to Mexico….

We need Milkweed Replacements – Leaves to feed the monarch eggs
The larvae need foliage – to keep the monarchs fed
Reforestation…. Monarch Waystations… Milkweed Replacements


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So, if any ambitious song writers want to take up the challenge to put pen to paper to help monarchs and other imperiled pollinators, let’s hear it!  In the meanwhile, here are some great professional tunes about “Eaarth” stewardship to enjoy and – – sing along!

“Top 10” Earth Day Songs

Play list for the Planet:

Change The Earth by Gaiaisi:

Paul Winter Music

The Butterfly Song (If I Were A Butterfly) – 4 minutes

Mariposas – Silvio Rodriguez – Letra

Goin’ down to Mexico/The Monarch Butterfly Song by Lucas Miller (Youtube)

(Spanish version) of Goin’ down to Mexico: Canción De La Mariposa Monarca: Sue Young sings Spanish version of Lucas Miller’s monarch song

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Visit for lots of ideas, sources of milkweed seed and plants, germination tips, etc.

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