On Bringing Nature Home

My first purchase of native plants

In the 28 years I’ve lived in my home I’ve watched the surrounding hills logged acre by acre making way to vineyard land. I used to live out in the country.  Now I say I live in the “wine country” to add a reference point to the location.  To some this is no big deal, but for me losing our forests is a tragic loss of shady walks, natural habitat, and carbon storage.  We shame the loss of tropical rainforests but turn a blind eye to the logging of our own temperate forests.

When this happens nothing is left for wildlife, no corridors for migrating birds for deer, or any of our native species to survive on.  Where do all the creatures go that made those forests home?  Most die.  It’s all for human profit now.  This collateral damage is met with barely a shrug. Add to that the recent catastrophic wildfires in Oregon have left thousands of acres of forest graveyards.  I was heartsick on a recent camping trip to the Cascade Range where we drove through miles of blackened mountains, burnt towns, and majestic forests turned to black matchsticks.  This was once verdant scenery.  Rampant salvage logging is only making matters worse for long-term recovery.

I have written letters to editors, congresspeople, and blogged about the environmental issues at hand but reciprocity to nature is not a concept our culture embraces.  It’s about profit.  There is a total disconnect in our relationship to the earth and the long-term consequences of our consumerism.  We take without giving back and that will be our ultimate demise.  I’ve realized through all this the only real power we have is through our actions and not those of governments or corporations.  This includes our own piece of ground.

So in an act of defiance, I am bringing nature home to my one little acre in Oregon.  I am starting the slow process to convert my land into a tiny nature sanctuary by planting native plants and creating a wildlife friendly habitat.  Until recently I landscaped my yard the way everybody does-by what would look nice.  That meant planting common cultivars from Asia without a thought to what nutrition and cover they would provide to native species including pollinators, butterflies, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

My newly planted barrel

Will this make a difference?  Well to me it does! To future furred and feathered visitors it will, and if enough other homeowners join in it will make a huge difference.  All I know is that when we recently planted a big leaf maple in our yard and planted my overgrown planter barrel by the porch entrance with milkweed, and native wildflowers I felt empowered.  If you would like to join me on my radical gardening journey, tune into my other blog, One Sweet Earth where I will be sharing my process bit by bit.

A big leaf maple finds a home in my yard

Of Voles and Holes

Image courtesy https://www.thetimes.co.uk/

If you have country property here in my corner of Oregon, you have probably noticed an explosion of small mammals, including ground squirrels, rats but especially voles this year.  Rodents have population cycles peaking every few years and then falling after the predator population catches up to them.  This is a banner year for voles

Voles are rodents, bigger than mice with smaller ears and short tales.  They are chiefly vegetarians munching on roots, nuts, young plants, and bulbs.  They are proficient tunnelers.  You don’t want them in your garden.

On the positive side, they aerate the soil and distribute nutrients in the soil layers.  My inner biologist recognizes their role in the great circle of life but my outer gardener is extremely frustrated.  I am perhaps the first person to write a poem about vole holes?.  Adding a bit a humor has made the situation in my lawn more tolerable.

Continue reading “Of Voles and Holes”

The Art of The Earthworm

This is a departure from my usual content.  I just posted this on my other blog, One Sweet Earth but I thought it might be of interest to my readers here with an added poem… 

I have always been fascinated with the unseen world of nature that exists beneath our feet or is too small for our eyes to see. Some years back on a forest field trip for my 6th-grade science students, the guide pointed out small mounds covered with small bits of debris on the muddy parts of the forest floor.  I’d seen these before, never giving them much thought.  “Those are earthworm middens,” she said.  HUH?  How did in all my years of natural science and ecology did I miss this one?

The guide informed us that earthworm middens are the entrances of earthworm burrows.  The reason they are built up like little volcanos is they pile their casings (poo) outside and alternately store bits of organic material at the entrance to later come up and feed upon.  In January I came upon in one in the yard with a magnolia leaf sticking straight up from the entrance like a rock from Stonehenge. It appeared that this leaf was too large, tough for this worm to manage.

Continue reading “The Art of The Earthworm”

An Old Take on Going Viral

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My university education steeped me enough ecology and natural science where I developed a different view about modern humanity and our dismal treatment of our natural environment.  A couple years back I wrote this poem to give myself some comfort (in a sciencey kind of way) that the Earth will be just fine without our presence.  I never shared it until now as it seems so appropriate to the times…

 

 

STARTING FRESH

Beyond the scope of our perceptions

They live, thrive even

Unseen

The precursors of life 

That once rose out of primordial goo

Giving rise to our modern-day selves

In the span of millennia

 

Now they keep house 

In the dark soil

On doorknobs

In the lining of our guts,

Or riding on the currents of air and water 

 

They are the good guys and the bad guys

Working the magic of digestion, decomposition, disease 

Keeping life on Earth in a delicate balance

As they go about their quiet business

While we humans multiply and innovate

Thinking the planet is ours to consume

And ours to fix

 

In the end will come the justice of Nature

Indiscriminate of zealot, terrorist, or model citizen

From microbes, having no other intelligence 

Than the genius of mutation

A plague perhaps, unleashed with a single sneeze

 

Our technology, heroes, and gods will not save us

The Earth will rest, then heal in its time

Nature will learn from her mistakes

And new life will rise

Our presence recorded in a layer of rock

Six inches thick

 

On that note…

Be well everyone and make the most of your social isolation! 


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