Renewing the Earth begins at home. Political leaders may not listen to my convictions on global warming and conservation of creation, but I am the steward of my garden. I love the creatures that live here and the ones that pass through on their mysterious daily rounds. The birds and the butterflies are showy and easy to appreciate. But I also like the invisible raccoon that picks the sunflower seeds out of the bird feeder, the skinks that skitter on the dry stone wall, and the fireflies that glow at nightfall.
I haven't been buying many things lately, but I did succumb recently to an impulse purchase. It isn't a beautiful peony, though I've been tempted. One day I was reading a blog, and a click or two later, I was on the web site of the National Wildlife Federation filling out a questionnaire to certify my garden as a wildlife habitat. A week later this sign arrived.
On one level, I know the whole thing is a bit silly. Wildlife can't read. They already know that my garden is a good place. But I was childishly pleased with the sign. I want others to care about wildlife, too, and what better way to start than a sign that might make someone think, even for a few seconds, that we share this land, this life on earth?
We don't have a lawn. Loblolly pines, sweetgums and tulip poplars cluster thickly in the front yard, and I let the pine needles and leaves accumulate as natural mulch. Bluebirds and robins and wrens and towhees and catbirds easily find insects in the leaf mulch, and I suspect that is part of the reason we have so many birds nesting in our yard.
Yesterday, I hung the sign on a sweetgum tree in the front yard near the street. I got the camera and stepped into the fallen leaves in front of the tree. Immediately I felt something sting me, looked at my leg and saw a yellow jacket attached. Wasps were swarming around me. I went flying up the driveway into the house, pulling wasps out of my leg, arm and the back of my head. Clearly I had stepped on a ground nest.
Now that the pain has subsided, it is easy to appreciate the irony in this. Wasps may not be able to read, but they sure do know how to defend their natural habitat. I mean, their certified wildlife habitat.
|Adult yellow jacket, James Castner March 2003 http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu|
Yellow jackets are aggressive when people threaten their nest. Females do the stinging, and unlike bees that die after one sting, they can sting repeatedly.
Still, I'd rather have a few yellow jacket stings and some healthy pollinators breeding in my yard than a property with a chemical-soaked lawn and few insects or birds or butterflies. All creatures have their place in nature, and who am I to interfere? We'll talk about the deer fence another time.
If you're interested in learning more about gardening for wildlife, I recommend Douglas Tallamy's book Bringing Nature Home and Sara Stein's Noah's Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards.