Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Guest Post at Beautiful Wildlife Garden

Carole Brown, at Beautiful Wildlife Garden, has put up a guest post I wrote about reconciliation ecology and its importance as a first principle for gardeners. I feel honored to have been invited to post at such a well-known and popular blog. You can find "Reconciliation Ecology and the Beautiful Wildlife Garden" here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Hedgerow Project

Photo courtesy of Chris Goode and Dick Ashdown
This morning I’m writing with that happy spring feeling small children get. I’ve just completed an initial proposal for the first large-scale landscaping plan I’ve ever helped make. Later today I’ll put in the order to Possibility Place Nursery in Monee, Illinois to contract grow native shrubs and small trees for the first phase, restoring a remnant hedgerow that separates part of the property from an adjacent field planted to corn and soy in rotation.

Some background: I am a member of the Environmental Concerns Committee of the Illinois Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers). The Yearly Meeting Campus is in Putnam County, Illinois, about two hours south and west of Chicago near the Illinois River. The land has belonged to Quakers since the mid-19th Century and has long served both as a retreat center for the Yearly Meeting, and as the regular Meeting House for the Clear Creek Meeting, composed of local residents. I’ve written more about it here.

Until two years ago, the property was three acres that included a historic Meeting House and a camping area with cabins and a shower house. Then the opportunity suddenly came up to purchase nine acres of adjacent land that included a farmhouse, barn and several other buildings. This land had belonged to an old Quaker family, which wanted the land to go to the Yearly Meeting. During the past two years, the house has been renovated for use as a year-round meeting place, and other improvements have been made.

Consideration is now being made for what to do with the property so as to best serve the needs of the local Clear Creek Meeting, as well as the Yearly Meeting, whose members reside in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri.

Photo courtesy of Chris Goode and Dick Ashdown
Naturally, the ECC, whose members have long been involved with site maintenance and landscaping, was asked to develop a landscaping plan. Our interdisciplinary group includes an architect, a tree farmer, an ecologist, several environmentalists, a U. of I. Master Gardener, two local residents and myself. My job has been to facilitate idea generation, to research various things such as local history and ecology, and to organize and write up our proposal, which is centered in the philosophy of reconciliation ecology: we are planning as much for ecosystem health and non-human species habitat needs as for human use.

Now that we have written the proposal, we will begin the next stage: making drawings and developing a timetable for projects. Luckily, while we are doing that, we can restore the existing hedgerow, a remnant of old-time land management practices.

This is the first part of an occasional series, about this hedgerow project in particular and about hedgerows, fencerows and mixed shrub borders in general. 

Related Posts:
A Day in the Country

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pollinator Garden Resources on the Web

Now that those of us in the northern hemisphere, much of it snowbound, are planning for, dreaming of, impatiently awaiting spring, I hope we are all planning to make our gardens ever more pollinator-friendly.

My own impatience was somewhat relieved this week when I visited the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago's Lincoln Park, a large, greenhouse-like space where the visitor can sit among and watch over 75 species of butterfly from around the world fluttering among tropical plants and basking on sunny flat surfaces. But then, of course, I had to tromp through the snow and get back on the subway for home. Back to dreaming! 

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is my favorite go-to source for pollinator information. They have great down-loadable fact sheets that include regional plant lists, so gardeners can plant local for local pollinators. I just ordered their new book, Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America's Bees and Butterflies, and can hardly wait for it to arrive.

Celebrating Wildflowers, sponsored by the U. S. Forest Service, includes all kinds of pictures and information, including a "pollinator of the month" feature. Gloria at Pollinators Welcome posted a link to the page on squash bees when she commented on my rant Let's Talk about Bees.

Two go-to blogs for me are Clay and Limestone where Gail Eichelberger is doing a weekly pollinator series, and Restoring the Landscape with Native Plants, where Heather Holm frequently features interesting insects. Both blogs have marvelous photos, great for identification. As a non-photographer, I admire those who have mastered this skill--and their products.

Lastly, I really like it when plant information includes faunal associations. I check Dr. John Hilty's Illinois Wildflowers whenever I wish to learn more about a native plant I'm thinking of adding to the garden.

Related Posts:
Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide
Let's Talk about Bees
The Polyculture Lawn: A Primer 
Time Off
Do Your Backyard Plants and Animals Display Phenophases?
How to Help Our Wild Native Bees

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Two Classic Accounts of Living with Nature

A Place in the Woods and The Inland Island
One recent evening my husband dropped a book next to me on the couch and said, “here’s something for you to read.” One way he shows his love is by bringing me things to read. He, himself, tends to read big, weighty biographies of outsize men—Churchill, Lyndon Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt—as well as other history and analysis that seeks to explain our politics and wars and how we got in the mess we’re in.

The book was A Place in the Woods, which he’d seen posted about at UpNorthica, a site devoted to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. He and I share a love of northern Minnesota’s rocks and trees and water. We also share that common urban fantasy of somehow going to live in a place where you don’t have to drive to get to the woods, where the living earth is not constrained by the urban grid, and taking a walk doesn’t involve crossing streets.