Even with the gardening season right around the corner, the thoughtful gardener will still always find time to read, dream of and ponder the natural world around us.
After reading about global warming via the lengthy series of New Yorker articles excerpted from Elizabeth Kolbert’s acclaimed recent book Field Notes from a Catastrophe, documenting the progress of Global Warming, this gardener sought out a course of personal action via Sara Stein’s Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of our Own Back Yards, a book about turning away from the formalities of trying to force your garden into a “template” of the perfect English garden and learning to look at your yard as a small portion of a larger wildlife habitat and natural ecosystem.
Start looking at your fences as hedgerows and your lawn as meadowlands. Your tree planted near your neighbor’s tree, becomes a miniature woodland, all places with their own long evolved natural balances. Of course I lack the square footage on my little piece of the city to really do it up in style, but my small lot does have its advantages. Less real estate means less mowing, less raking up, and less earth to turn and plant. More time to enjoy.
Another advantage of the small will soon coming our way via a change in the way the city assesses wastewater usage fees. Seattle Councilmember Richard Conlin’s enewsletter explains how drainage rates are headed up, with the city taking into account the amount of planted trees we have per lot plus the size of our property when determining sewer bills in the future. Installing those curious and moderately unsightly drainage systems that your neighbor has with the giant brown pickle barrels will actually be a money saver with SPU as well as rescuing one’s environmental conscience. Sounds like folks with more water running off their property-think your neighbor with the paved front-yard will be charged more than those with less hard surface exposed to the rain.
Moving from flora to fauna, in her recent book, Silence of the Songbirds, Bridget Stutchbury raises awareness that songbirds are vanishing at an alarming rate — a fact easily confirmed by this writer on a recent visit to the house of a friend with two new young cats, both in their adolescent years, eager to begin their hunting careers. It seems that the common housecat is a significant danger to our migrating songbirds.
But despair not bird lovers; perhaps there is hope for the city birds yet in the form of Seattle’s newly appearing urban coyotes, tracked via the Google mapping software on the Google map site nwcoyotetracker. Turns out that there is nothing an urban coyote enjoys more for dinner than a tender housecat — or is this really the truth?! The site offers sighting information all over Seattle and lots of background on the animals’ behavior. Perhaps nature can even out the playing field for those songbirds after all.
Which leads to the end of this trail, wondering along with Alan Weisman in his new much-touted book The World Without Us, what would happen without us? Birds or cats or coyotes? Lawns or meadows?
For now we are still with the world and spring is upon us; enjoy its many natural splendors!