People used to come in to Natureworks and complain about woodchucks saying “why do they have to eat all my vegetables? I’d be fine if they just ate some and left some for me!”
Every fall I feel a kind of sadness that spring and summer are done. It’s profoundly silly, though, because everything cycles back, and winter has so many benefits.
Gosh, is there anything more cliche than thoughts brought on by the moon and night sky? Well here are some.
If you grow a yard like this, I think you will fall in love. Spending hours and hours watching the land, interacting with it, and seeing what happens as a result connects you very closely with it. You may never want to leave it, and you might find yourself thinking about it all the time. (See full post below for progress photos)
I do something with five friends that we call a craft circle. We don’t make anything at all. We are people who care about what’s going on in the world but are too busy to write to our legislators or educate ourselves on different issues, so we carve out an hour a week to do so together. (I highly
We had a woodchuck and a rabbit in our yard and I'd like to share how we gardened in a way that allows them to live with us. But come on a little philosophical journey with me before we get into the tips.
I have long believed that my gentleness is weakness. I wear work boots and dress androgynously to look tougher than I am. But at work I don't like doing things like driving trucks onto grass because I see insect holes in the ground and I know how bad compaction is for the roots of plants. There’s a White man who lives in my head and scolds me when I’m being gentle with nature. “Dig that dirt, don’t look at what’s in it. Cut those plants, don't worry about what they are, they’re in our way.” This man speaks with the voice of the world I see around me; fast moving, rough, unsentimental.
But I’m not like that. And I’m beginning to put aside my humbleness and realize that gentleness like mine is not wrong. It is, in fact, what we need to protect life on this planet and stop the tailspin towards extinction.
I’ve been reading Native American thought books lately and they’ve been opening my eyes to White ways of thought I hadn’t even considered. I had just assumed that the attitude towards nature that I'd absorbed from our dominant culture was the only way to look at things. But you can ask a tree whether or not you can cut it down and listen to the response (a bird nesting in it might answer “no”). You can acknowledge that living things exist in a democracy of species with all creatures being equally as valuable as humans.
Which brings me to the woodchuck and rabbit in our yard. I have seen neither around for a few weeks, which genuinely makes me sad. Yes, the woodchuck ate our peas and broccoli, and several kales. Yup, it frustrated us for a moment, but these are native animals on this land and vegetation is their food.
Many gardeners are furious at woodchucks. On Facebook gardening forums, people recommend shooting them, often with a joke in the same sentence. But that's not funny. If you casually advocate shooting something that's inconveniencing you, how many steps until you're recommending removing or killing people who are in your way as we've done in our colonial history? Other people trap woodchucks and bring them to a piece of our vanishing wilderness that is not their home. If that's not colonial behavior, I don't know what is, because it's exactly what we did to Native Americans who lived on the land we wanted to live on. People who remove woodchucks in this way are often sheepish when they describe what they've done. If you're slightly embarrassed about it, then you probably did harm. There are things I've done in the yard that I am not proud of. I'm working towards causing no harm. It's a process and we can all work towards becoming more gentle.
We have gobbled up most of the wilderness, leaving creatures nowhere to live but next to us. And now we say they can only live there if they do not eat? That is not fair and we have an obligation to share our space with them.
The following are tips on how I’ve shared our food with garden visitors.
I miss our woodchuck. My extra collard patch grows tall without him but my heart aches when I think about where he could be and whether he was forcibly removed.
On Sunday, when Adam and I found out that people were protesting in New Haven for police reform, we didn't really think twice about going, pandemic or no. We joined a crowd at the police station. There were informal speeches for a while, then there was commotion, and someone on the bullhorn asked white people to go to the front. In our current system, which needs to change, White people face less risk of injury, arrest, and death from the police, so a line of them blocking the Black protesters provides some safety.
I found myself linking arms with strangers as we pushed towards a line of police. In a moment I can't forget, the officers before me reached for the heavy weapons on their belts. The metallic taste of fear filled my mouth. I really did not want to get shot or beaten that day, but there was no question in my mind that I was in the right place, doing the right thing. I felt the symbolic weight of what I was doing; physically embodying a commitment to be uncomfortable in order to defend the lives of others.
When the crowd eventually pushed back and the police relaxed, I looked around me. I was definitely on the older side of the protesters, and I wondered if I looked like a frumpy lady from the suburbs in a sunhat. Probably. But that didn't matter. In fact--good. That's who should be at these protests. White people of every demographic must be visible in their demand that police violence must stop. In fact, I will go so far as to recommend that White people actively put themselves in the position to be harmed in defense of Black people. It is hard for White people to comprehend fearing our society; fear is not written on our skin, in our histories. Putting ourselves in positions to feel that fear unlocks an empathy that I think will transform our society. The fear is not written in our skin, but we can write it in our memories, in our feelings. And then take steps to abolish it forever.
Here is a picture of some land at dusk that has been relatively unvisited today by the human who loves it.
And that’s fine. Plenty of other creatures are enjoying it.
I just wasn’t into it today. I had low energy and some puzzles are confounding me to the point of inaction. Where to build my proper compost pile? What to do with all the bare soil around the planted trees? (I know that bare soil attracts weeds and erosion. My current plan is to apply biochar to kill the invasive jumping worms, a thin layer of compost to add life to the soil, and then do a stale seedbed. That means allowing weeds to germinate and grow a tiny bit, then wiping them out and putting in desirable seeds/transplants. It depletes the seed bank and leaves the coast clear for preferred plants to grow. Way too long of a comment for parentheses.)
I just didn’t feel like doing anything out there today, and at times it bugged me, but I have made my peace with it. Not every day will be spent outside, as much as I’d like to.
In other news, I was absolutely delighted to see Chickadees nesting in a birdhouse I put up. It is on the fence to the left of this photo. I put it near a shrub because I’ve noticed that birds like to land somewhere before they enter their house. I will move the bird feeder closer to it. The feeder is full of great sunflower seeds but no one ever eats from it. I don’t understand. It is right in the middle of the lawn, so maybe birds don’t like the exposure? I’m not sure. Maybe the Chickadee family will enjoy it.