Monday, March 30, 2015

Speak Up, Speak Out

I'm going to keep speaking for the voiceless -- those species and organisms who no longer have or never had a voice in our consciousness -- no matter the cost. From grouse to prairie dogs, beetles to milkweed, I draw the line knowing what that means, what I will lose. If you believe in climate change, if you believe in extinction, if you believe we have a direct and powerful hand in this, you know you must speak up, too; as you know your action must follow that powerful voice. Fight for prairie. Fight for the last stand of blowout penstemon. Fight for the last prairie dog. Fight for the last sentence that makes us equal to the beauty and purpose of every organism. Oh, you'll have to develop a thick skin, but the stakes could not be higher. Don't lose face, don't lose sight, sit in the garden at sunset and feel the silent depth wash over you as if you were riding down your own last day on this earth. Dream the impossible dream -- that we all have the equal right to exist, that we all depend upon one another, that we are all beautiful and an imperfect perfection... every stem, every bloom, every burrow, every cloud, every kiss, every touch. Rise up and love in defiant compassion for all that we negate through our closed-off culture.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Blessing of Snow Geese in the Garden

A weekend ago I met with some design clients and secured a job. As we stood in their backyard a line of snow geese slid across the sky. After lunch when I got home I headed out front to tinker on a small bed I'm re-working -- line after line after line of snow geese moved northwest for 10-15 minutes. Two groups were bunched up tight in the distance, as if they were balloons just let go from a lake a mile or two away. As they got high enough into the thermals they began to form lines and pointed themselves toward those groups that had recently passed them above. Their calls don't pierce the air so much as reconfirm the presence of air and wind and distance and time. Are they calling "here, here here" or "there, there, there?" Are they encouraging one another? Does it matter to me, a human, trying to force my shallow terrestrial understanding, beliefs, sensibilities, and cultural language upon? Everything has a right to exist, and we have no right to say or do otherwise if we value who we claim to be in our best moments -- full of love, hope, forgiveness, and equanimity. Yesterday the geese were a blessing and a gift, and I think in some ways a confirmation of who we are meant to be.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Ultimate Pollinator & Native Plant Gardening Guide

I'm celebrating 2 years of Milk the Weed with the nerdiest, awesome-ist list of links on butterfly and pollinator gardening I can come up with. It's certainly not a complete list, but I hope it's helpful to you as both a practical and philosophical guide. Time to make a profound change in our landscapes; time to connect in a deeper way to our home ground and ourselves through the web of life that sustains us.* Prairie up! 

Milkweed Profiles

12 U.S. milkweeds in depth from the National Wildlife Federation. 

Milkweed species by state as listed by Monarch Watch.

Total milkweed guide -- how they get pollinated, pics, ranges, how to propagate.

Everything you ever wanted to know about milkweed. Period. From The Xerces Society.

Collecting and growing milkweed from seed courtesy of Beautiful Wildlife Garden.

Milkweed / Monarch Issues

A rundown of all the key topics, with links.

Conservation photographer Joel Sartore takes action and prairies up his Nebraska farm.

How monarchs use milkweed, from toxicity in certain species of milkweed to butterflies self-medicating. 

Can milkweed be bad for monarchs?

The loss of monarchs is a loss of far more

How the farm bill hurts monarchs via High Country News.

Native Plant Guides by Region -- Go Beyond Monarchs, Feed the Ecosystem

Pollinator Partnership 

The Xerces Society

Native Plant Gardening

The ethics of native plant gardens.

Non native plants may be ecological traps for wildlife.

90% of insects will only eat and reproduce on plants with which they have an evolutionary history. 96% of songbirds feed insects to their young. Songbirds are vanishing at 1-3% per year. Follow the link

How to find the right plant for your landscape.

6 native plants that beat butterfly bush for the wildlife draw.

15 native flowers to help native bees. Further, why we need more native bees and fewer honey bees.

Gardening for climate change.

Many native plants, especially those found in prairie or meadows, will perform worse in rich garden soil. From ASLA.

Where to find native plants in your state.

How to start a native plant garden, from Wild Ones.

Landscaping with native plants, via the Minnesota DNR.

Designing Gardens for Monarchs and More

Native plant garden strategies from Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens.

Garden by ecoregion, not hardiness zone. 

Butterfly gardens 101.

Creating monarch habitat, from Monarch Joint Venture.

What monarch butterflies taught me about garden design.

Gardens must go beyond beauty and address climate change, wildlife loss.

Books to Inspire Sustainable, Ecosystem Wildlife Garden Design

Bringing Nature Home -- Dough Tallamy

Last Child in the Woods -- Richard Louv

Pollinators of Native Plants -- Heather Holm

Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden -- Jessica Walliser

The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden -- Roy Diblik

Taming Wildflowers -- Miriam Goldberger

Field Guide to Wildflowers of Nebraska and the Great Plains -- Jon Farrar

*Your garden is a protest. It is a place of defiant compassion. That space is one to help sustain wildlife and ecosystem function while providing an aesthetic response that moves you. For you, beauty isn't petal deep, but goes down into the soil, further down into the aquifer, and back up into the air and for miles around on the backs and legs of insects. You don't have to see soil microbes in action, birds eating seeds, butterflies laying eggs, ants farming aphids -- just knowing it's possible in your garden thrills you, it's like faith, and it frees you to live life more authentically. Your garden is a protest for all the ways in which we deny our life by denying other lives. Go plant some natives. Be defiantly compassionate.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Native Plant Gardens -- Why Are They Sometimes Hard to Embrace?

A native plant landscape is not an attempt to "return to some past, pure nature." That's impossible, especially with climate change (and philosophically it's wrought with ideological problems -- this environmental lit PhD knows). But the wildlife that need native plants and their ecological communities have not gone away -- they certainly can't evolve within decades or even a century to our imported plant gardens. We're doing our best to make the wildlife go away through unprecedented mass extinction, though, and yes primarily in ways beyond our gardens; but our gardens are entry points into those larger ways / landscapes.

I can point to research that shows we'll lose 30% of global plant species in coming decades, that the U.S. has unprecedented losses of songbirds, that kids growing up today will see 35% fewer butterflies and moths than their parents did 40 years ago, that specific native bee species need specific native plant species to complete their reproduction cycle, that one of the most endangered global ecosystems is prairie and that prairie is great at sequestering carbon and creating darn rich soil, yet it doesn't seem to hold sway.

Are we too entrenched in what we believe, or where we're from or how we were raised and the inherent values of those circumstances? Are we too far removed from a relationship with nature that doesn't need our hand in it, and thus would redefine our interactions with it? Are we selfish? Are we unwilling or afraid to confront the repercussions of our actions, especially when it comes to private landscapes? In America, are we uncomfortable with gardens having meaning beyond aesthetics or for personal use? How much of our sense of Western entitlement and freedom is at play?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Winter, I Hardly Knew Ye

I'm sad to know the last of the garden's snow will melt away this weekend. I cherish the seasons. I especially cherish winter. There is nothing more profound or connective than sitting outside while the snow falls all around -- it is the most perfect and deep silence that strikes the loudest chord in me. I cherish the cold, the thin air that carries voices and howls beyond their natural reach. I honor the slick ice that glazes berries and seeds. I am humbled by the life that sleeps in every nook and cranny and the life that persists out in the open as I hide in my house. The lesson of winter is lost in the rush of spring and the din of summer -- that to be awake is to live in the echo of every season's glory simultaneously.