Tuesday, June 10, 2008

In defense of an unkempt yard

Thanks to all of you who let your thoughts be known over at Wallet Pop.
After all the broo-haha, I walked out in the yard with my camera to try and see it objectively, see it as a stranger would. Honestly, I couldn't find fault with it. I love it the way it is, and it's staying that way as long as we live here.

There are layers and layers of things to discover out there. It might be a new dragonfly skimming the prairie grass as it waves in the breeze. Or a swallowtail is investigating the Dutchman's Pipe in the "messy" corner, looking for a good place to lay her eggs.
A hawk might be waiting patiently in the "waiting tree", for a mouse or vole to peek out of the overgrown tree line separating us from the sweet elderly neighbors to the southwest (those neighbors grow the juiciest veggies, and share them with us every summer...you think they hate us?).

I stood in the prairie and took a picture of the house, to show everyone what the yard really looks like:
House and yard from the prairie
(The black and orange dot is Nellie trying her damnedest to carry her basketball to me)
Anyone see anything wrong with the yard?

Then I walked out to the middle of the yard and took a picture of the "BAD, BAD PRAIRIE".
Prairie from the yard
Our neighbors to the northeast are also elderly (and two of our three neighbors live outside the subdivision, and they both owned at least part of the land that the subdivision is now standing on). The prairie ends at our fence, and the neighbor's yard has a nice, open space until you get to their house.

No worries about adding mice and snakes to their property (mice and snakes like overgrown areas...which is the whole reason we added a prairie)
We actually WANT rodents and insects and reptiles. Feed the raptors, they will be more than happy to stick around and continue the pest control for you.

Hooper and the prairie
(Gratuitous picture of happy Hooper, in front of the prairie)

If you want to make your yard a haven instead of a sterile monoculture, go check out National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Habitat page. It's easy, it's cheap, it's fun, it's good for the world, one yard at a time.

Enlisting the help of your neighbors can increase your efforts...I drew a simple diagram of four houses, with their shared corners as the focus of their backyard habitats:

Neighborhood yard plan
*Don't laugh. I'm no Zick.*

Just so you don't think that all I can think of is my prairie, here's a shot of one of the blue million cicadas that are drowning out the bird song, scaring my children and generally messing up the place:

Cicada in the crabapple
Please just mate so you can die and we can be rid of you for another 13-17 years...okay?

Do yourself a favor and go check out this video about the 17-year cicada invasion
(Brood X, larger and scarier than the emergence we are currently experiencing as Brood XIV). Though the little buggers are annoying and weird-looking, the video is very well done and captivating.

By the way, the feather from a recent post was from a Great Horned Owl. Finally, physical evidence that they are here! (And using the prairie, ahem.)


Anonymous said...

Okay, Smarty, I think it is time to 'fess up.

It is quite obvious to someone with a trained eye, such as The Swami, that the diagram of the shared habitat is the product of weeks of work by a team of landscape architects.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Nice post, Susan!

But sorry the cicadas are bothering you. They DO make a racket, don't they?
I have the species here whose song is like a sprinkler set on pulse. I've never heard anything like it!

But just think how happy your insect-eating birds must be!

NCmountainwoman said...

Lovely yard. What a special place for the girls to learn more about nature.

We have cicadas to the east, west, and south, but none here. I love hearing them, but only for short periods of time.

Owlman said...

I want to add some native prairie grass down the one side of our yard. What grasses would you recommend to attract birds? I'm in NW New Jersey, so I would need to put something in that's hardy. We back onto farm property and we have split rail fencing so prairie grass will be a perfect addition.

Personally I think your yard rocks, although I can see that some people will consider it untidy. I say let them have their sterile opinion and move on; life is too short to fuzz with stupid people who don't get it and never will. They are on the other side of the fence and as long as they stay there we’ll all be happy ;-)

Joy said...

It's beautiful. Amazing how planting the right things can bring all kinds of creatures to your yard. We've got an invasion of ladybugs (yay for the roses!!), we get teeny tiny baby praying mantis every spring, there's a snake living in the wood "wall" out back. We even had a black widow last year. She was so lovely. The hawks swoop through and pick off our fish in the pond sometimes. Baby mockingbirds were learning to fly for the past two weeks. And the hummingbirds. Oh my. They are hysterical. I vote for backyard habitats myself. Now if I could just get an owl to decide our yard is the best place for it to live. I'd like one of those tiny burrowing owls to make a burrow in the hill in our backyard. My life would be complete...

BTW, I found a flight feather from a Great Horned Owl down at the stables where I board my horse. It is incredible. They are massive birds, huh?!

Mary said...

Susan, I love your prairie. I read Buttercup's comments and enjoyed your rebuttals but didn't have time to add... Time ain't on my side lately.

I live in a community that requires neat, tidy lawns. What they see in the front of my house is neat and tidy. Tee-hee. What they don't see in the back of my house are snakes, birdshit, raccoons, overgrown wild raspberries, raptor kills, and every native flower and weed imaginable. A GORGEOUS mess, in my eyes. And I'm damned proud of it. A natural wildlife habitat, just like yours, but I don't need to apply. I know it's there.


LauraHinNJ said...

We're on the same page Susan - enough said!

I wish my yard were big enough for a prairie - but I have a pond instead!

dguzman said...

Good lord, ol' Buttercup needs to get a life. Jeff's original post was so good--he admitted his fear about angering the neighbors, then focused on the savings and even the benefits of this tiny strip of wildness. Then Buttercup tees off on him, calling him a jackass. Wow.

I'm sure glad I don't live anywhere near suburban hell and can mow or not mow as I see fit. Hell, the survivalist a couple houses over hasn't mowed since 2001!

Kathie Brown said...

Susan, I haven't been here in awhile but I always see your comments on other blogs you visit. You crack me up and I think you would be the best friend in the world to have. Good luck with your prairie. I salute you and your efforts. If I was your neighbor I would be right on board with you! We'd be prairie neighbors and watch birds, bugs and raptors all day long! Oh, and I also like snakes. BTW, I'm adding you to my blogroll!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Susan,
I think your yard looks great. Have you certified through NWF yet? And how about a Monarch Waystation certification too? I have certified for both in my backyard. It's great fun and good justification for people who don't think your yard looks "neat." now I just tell them it's a certified wildlife habitat.
Who has all that time to mow anyway when there are so many birds and butterflies to watch?