The hegemony of chemically green lawns… we need a new kind of beautiful

This is why I feel strongly that biology and landscaping need to intersect to create a new kind of beautiful for homeowners.

“If you’ve got just lawn grass, you’ve got nothing,” said Mace Vaughan of the Xerces Society, a leading organization in insect conservation. “But as soon as you create a front yard wildflower meadow you go from an occasional honeybee to a lawn that might be full of 20 or 30 species of bees and butterflies and monarchs.”

Read on: The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear  (New York Times)


I’ve always thought of the ocean as the last frontier of pristine territory on earth. Boy, was I wrong.

There is a strange place in it, North of Hawaii, a place that living things of the seas avoid. It’s a "10-million-square-mile oval known as the North Pacific subtropical
gyre…. The gyre was more like a desert—a slow, deep, clockwise-swirling
vortex of air and water caused by a mountain of high-pressure air that
lingered above it."

One man decided to explore this lost part of the ocean, and what he found there is truly horrifying. Please read the article: It’s upsetting, but we all need to know.

Geiger counter on the wing

Birds around the Chernobyl site can detect areas with lower radioactivity, and that’s where they build their nests.

Wildlife is thriving in the human-exclusion zone around Chernobyl, which is sobering. Can it be true that human activity is more destructive to animal populations than a nuclear disaster?

I couldn’t leaf things alone

Last week I noticed that the thick layer of fallen leaves was gone from the lawns around my building. The Hausmeister had taken advantage of a warm sunny day to scoop them up with his riding mower and dump the chopped-up leaves into a big pile beside one of the buildings. I found the pile, and the little gardening fanatic in me drooled. Just drooled.

Black gold, that’s what it was. The thing I’d been fantasizing about all summer while the plants in the beds outside my doors drooped and struggled, while the Hausmeister grumbled about having to water those same beds during hot spells until he finally asked me to do it. That poor, stoney, parched, starving, packed-down soil. It needed a good thick mulch and some compost, much more than I could ever hope to drag home in a bicycle cart. I had tried to start a discreet compost pile under some bushes, but was caught and asked to put compost in its proper place: In the brown bins that are emptied and taken away as waste each week. Truly, what a waste.

Continue reading “I couldn’t leaf things alone”

Neat vs. Nature

Gardeners are hard at work on the grounds around my apartment building, and I have to say I have decidedly mixed feelings about it. There are lots of jungly plots around the place, flowering bushes that over the years have grown out of control and melded into wild and impenetrable batches of shrub. The gardeners are pruning hard, untangling the impossible growth and scraping the ground around them bare of leaves and branches and other accumulated debris.

On one hand, the gardener in me appreciates the return to order, and looks forward to a nice display in the spring. On the other hand, the wildlife lover in me grieves. The birds use those little wild places for cover and nesting, and I’ve seen hedgehogs run in and out of those bushes in the dark hours of the evening. It’s a tough time of year for a hedgehog to be evicted from a warm nest.

A great man

I’m sad that Steve Irwin is gone. Of course I haven’t watched the Crocodile Hunter since I left Toronto, but from the beginning I was a hooked. In fact, with digital cable and 80+ channels, the only thing I ever watched was nature programs. And Steve Irwin’s was the best – he was a such a goof, but a loveable goof, and his passion and enthusiasm was simply irresistable. He made me laugh, and whenever his show was on everything else stopped. For that 1/2 hour I was no longer sitting in front of a TV in a stuffy inner city apartment, I was transported to wherever he was, getting to know the animals along with him.

R.I.P. Steve. You did your job.

Start eating those legs… or be eaten

I keep hearing that frogs are “canaries in the mine”, their decrease in numbers warning of imminent environmental catastrophe. So it was with interest, and I confess, some amusement, when I read about the invasion of American Bullfrogs into British Columbia.

Wayne Campbell, former chief ornithologist of B.C. and the author of numerous bird books, said he went to investigate the stories of the Cranberry Lake bullfrogs a few springs ago, and was shocked by what he found.

“There was a big bullfrog floating on the surface, dead. Turns out it had choked, trying to swallow a gosling.”

“A small duck doesn’t stand a hope in hell. They are like alligators. I’ll tell you, boy, don’t put your fingers over the side of the boat.”

Continue reading “Start eating those legs… or be eaten”