Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane, co-author Rainy Day Thought, where they write about experiences, ideas, nature, creativity, and culture. The latter might appear at times political, but we will try to avoid partisanship to speak to the broader issues that impact a culture. This is just too important a time not to sometimes speak to problems that impact society. As she and I do, readers will find we often disagree and have for over 50 years-- still able to be close friends. You can do that if you can be agreeable that we share more than not despite the difference.

Diane posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome as it turns an article into a discussion, but must be in English, with no profanity, hate-filled comments, or links (unless pre-approved).

Fantasy, the painting by Diane Widler Wenzel, cropped a little to fit the needs of a banner.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

what we can do

 wildflowers-- blue flags

Lately my weeks do not have a pattern to them. There are, of course, those things I must plan-- like getting my teeth cleaned. That requires scheduling. Same with doctor appointments, but generally I can pretty much do what I please. That doesn't mean lie around and eat bonbons, but I guess I could if it was what I wanted.

I remember years, when I had very planned weeks with kids in school and work schedules I had to weave my life around. Today I have freedom to make of my day what I choose. I am captain of my fate-- most of the time. 

As a creative person, I love the freedom to let a day take me wherever it will. My one constant is to write regularly-- but about what can vary quite a lot. Having been a stay-at-home mom, I learned long ago to be disciplined in work. There are always the unexpected additions that can turn a week from what I might have expected to something totally different.

A few weeks back on our little ranch, we began photographing bees. There is something wonderful about watching bees go for pollen. While they make our apple trees more prolific, they also are making honey. I shared those photos here (go back a week or so if you didn't see them). Bees are something I'd have once taken for granted but no longer.

The article is pretty good about describing what is happening and some possible choices we can make-- for instance not removing all the weeds we could nor using insecticides without realizing that they kill more than nuisance insects... and incidentally what did we think the birds were eating if it's not insects?

I've seen farms on my way to town where they are pulling out what used to be hedgerows, brushy zones between their fields where the wild roses and wildflowers put on a show. Wildflowers are regarded as weeds by those who only value dollar signs. I am sure those farmers are good people but have to be thinking-- wow, another acre if we get rid of all of this unprofitable brush. They probably also figure someone else will save ground for the bunnies, birds, lizards, snakes, and insects. It's always someone else who needs to do it, isn't it?

For all our talk about climate change, the risks we face if the oceans rise and become less saline, we are doing a lot of the damage to our immediate environment with our demand for dandelion free yards, with the love of these big landscapes of mowed grass, and spraying detrimental insecticides all around our homes. I recognize some areas need lawns. It's culturally expected. Those people can compensate for the lawns not being particularly helpful to birds and insects by adding those plants that are.

Years ago we went to a seminar in Corvallis where the speaker was talking about Jesus from the perspective of historic or mythic. He spoke one evening about his interest in the environment by ending lawns on his property. It made total sense to me. The next summer, we restored our front yard to natural environment by plowing it up, putting in a natural waterway (helps a lot when we have too much rain coming off the fields), and planting four trees (actually five but a buck broke one off by rubbing his horns on it). 

The past of that yard carries with it many memories. I remember well how for figteen years I mowed it, finding different patterns to make the job more interesting. Today it's a natural looking landscape as if it had always been this way.

Then a few years later I got the idea of fencing in a veggie and flower garden area next to the house and then giving the sheep the rest. That took a lot of work from Farm Boss but eventually we had it as we do today. Fenced personal space and sheep just beyond. I love it, like hearing them so close, but also they do a neat job on making the lawns look mowed. 

 looking toward our home from the gravel road
If we don't let the sheep be anywhere too long, the weeds, the grass, the shrubs, all benefit from their presence. (the bird feeder had to be moved up for reasons obvious in the photo below).

 below the house and above the creek

Managing range land is part of a rancher's job-- and in this case turning our lawns into pasture benefited them and us. We haven't mowed a yard in years which means no fuel used and a natural environment around the home-- mostly free of poisons... (I swear men do like their sprayers).

 large swarm- more photos earlier this week

So after the individual photos of the bees, we then had the joy of seeing a large swarm that landed in our pear tree for a few hours as their scouts went beyond to find a new home. Generally this happens when hives divide. The old queen takes off when the new queen is ready to take over responsibility for the old hive.  Where we live, what they are looking for are hollow trees. 

The first big swarm took off after a few hours in the pear tree. The next day a smaller swarm landed there. We are not sure if the pear tree is big enough for them but we'd be delighted if it was. Evidently when hives divide, it can involve several stages.

 small swarm

We would love it if the smaller swarm can find our pear tree to be a proper home. Either way we hope they find healthy ground on which to live. 

We don't believe in monoculture. We plant many varieties of shrubs and plants to provide feed for the bees and butterflies. It's the least we can do for insects that keep us in food. It's a good thing for us all to remember next time we reach for an insecticide. Sometimes there is nothing we can do. In many situations, there is. 

Will our small changes be enough? Well like so many choices being made in our culture today, it might not; but at least we will know we did what we could for the small things. In nature's big picture, we're not as important as some of us like to think.


Tabor said...

We only work on trying to keep our lawn lush about once every three years and then it slowly goes back to moss, crab grass, and that beneficial clover. We do have a serious tick problem and neighbors on both sides have gotten Lyme disease or a version of it. Therefore, meadows are out, unfortunately.

Rain Trueax said...

I agree, Tabor. We have to be realistic about our habitat. We also have to fit in with neighborhood rules for front yards. Some ban having a front yard veggie garden. No point in getting a fine for trying to be environmentally proper.

Lyme is nothing to take light. In the south it's chiggers that can make an outdoor barefoot walk into something highly unpleasant. We also cannot allow a feisty yellow jacket nest right near where we have to go through all the time, like gates in the barn area. Once Farm Boss gets stung, tolerance gets balanced with physical health! And bees can prove dangerous to those sensitive to the stings.

Rain Trueax said...

I thought you showed how your yard could provide the habitat and plants they need and still look very traditional. I almost put a link to it here but since I hadn't asked you, I didn't. Anyone though who is curious can find it by going to your blog :)

Rubye Jack said...

I like this idea and see no problem with vegetable gardens in the front yard. When I was a kid we had a corner lot and a giant front yard that was pretty and green but never used.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

I love that you and Farm Boss are always trying to encourage and protect our little but very important insects from extinction....Whatever we all can do makes some difference in our immediate surroundings. It is better than doing nothing at all, and even better than not caring one way or the other. I won't let my gardener use any insecticides in my garden. He has to find natural substances to control whatever needs some controlling.....

That picture of the swarm is Amazing!! I hope the small group take up residence in your tree....!