Sunday, November 25, 2018

Holiday decorations

I have had so many posts here over the years about traveling during the holiday season, enjoying new experiences, and honoring the traditions of others around the holidays.

Here is what I was thinking about this evening.  On my new blog: Places of the Spirit.

Please come follow me there, as I share my thoughts (on a daily post commitment) or just drop by occasionally. Thanks for being part of the community.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Being grateful and practicing gratitude

I’m not always thankful enough.

But being thankful and counting blessings is fundamentally what Thanksgiving is about for me. It’s not been about family or friends, although they’ve been part of past Thanksgivings — but definitely about gratitude for what we have and where we are in the world.

I shared a post from nine years ago on my sister blog, Places of the Spirit, this afternoon.

This is the post I shared.

It's about being aware and noticing our blessings.  And I remember the folks who are no longer with us.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Another ginkgo post

I posted about ginkgos (again) on Places of the Spirit, so am linking that post here.
I've included links to many of the past posts about ginkgos that I've made on this blog over the years -- ginkgos are such great tree with a wonderful story.

Nov. 15,  2016
This year, the small tree in front is much yellower already, more like last year, although there are still ginkgos in the neighborhood that are completely green.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Wildlife in the garden

I'm currently revising and updating a favorite presentation (Gardening for Nature/Gardening for Wildlife/Creating a Garden that's Full of Life) for the Blue Ridge Eco-Gardener program at the NC Arboretum.  Their course satisfies a Wildlife and Garden credit for their certificate program. 

I've always focused on encouraging habitat and plant diversity (especially natives) in urban, suburban, and rural gardens (large or small), with the goal of restoring as much ecological balance in our landscapes in all of the versions of this presentation I've done over the decades.

But having a class with a more general title (Wildlife in the Garden) is giving me a fresh opportunity to reframe the benefits of ecological balance and diversity in our gardens, for a group of participants who live in a diversity of places in Western North Carolina.  Some live on mountain ridges, others in the urban landscapes in the Asheville Basin, and yet others in the open agricultural landscapes near Hendersonville -- with lots of other sorts of places, too.

The landscape that you start with is an essential part of the mix, of course.  What's around the property?  Is it forest?  How "natural?"  Is there farmland nearby?  New subdivision?  Old subdivision?   Is the landscape conventional tree and lawn?  What kinds of shrubs and trees?  Ornamental? Native?  What are your neighbors growing?  Are there sources of water?  etc.  These situations influence all sorts of things:  from the kinds of wildlife you may be able to enjoy watching in your landscape to the ones that you may wish to discourage!

Some of the most sterile landscapes I've ever seen are gardens full of ornamental plants that offer little in the way of food or habitat -- no flowers producing nectar, no native plants with leaves that provide food for a variety of wildlife, no shrubs with edible berries, etc. 

Not my kind of garden, nor one that satisfies any goal of doing anything more than producing some CO2 (it's still better than concrete and stone!)

A paper wasp nest
 Watching a Carolina Wren and a Tufted Titmouse forage for the larvae in this paper wasp nest on the porch roof this afternoon pleased me.  We don't bother active nests (unless they're next to a frequently used door) as the wasps do beneficial work in the garden -- and otherwise don't interfere with our activities.  (Yellowjackets are another story).

location of paper wasp nest

I believe strongly that we need to recreate and strengthen the ecological frameworks of our landscapes, communities, and neighborhoods to keep our cities and towns healthy and vibrant places for humans and wildlife.  I've been following habitat loss since I was a young plant ecologist, teaching classes on People and the Environment and doing research. 

I became an advocate of gardening with native plants and encouraging people to be gardeners as an antidote to just being gloomy about the state of the natural world;  it seemed more helpful to encourage people to plant a diversity of native plants and grow their own vegetables than to keep lamenting about loss of habitat.   Two Natural Gardening posts that came up doing a label search for "sustainability" were telling.  I've been thinking about these things for a long time.  Here was one on Sustainable Gardening and another on Gardening as Stewardship

I could just as easily have written them today.




Thursday, November 1, 2018

BearWise basics: co-existing peacefully with black bears.

I hadn't been aware until hearing a Backyard Bears program last Sunday how strongly the black bear population had rebounded in North Carolina;  this range map tells the story.

From a low of 1500-2000 bears in the 1970's, there are now close to 20,000 bears in our state.  So more bears and more people mean that we're more likely to interact, so we need to learn how to better co-exist responsibly. 

With an acorn failure at higher elevations in the mountains this summer,  many more bears than usual have been in spotted in urban Asheville, where I live, particularly in neighborhoods that don't usually see bears in the summer.  They're looking for food and being unfortunately "rewarded" by the easy pickings available in our trashcans, dumpsters, bird feeders, pet food bowls, and recycling containers.

Yes, they may also take advantage of the abundant acorns in the urban forest, or occasional fruit-bearing trees or shrubs, too, but the easy pickings are the unsecured "unnatural" foods.  Bears are adaptable and smart. But they're also normally shy and wary of people; we don't want them to lose their fear of people by becoming accustomed to unnatural human foods.

The neighborhoods in the mountains and more rural communities located in more typical bear habitat are used to bears and securing their trash, not so much in our central neighborhoods near downtown, where we normally might see just a few single males wandering through in spring or early summer.  (I wrote more about bear sightings this summer and fall on a previous post in Places of the Spirit.)

I was so impressed with the Bearwise program (and website) which the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission takes part in, that I'm planning to distribute their literature and outreach materials to some of my neighborhoods and include their recommendations in upcoming gardening for wildlife programs.

Black bears are NOT inherently dangerous to humans and black bear attacks are extremely rare, in spite of what you might "hear."  Black bears often walk through rural and suburban neighborhoods looking for food; ; if food and garbage are secured, they'll keep on going.  According to the BearWise site, bears that get unnatural foods may eventually lose their fear of people, which can be a risk to public safety.  Also, don't confuse grizzly bear behavior with black bear behavior.  They're quite different animals.

So, here are the BearWise basics:


I'm planning to learn a lot more about black bear ecology and their habitat requirements;  as a biologist, albeit a plant one,  I'm inherently interested in promoting living harmoniously with wildlife as much as possible.

The ecological framework of our planet is dependent on these interconnections, after all, and as  forests slowly came back across the Southeast (and the Eastern U.S., too), post widespread logging in the late 1800's and early 1900's,  and as abandoned farm fields turned back into forest, bear habitat came back as well, so their numbers have also come back.

More about black bear ecology to come!


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