By Ranger Steve Mueller
The joy of this past year with friends and family provides satisfaction and contentment. Immediately we anticipate what the coming year holds. We determined much of the future by our activities. Grandiose plans are forming. Some are just a start towards healthier days for our family, community, nation, and the world in fragile finite environments that support us.
Everything begins close at hand here at home. Look around and notice not much human activity takes place in yards. Most of us hide away in the warmth and comfort of our shelter with tasty food tucked away. We are like the Eastern Chipmunk that makes fewer ventures outside during late fall and we might also stay hidden inside during the coldest snowy days of winter.
The chipmunk stored food for the short days and long cold nights and is now curled in a snug ball in its underground fortress. It will remain active, eat and wait for a spring emergence. She will not hibernate but will sleep with little else to do. It has aided root health by tunneling and aerating the soil.
We do not need to sleep away the beauty and marvel of winter. We can venture to hidden corners of our yard enjoying evidence of abundant life. Tracks on snow, tunnels under it, sightings of squirrels in trees keep us entertained and aware that we do not live alone in the world.
The more native plants you allow to survive in the yard allow for an abundance of animal life. There is beauty in a manicured grass lawn and feeling of space that gives comfort to us even when it is under inches of snow. A lawn, however, is an almost sterile world that is crowding life off the planet.
Lawns often have little human activity except on workdays when we mow them with power mowers that expel carbon greenhouse gas into the air. Tom Small describes US lawns collectively as 45 million acres of “No man’s land.” It might be better to identify them as sterile land lacking suitable nature niches for sustaining biodiversity to support us and fellow inhabitants of Earth.
Small states that lawns are a vast, sterile, industrialized monoculture that robs soil of nutrients, robs streams of water, robs the region’s creatures of habitat, and robs the neighborhood of community.
It impressed me when I took a group of middle school students, including two from Cedar Springs, on an educational trip to the rain forest and rural communities in Belize. In a poor rural community, we observed women with children gathered in a yard with flower hedges along the property boundary. Neighbor’s yards were without flowers and shrubs and were devoid of people. People usually do not gather on empty lawns to visit and pass time even here in the US. We like to be among life and beauty.
During the New Year, plan to restore the yard with an abundance of life that preceded settlement of our town and rural surroundings. Most yards now use natural resources without giving back or paying it forward for the health of coming generations. We often give gifts and community support for those in need. Consider giving vital inheritance for coming generations. Squandering the soil, nutrients, air, and water quality steals economic and physical health from unborn generations. Unfortunately, beautiful lawns reduce life on Earth. Let nature into your yard this coming year and restore life. It starts at home.
The creatures that fill nature niches replenish nutrient cycles, brighten our days, and maintain clean air and water. Fellow inhabitants of Earth are money in the bank for a sustainable future. They are the savings account of our kids. This new year, plan to replace sections of the lawn with native plants to restore health in the yard. You will enjoy birds and the air will fill with the songs of nature during day and night.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at firstname.lastname@example.org Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.