If you build it, they will come

One of my favorite anecdotes in Gaia’s Garden was the Bullock home. In perhaps one of the most inspirational moments of his book, Hemingway chronicles how they revitalized a marsh and enjoyed several seasons of tasty cattail shoots from the wetland until one year a family of muskrats moved in and, being good little rodents, in short order had reproduced and eaten their cattails down to inedible nubbins. Being permaculturists, they chose not to remove the muskrats-more would just move in anyways. Then the next year they had another set of visitors…otters! By the end of the year the otters had moved in to stay and reduced the muskrats to a stable population with the end result that the wetland was now sustainable and they had not only beautiful waterfowl to watch while they ate their cattail shoots, but also muskrats working and otters playing. They had healed the land.

Earlier this year our gardens were exploding with vibrant life to our immense satisfaction. Then the locusts descended like a biblical plaque. Ok they were grasshoppers and I am no Pharaoh, but the trauma to our plants was painful and real. Spraying wasn’t an option, so we bought the kids insect catchers to make some lemonade from our lemons. Then the most spectacular thing happened-we got frogs! As Mia has posted, several leopard frogs made our gardens their home and soon after the grasshoppers began to decline. Gaia had rewarded our patience! A few weeks later we began seeing voles as we turned some of our beds. I made some predictions of what the logical conclusion of plentiful frogs, voles, and our new prairie habitat, but never really thought they might come true.

This evening after picking a bountiful harvest of veggies (6 varieties of tomatoes and peppers!) I went to stroll down the tree line of our small prairie and something much larger than the usual grasshoppers went rifling through the tall grass. As my eyes tracked up I caught a fleeting glimpse of a beautiful 3′ garter snake. We had done it! Not since I was very young had I seen a snake in suburbia, and now my children will have similar memories. Granted, I had no issues with the frogs and frankly hope they prove hard to catch, but building an ecosystem in our suburban backyard well enough to attract a midlevel predator is something I am proud of.
I finally feel I deserve that National Wildlife Federation plaque at the gate to our backyard yard!

2 Responses

  1. And who could be more thrilled than I? Oh, just about anyone. The kids and Beo were thrilled to high heavens. I don’t mind snakes so much, as long as he stays in the prairie he’s relatively welcome. My frogs better get hoppin’ though. Will the snake eat grasshoppers? If he eats garden spiders he can invite his friends. Well, he’d have to eat garden spiders AND grasshoppers then… *sigh* Nature.

  2. Speaking of backyard habitat (and very large spiders)… we’re on the same wavelength again.

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