26 September 2008

What will you do?

Shane and Sarndra just before they went home yesterday.

I was interested to read in the Why are you simplifying? post that several readers said they wanted to look after the planet, especially their own piece of it. While I believe we never really own the land we purchase, I do firmly agree with the idea of looking after the land we live on. The concept of looking after your land is firmly rooted in our psyche. When our ancestors went from the hunter gatherer phase into the domestication of animals and agriculture, their ability to produce food on the land they lived on meant the difference between life and death for them.

Maybe it's coming back to that.

Think of the difference it would make to our planet if we all cared for the piece of land we live on. I'm not just talking about producing food on that land, but I do include gardening. I mean instead that we get rid of weeds and chemicals from the land, we provide habitat and water for wildlife and instead of stripping our land for the house we build, we leave space for indigenous trees and plants and save some of the natural vegetation. We need to be encouraging reptiles, mammals and birds to our land and hope that they make it their home too. In my own country, our beautiful Koala is in trouble because the trees they favour as food are being cleared to make way for more housing. You can still see Koalas in the wild if you care to look for them, but they're becoming a rare sight these days. Imagine a world without Koalas! I hope I never see that day.

So what can we do? We should start where we are and work our way out.

Have a look in your back and front yards and see what's already there. Do some research, this is a great project for the children, to find out what used to live where you live. If those animals and birds aren't already extinct, find out how to make your land a place they would like to live and do that. Make sure your pets can't stalk the wildlife and keep your cat inside at night. Slowly, you may be able to attract your local wildlife back.

In Australia you can do surveys to find out what birds live locally, or migrate through your area. Hanno and I are currently taking part in a nation-wide bird bath survey. We are counting the number of birds that visit our bird baths, noting the amount of time they spend here and what birds they interact with. There are similar surveys you can sign up for at the Birds in Backyards site. Here is some information about making homes for Australian lizards. If you know of any wildlife surveys in your own country, please let me know about them and I'll add the links to this post.

We can also help by buying pure breed poultry instead of the common brown chooks bred for the caged poultry industry, or if you're on a farm, keeping the pure breeds of sheep, goats and cattle.

Once your own patch is as good as you can make it, move to the street you live in and maybe nearby parks. Pick up any rubbish you see and make sure you never add to the problems in your neighbourhood.

Never let anyone tell you there is nothing you can do. Start with your own home and work out from there. Be proactive and find out what you could do to help your own community. Even if it's picking up rubbish on the street, educating your children about local wildlife or making your own backyard a refuge for birds and smaller critters, it is significant and worthwhile work. No one else will come along and offer to do that work on the land you live on. It is up to you, my friend.



  1. I will never cut down the huge trees in my suburban yard regardless of how many leaves they drop every fall. I have complete strangers (tree cutters) come to our door asking if we want to cut them down - no way! And, yes we do get wild life as a result and a beautiful collection of birds. I would not want it any other way.

  2. I often pick up other peoples litter in the forest here. I dont feel as mad as I used to I just pick the damn stuff up and take it home. Best wishes ftom Brittany France.

  3. Rhonda what a lovely post to end the week on. I am about to dig up the grass under our fruit trees and plant a carpet of living mulch and some flowers to attract the bugs, i am sure even here on five acre blocks one of my nighbours will stop and ask me why i am planting clover - just like they stop and ask me why i do everything I do in the yard!!! So I ahve a stack of green harvest brochure to give out no words just a friendly smile and a here you can read all about it.

    We are lcuky enough to have two endangered species living on our little patch of the world. One just loves setting up residence in the house for a month or so at a time - they are very cute and not destructive just really really noisy at night!!!! The other is a tiny,tiny little thing who lives with here with loads of her friends. Both eat bugs and they only reason they are here is because we don't spray our bugs or our home with chemicals harmful to bugs, yes we ahve the odd cockroach wander through - but it is rare for something not to eat them before they get to breed.

    If I may warn you all when you complete these surveys be really vague about where you live exactly and never give them your name if the boffins think something is endangered they want to tag it and track it and in doing that they sometimes cause more harm to the population than good. We have had emails demanding that we immediately tell people where these critters are. We just go off line for a month or so.


  4. Just thought I'd like to tell you I cooked your banana bread and butter pudding tonight and it was gorgeous. Hubby said he'd like it a bit sweeter next time, but that's no problem. Thanks for a great recipe and for your continuously helpful and informative writing.
    Best wishes Attila (UK)

  5. We moved to a half acre piece of land a little over a year ago and I was adamant about not cutting down any more trees than necessary. Most of our neighbors have no trees in their yard and I can not understand the reasoning behind it! But I do what I can to encourage birds and other wildlife to visit our yard. We live along a creek and I love all of the wildlife we see!

    I am hoping to put in a nice garden in the Spring. I tried to grow tomatoes this year, but they didn't do well. However my morning glories and sunflowers were beautiful. :) I don't use any chemicals in my yard, either, for I don't want to harm any wildlife.

    I have lots of dreams and plans of all kinds of things to do on the home front, but I have to take it a step at a time and do what I can as finances allow. Your blog is a constant source of inspiration for me. :)

  6. Hi Rhonda,
    We are in transition at the moment with our housing situation. We sold our house & are renting. I love gardening and can't wait to have a huge vegie garden going. Last week I planted in pots lettuce, baby spinach and a few herbs. I don't know how long we will be renting for so at least it's a start. Have you heard of the diggers gardening club in Victoria? www.diggers.com.au . I purchased a one year subscription for my mother in-law last christmas. I think they are wonderful in what they are trying to do in the way of preserving heirloom seeds and plants. The prices are really reasonable too. The general information about caring for your piece of the planet is excellent also. I think I shall hint to my hubby about getting me a subscription for christmas!!
    Thankyou for your wonderful blog. I love to sit down with my toast and coffee and read your posts before I start my day!
    Take care and God bless

  7. We enjoy attracting wildlife to our yard. We've had bird feeders up for a while (long before we started our flying creatures study as our homeschool science this year) and many birds come to enjoy our pond. My boys get such a thrill out of seeing them. We have plenty of other visitors as well - rabbits, armadillos, raccoons, turtles, and so on. I wouldn't be thrilled to find an alligator in our pond, but I know it's a real possibility at any time. I'm less than thrilled about the venomous snakes around here though. LOL Especially the water moccasins that make a home in our pond.

    Sadly, the state of FL is close to losing the Florida panther forever. It seems roads and buildings are far more important than this majestic creature. *sigh*

    You also mentioned cutting down trees ... my husband would love to get rid of all our pine trees. I, on the other hand, have been begging him to leave them alone. He was told by firefighters back in May to cut them down if we could (this at about 2am in the morning when we were running frantically around our yard stomping out burning cinders from a wildfire that was threatening to consume our neighbor's home and jump the road into our property). He was really anxious to do just that for a while, but I am hoping now he has forgotten. :o)

  8. What a lovely post. Whenever I mulch or add compost to the garden, I like to think I'm doing just a tiny thing to make my patch of ground a better place. (Now if only I had the inclination to go out and weed....)

  9. Hi Rhonda,
    I just discovered your blog a couple of days ago and already I am hooked! You write beautifully and provide so much wonderful information for those of us who wish to lead a simpler, more meaningful life. My husband and I live in the U.S. - in Colorado, and we recently purchased 9 acres of rural mountain property that we hope to make our permanent home soon. In our current city neighborhood, it's not uncommon to see foxes and deer running down the street, and we have lots of squirrels, birds and butterflies that visit our yard. Our country property has the same visitors, in addition to wandering cows, bears and antelope and the attitude of the people in that county is one of preservation - of the land as well as the wildlife. We hope to build a home and live totally off-grid, in harmony with nature and our "children" of cats and dogs, and maybe goats and chickens one day. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us in blogdom!

  10. coincidence; I just posted something that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote many years ago on this very topic. It is at http://chookiesbackyard.blogspot.com/2008/09/from-laura-ingalls-wilder.html
    I haven't responded to your why-simplify thread yet because I am still thinking about it.

  11. I'm Texan with a good deal of Cherokee (Native American) blood on my mother's side. We were raised to respect the animals of the world and also to respect plant life, and the earth itself. I have always loved birds, and feed different varieties of them at different times of the year. We have a bat house and after a few years, I think it's been discovered because we've seen a few more bats lately in the area of the house. We mulch our grass cuttings and have used fallen leaves in our compost pile. We have always tried to avoid cutting down trees but last December (our winter) we had a major ice storm that basically paralyzed the area for weeks and we lost quite a bit of tree limbs. We wound up taking two trees down because they were so badly damaged and would have fallen, probably on our home or our neighbors. We haven't had a garden in a few years but will probably start one next spring. I have a barrel to convert to a water cachement system, which I will work on very soon. We started recycling as much as we can in our area a couple of years ago. We have reduced the amount of paper products we use and now I'm working on reducing the amount of plastic we use since very little of it is recyclable in my area. I am sure I'll find other things to do.

  12. My apartment faces a large nature park where there is a walking trail, woods, meadow and creek. I feel a deep sense of kinship with this place...so much so that I make it my responsibility to look after the park, even though the city maintains it. I pick up litter whenever I walk, and I call the city if I see things that to be taken care of.

    Making this small effort helps me feel as if I am making a difference in the world.

  13. hi Rhonda, we love to have birds in our garden,we have a bird bath & feeding table we have nut feeders and seeders to encourage them in.We love to watch them bathing on mass and love the happy chatter in the mornings. Our hedges are growing nice and thick now so more birds are roosting in them now, maybe we'll get some nesting next year,I hope so.We have a bit of a wild corner round by the shed where we let the nettles grow and have nasturtiums self seeding there every year as the caterpillars love them and so do the bees and butterflies.

    This is a really good site for people in the UK


    you can get lots of info how to make space for nature and take part in bird count surveys too.I'm sure there was abutterfly and ladybird count too earlier this year.

    I love the picture of Hanno with the dogs :)


  14. We have a 1 acre block of land that we purchased in 2001 which we are starting to build on next year, and will be finally moving down there by Christmas 2009, something we are both really looking forward to. We have lots of trees already on the block and have planted many more. We also some native Australian bushes which we hope will attract more than the current crop of crows, magpies and cockatoos that are there. We also feel extremely fortunate as we have a small group of wrens (I think it's the males that are blue at certain times of their lives) and they are such sweet little birds. We get so much pleasure when we are there just watching the birds doing their own thing! My husband mowed the grass last time we were there and that encouraged some of the younger magpies to catch the bugs - the young ones are so inquisitive when he is working there and he just loves that! I am really looking forward to our move next year and hope to further enhance our lives by simplifying even more!

  15. I'd like to share two related links posted by Mother Earth News. I think they are relevant but delete them if you don't want them.

    Simpler Living

    How to Make Fruit Sauce

    And a joke. I hope no one minds. i thought it was funny and seeing how you raise chickens I thought you might think so too.

    John was in the fertilized egg business. He had several hundred young layers
    (hens), called ‘pullets’, and ten roosters to fertilize the eggs. He kept records, and any rooster not performing went into the soup pot and was replaced.
    This took a lot of time, so he bought some tiny bells and attached them to his roosters. Each bell had a different tone so he could tell from a distance, which rooster was performing. Now, he could sit on the porch And fill out an efficiency report by just listening to the bells. John’s favorite rooster, old Butch, was a very fine specimen, but this morning he noticed old Butch’s bell hadn’t rung at all! When he went to investigate, he saw the other roosters were busy chasing pullets, bells-a-ringing, but the pullets, hearing the roosters coming, could run for cover. To John’s amazement, old Butch had his bell in his beak, so it couldn’t ring. He’d sneak up on a pullet, do his job and walk on to the next one. John was so proud of old Butch, he entered him in the Renfrew County Fair and he became an overnight sensation among the judges. The result was the judges not only awarded old Butch the No Bell Piece Prize but they also awarded him the Pulletsurprise as well. Clearly old Butch was a politician in the making. Who else but a politician could figure out how to win two of the most highly coveted awards on our planet by being the best at sneaking up on the populace and screwing them when they weren’t paying attention. Vote carefully this year, the bells are not always audible.

  16. I agree with what Otter Mom...being half Arapaho/Choctaw I was also taught to honor the earth and her creatures. Every living thing has a spirit and we must stop and listen to them. When you are out in nature and are still, you can here nature speaking to you, be it thru the wind rustling a leaf, the water as it flows. Being so still you can hear the wildlife as it moves along...but most of all you can hear your own heartbeat and realize that all life is always flowing around you. That alone will open your eyes to the realization that no one owns the land, it is a gift given to us to cherish and to honor.
    Blessings from Oregon!

  17. Otter mom - I actually LIVE in a bat house! Leastways, the bats think it's their home, and we think of it as ours! We agree to compromise, though I'm none to keen on meeting one on the landing when I pad to the loo in the middle of the night : )

    Sage whiteowl - I know just what you mean. I think of it as feeling the spirit of the place. Feeling the energies, noticing the gradual shifting of the seasons through the wild flowers and trees, just standing and looking, becoming part of the scene. We are fortunate to live in a very rural area, and have the Brecon Beacon mountains just a few miles away.

    Rhonda - we have always grown our vegetables on the organic principle. No poisons for us. We have 5 1/2 acres, and although it has been grazed by our horses, there is still plenty of wildlife on it - badgers, rabbits, pheasants and partridge. Buzzards and Red Kites soar overhead; smaller birds live under the eaves (keeping the bats company!) and visit our nut nets in the winter. We have a wildlife pond and a bigger fish pond, which attract frogs, toads, dragonflies, damselflies, water beetles, newts etc. The Buddleia trees attract the butterflies, and the nettles and willowherb (I have plenty) are food for various butterfly species. We have our own woodland too, and it provides shelter, a home for lots of native species of bird and insect, and on occasion, firewood too.

    We are the present custodians - I hope that whoever lives here after us carries on caring for our land as we do.

    How sad for people to be so out of touch with their surroundings that trees are being needlessly felled and habitats for all manner of creatures destroyed, especially the Koalas . . .

  18. My mother instilled in me the knowledge that we are all connected. If you kill of one creature, eventually you will kill of yourself. It is a lesson I have taught my own son and I hope he will teach his children one day.

    So many of my neighbors kill every snake that comes across their paths, but then they complain about having rats and mice. Of course, in their opinion, I am the cause of the rats and mice because I haven't clear-cut my yard. They fail to see the connection in our world. Oh, and we only have one or two poisonous snakes in our area, most are just good ratters!

    For a time I drifted from the path I was taught. Now we raise off Monarchs and Swallowtail butterflies, feed hummingbirds, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and opossums, and work to plant native as much as we can. I have to cage up my produce, but it's worth it to watch the antics of these silly animals!

    Hang on to those pine trees Flamom, I know they are a pain for fires, but we lost so many to pine beetles after hurricane Ivan and I miss the creatures that called them home!

    Hope you all enjoy your day!

  19. Question: In the first pic - why does your dog have two heads?

  20. What a great post! Last year 4.7 acres came up for sale behind our 1/2 acre lot and house so I bought it. I know it was a little overpriced but the one thing my stepdad who was a lifetime farmer always said was never to pass up on buying a piece of land.
    That 4.7 acres is changing nicely. It's full of swamp white oaks and choke cherry trees and unfortunately too much buckthorn, a nasty invasive species.
    But the wildlife is starting to come back as we found someone who was using a red-tailed hawk to illegally hunt back there. Looks like we have an eagle nest now. Small game is doing well. Many deer live in there too.
    We have cut down many trees that are invasive or junky but make sure to leave some dead standing trees for wildlife.

  21. Quite agree.

    If we each took responsibility for our "little patch" and regarded ourselves as stewards of the Planet for that tiny bit that is near us....then that alone would improve things a lot. I am certainly learning to be aware that its a 2 way process "living on the Earth". I, for instance, forage for what food I can from the Earth - but, in return, I do my bit to clear up rubbish, etc, left by "the others" (ie the ones who dont give a ......).

  22. Hi Rhonda,

    Thanks for the lovely post. It was timely for me as I was overjoyed yesterday and today to observe a wild rabbit hanging out in my back yard. We moved into our inner city house just over a year ago. The yard was nothing but concrete, chain link and a little patch of lawn with all the ambience of a SPCA kennel. Even sparrows didn't come to visit. I've only had one season of planting trees and shrubs, removing chain link and concrete and building raised garden beds but the results have been satisfying. We're still a long way from our vision of a lush organic oasis, however the arrival of that rabbit put a big smile on my face. It's late enough in our gardening season that the rabbit won't cause much harm to our veggie patch. This morning I dug up a few carrots and left them out for our very special visitor.

  23. Great post. I am so excited as I have a new batch of lizards , I saw a little baby lizard this morning in the garden. Keeping water and feeders my birds are flourishing. By planting flowering plants near the garden I actually am developing a wonderful variety of insects. It is wonderful to be surrounded by life.
    I do not spray either.

  24. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    Another great post ,close to my heart!
    Being the 5th Generation to live on our Homestead we have lots of trees old as well as newer trees. (We live in the woods.) we have a field with sunshine for gardening.
    We have a wildlife Habitat here. We make sure theres food,water,and shelter . I plant flowers to attrack butterflies, bees.
    We compost, we put food out for wild life. We rock on the porch and sip a cup a..and watch wild life at play.We have racoons, deer, chipmonks, squirrels,possums, birds of all sorts, , hummers,owls, whopper wills,woodpeckers, Butterflies, bees, lady bugs, spiders , lizzards, tirpins,
    can't remember all. We have several cats that people set out.I don't know how anyone could set out their pets.Our Boxer welcomes each one:o)
    Hope you have a wonderful wk.end!

  25. Unfortunately we had to cut down the trees in our yard, with permission of course. They weren't planted in the best places, one was very tall with a very thin trunk, gained because it struggled to find the sun it also leant towards the house. The other was full of borers and finally died. I do have a couple of fruit trees but would prefer at least one local native.

    We do have breeding blue tongues around us and often come across their offspring - mostly after the cats have found them first. I have relocated a couple of the healthy ones to local bushland, they have more of a chance there.

    Recently I saw a possum on my fence for the first time ever. I've lived in this house for 7 years and also the first 23 years of my life was spent on the same property.

  26. Koalas are in danger? I can't believe it, they are so cute. :-( As you understand they aren't a part of our wildlife, but I wouldn't want to live in a world without koalas either!

    We welcome wildlife to our back yard, though we are a bit cautious about snakes and scorpions.


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