The Grasses are Alive and Teeming with Wildlife

Reader Contribution by Blythe Pelham
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For more information on natural landscaping and municipal ordinance compliance, read this previous blog post

I can tell you very distinctly how much better it feels to be doing away with my beautiful long grasses this year versus 2 years ago, because I feel it so deeply in my heart and soul. While I still heartily hope for a time when my grasses can stand tall and wave freely in the breeze, I am glad to have had a chance to move more slowly and deliberately without the physical assault of mowing.

On one level, it feels good to be proceeding intentionally with as much purpose and choice as I can muster given a leisurely 5 weeks of action. The hurry-up-to-comply in less than 2 weeks that we had to endure last time kept both my husband and me in a state of fear and anxiety. My mistake then was in actually assuming that presenting the Council with my ideas and vision would seem reasonable enough for them to be persuaded. Because we know the process this go-round, I chose to give my outdoor family members their best chance of survival.

Truly the deepest and most important piece to me as we worked toward compliance this year has to do with the thousands of critters I hoped not to kill as I significantly altered their habitats. I cannot begin to tell you how much better I felt as I crept along, sending all the hopes and energies I could muster for my wildlife to scurry off to safety. I spoke both silently and aloud as so many wee ones scrambled across the cardboard I laid down upon the life-giving grasses.

The photos above show just a hint of the diversity and variety of wildlife living in my mini meadows. Most of our cohabitants move much more quickly than my camera or I can function, so I apologize for the limited collection. I witnessed hundreds of critters during this process and I have no doubt that there were countless others far more interested in hiding than becoming an easy-pickings bird meal atop the plain brown surface covering their former homes.

I worked just as hard to mentally let go of the anger that I had for having to destroy such a life-giving habitat. Someday I want to be allowed to maintain native grasses that must seem like beautiful stands of forested land to my outdoor family members. Those that survived have either escaped to some other open feeling space or are living in what must feel much more like a cave. I know that many of the spiders have moved into the straw since I can see their webs in the early morning dew.

As I worked, I saw mostly arachnids and insects. I listened very carefully for baby birds and mammals, but heard none. I did find one abandoned mouse nest, though I saw no mice. I have no doubt that the hundreds of living creatures I did see only touched the surface of what lay beneath. I actually lost count of the juvenile mantids I relocated after numbering30 or so. I admit to killing the Japanese bean beetle who surprised me with his presence. There are very few animals I kill intentionally — bean and potato beetles are among those. If I had chickens, the beetles would at least be nourishing someone directly.

After I finished covering most of the mini meadows with cardboard and straw, I treated myself to 7.5 hours of hard labor overhauling the Sacred Fire Circle. Imagine my glee upon finding a lovely little garter snake huddled between some of the pavers temporarily parked there (see photo below). I quickly identified her before relocating her to a much safer spot. Since this was obviously a young snake, I had fun imagining her siblings living around the rest of our garden.

Aside from a thoroughly peaceful state of being that I feel when walking the pathways between my mini meadows, it gives me such pleasure to see the abundant life that lives within them. There are likely thousands of beings coexisting in these tall, living forests. Many of them use the tops of the grasses, especially the fireflies in summertime. I also love that bees, birds, and insects find nourishment in the flowers and seeds. I mourn that they are having to adjust to the loss — as am I.

Maybe it’s because I walk so in one with nature that I feel such connection with all the inhabitants of my garden—plant and animal. I can only hope that more and more people come to realize the great balance there is to see and experience. The insects nourish themselves on the plant life (and one another), the birds nourish themselves on the abundant seeds (and insect life), the plants are nourished by the dung from so many of the insects, and we are nourished by the fruits of the garden. Truly seeing the circle of life in action gives me such pleasure.

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find Blythe online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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