Month: December 2017

Going Native

From the N.C. State University Going Native Project:


There are many benefits to using native plants in your landscape — for you, for your community, and for wildlife.


With habitat disappearing at an alarming rate, you can help provide wildlife with an oasis of the habitat they need to thrive.  The native plants that you use can meet the needs, including food and cover, of native wildlife without causing long-term damage to local plant communities. With the right diversity of native plants in your urban landscape, you can provide:

  • Protective cover for many animals.
  • Seeds, nuts, and fruits for squirrels and other mammals.
  • Seeds, fruits, and insects for birds.
  • Nectar for hummingbirds and butterflies.
  • Larval host plants for butterfly caterpillars.

Prevent Introduction of Invasive Plants

The use of only native plants in your landscape helps limit the chances that potentially invasive, exotic plant species will be introduced into the environment around your home.  Many of the invasive, exotic plant species present in the South’s natural areas today were introduced as landscape plantings many decades ago. Continued introduction of new exotic plants into suburban landscapes will result in many new invasive plants in the future.


Many native plants produce showy flowers, abundant fruits and seeds, and brilliant fall foliage. By planting native plants, you will have a beautiful yard that is friendly to wildlife.

Low Maintenance

Native plants generally grow well and require little care when grown on proper soils under the right environmental conditions. By choosing the right native plants, you may be able to use fewer pesticides and less water.


As more people use native plants in their urban landscaping, it adds to the available habitat for wildlife and benefits the community as a whole.  Going native helps save our natural heritage for future generations.

To find out how you can get started, go to How To Go Native.


The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy amidst the simple beauty of nature. …I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.

Anne Frank

Flake by Flake

The First Snowfall

THE snow had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.

Every pine and fir and hemlock
Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
Was ridged inch deep with pearl.

From sheds new-roofed with Carrara
Came Chanticleer’s muffled crow,
The stiff rails were softened to swan’s-down,
And still fluttered down the snow.

I stood and watched by the window
The noiseless work of the sky,
And the sudden flurries of snow-birds,
Like brown leaves whirling by.

I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn
Where a little headstone stood;
How the flakes were folding it gently,
As did robins the babes in the wood.

Up spoke our own little Mabel,
Saying, ‘Father, who makes it snow?’
And I told of the good All-father
Who cares for us here below.

Again I looked at the snowfall,
And thought of the leaden sky
That arched o’er our first great sorrow,
When that mound was heaped so high.

I remembered the gradual patience
That fell from that cloud like snow,
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
The scar of our deep-plunged woe.

And again to the child I whispered,
‘The snow that husheth all,
Darling, the merciful Father
Alone can make it fall! ‘

Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her;
And she, kissing back, could not know
That my kiss was given to her sister,
Folded close under deepening snow.

James Russel Lowell


I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

Henry David Thoreau–Walden, or Life in the Woods

Jan Ingenhousz

Today we celebrate the birthday of Jan Ingenhousz (08 Dec 1730-07 Sep 1799). Ingenhousz was a Dutch biologist, chemist and physiologist who invented a device for generating static electricity, made quantitative measurements of heat conduction and more importantly discovered photosynthesis in plants. He was also an early proponent of variolation, specifically inoculation against smallpox by the injection of small amounts of the live virus into patients. He did this by pricking the skin with a needle that had been dipped into the pus of an infected patient’s wound. In Vienna (1768)  he inoculated the family of the Austrian empress, Maria Theresa and stayed on to serve as the court physician.

Back in London in 1779, he published Experiments Upon Vegetables, Discovering Their Great Power of Purifying the Common Air in Sunshine, and of Injuring It in the Shade and at Night. Previously, the English chemist, Joseph Priestley, had shown that plants restore to the air a property necessary to but destroyed by animal life. Ingenhousz found that light was necessary for this restoration (photosynthesis), and that only the green parts of the plant actually performed photosynthesis. He stated that all living parts of the plant “damage” the air (in respiration), but the extent of air restoration by a green plant far exceeded its damaging effect. Essentially, his discovery was noticing that oxygen was produced in sunlight by leaves and that carbon dioxide was produced in darkness.

And that discovery eventually led to Biology 101, Botany 201 and Plant Physiology 301 at your local institute of higher learning . . .

The Closing Circle

[Barry] Commoner is best known for his four “laws of ecology”, which he outlined in the first chapter of The Closing Circle. These are:

1) Everything is connected to everything else;

2) Everything must go somewhere;

3) Nature knows best; and

4) There is no such thing as a free lunch.

The first law states what Commoner called “a simple fact about ecosystems” – all healthy ecosystems are interconnected and self-stabilising: if any part of a natural ecosystem is damaged or overstressed it can trigger far wider problems. For example, the burning of fossil fuels is overloading the global carbon cycle, which in turn is triggering dramatic changes to climate, global ice cover, weather patterns, ocean acidification, farming yields, sea levels, government budgets and worldwide refugee figures. Any society that ignores Commoner’s first law – that everything is connected to everything else – invites ecological and social turmoil.

Of the second law – everything must go somewhere – Commoner said: “One of the chief reasons for the present environment crisis is that great amounts of materials have been extracted from the Earth, converted into new forms, and discharged into the environment without taking into account that ‘everything must go somewhere’. The result, too often, is the accumulation of harmful amounts of material in places where, in nature, they do not belong.”

Commoner’s third law of ecology – nature knows best – is not an example of naive, green romanticism, but a rejection of what he called “one of the most pervasive features of modern technology … the notion that it is intended to ‘improve on nature’”. Rather, he said: “Stated baldly, the third law of ecology holds that any major man-made change in a natural system is likely to be detrimental to that system.”

Commoner said he borrowed his fourth law – there is no such thing as a free lunch – from economic science: “In ecology, as in economics, the law is intended to warn that every gain is won at some cost. In a way, this ecological law embodies the previous three laws. Because the global ecosystem is a connected whole, in which nothing can be gained or lost and which is not subject to overall improvement, anything extracted from it by human effort must be replaced. Payment of this price cannot be avoided; it can only be delayed. The present environmental crisis is a warning that we have delayed nearly too long.”

Simon Butler–Green Left Weekly, October 4, 2012

A Messy Garden

I took a pledge today (Habitat Network at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) to keep a messy garden during the winter for my native wildlife habitat and the pollinator species that frequent it. Really this was an easy one, because I already do most of these anyway:

  • Leave your leaves on the property.
  • Allow dried flower heads to stay standing in your garden.
  • Build a brush pile with fallen branches instead of removing them.
  • Forget the chemicals.
  • Leave snags on your property.
  • Delay garden cleanup until spring, after several 50F days, allowing overwintering pollinators to move on.


Spring & Branch & Creek

Below the high divide water issuing

from vertical rock gathers itself &

becomes a branch … darting here

& there … lingering in ornate asides

as eddies that spiral one way coming

& the other going in defiance of the

Corialis … shining in sunlight &

darkening in rain … moving on …

gravity flowing … seeking confluence

at a prong or a fork & becoming a

creek …  pursuing its own syntax

to the ocean despite enjambments

encountered along the way.

George Ellison

Change of Attitude

The change of mind I am talking about involves not just a change of knowledge, but also a change of attitude toward our essential ignorance, a change in our bearing in the face of mystery. The principle of ecology, if we will take it to heart, should keep us aware that our lives depend on other lives and upon processes and energies in an interlocking system that, though we can destroy it, we can neither fully understand nor fully control. And our great dangerousness is that, locked in our selfish and myopic economies, we have been willing to change or destroy far beyond our power to understand.

Wendell Berry–A Continuous Harmony


To a Butterfly

I’ve watched you now a full half-hour,
Self-poised upon that yellow flower;
And, little Butterfly! indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless!—not frozen seas
More motionless! and then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again !

This plot of orchard-ground is ours;
My trees they are, my Sister’s flowers;
Here rest your wing when they are weary;
Here lodge as in a sanctuary!
Come often to us, fear no wrong;
Sit near us on the bough!
We’ll talk of sunshine and of song,
And summer days, when we were young;
Sweet childish days, that were as long
As twenty days are now.

William Wordsworth