The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Bird Paradise Brings Blue Jay To Feeder.
Exponential Effect of Diversity


I switched to cracked corn to lower the cost of birdfeed. Finches devour sunflower seeds. The house finches are cute, but paying for their dates, when they feed the female in their courting rituals, adds up. They scoop through the seed to find the best to offer.

The first bonus was seeing the Blue Jay show up at the window. He is still pretty shy, but his size and coloring are just as remarkable as the Cardinals', who now treat our yard as their clubhouse.

I stood at the backdoor and looked out to see the birdbath area. The sun was shining but a storm was on the way. Grackles, Blue Jays, Starlings, and other birds were in and out of the baths, preening, fussing for a position, and searching the ground for food.

The birds have verified their love for perches all over the yard. In the background I could see a Robin searching for food by hopping up on low perches.

Plant Diversity
Originally I wanted to have the rose garden filled with roses, but now I see the value of having many varieties of plants among the roses. The roses dominate, but they enjoy rest and food stops for beneficial insect plants nearby:

  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Bee Balm
  • Monarda
  • Cat Mint
  • Mountain Mint
  • Spirea
  • Wild Strawberries

I am seeing the benefits of avoiding all sprays. As Joel Salatin says, the plants and animals get healthier with diversity and toxin-free growth. I can compare my almost perfect roses with the black-spotted ones down the block. There the various sprays have made the roses weaker, weedier, and therefore more prone to blackspot.

Because plants delve into the soil and mine various minerals, according to their species, a mix of plants will do more for the micro-nutrients provided through leaves dropping and rotting. 

How this fits into God's plan is all too obvious when observed over time. The rose garden slants down to the street, which is good in some ways. But I want as much rain stored in the yard as possible, which means water infiltration. Mulch holds water, but plant roots send rain and watering down into the soil, with very little runoff.

Buckwheat is cheaper than cyprus mulch - about $2 a pound. The plants take on their distinctive leaf formation and bloom all at once - tiny white flowers dear to butterflies, bees, and beneficial insects. Their web of roots are now holding mulch down and sending rain into the soil. 

Cover crop research shows that more plants mean less drought effect, and we do have drought here, even after springs with a foot of rain falling in one storm. 

As if to say thanks for all food and shelter, birds plant favorite foods in their bug and worm hunting areas. An obnoxious thistle will be yanked out before it seeds, but small, shallow-rooted weeds get to stay. Wild Strawberries are welcome, and Dutch White Clover is considered a prime ground cover, nitrogen provider, and bee zone.

If we look at the Creator's carefully engineered works, we realize how we have been trained to hate what is good. "This weed-killer will eliminate all the dandelions, violets, and clover in your lawn." Dandelions are herbs that behave well and serve the garden. Violets feed a particular butterfly. Clover is an all-around champion.

My next two neighbors routinely curse moles and threaten to blow them out of the soil with various dangerous devices - not that they do. I reply, "They mix the soil for us." One person said, "They eat all the earthworms." Actually, they eat  insect pest grubs and earthworms, and their earthworm collecting is beneficial in many ways. For one thing, removing them gives the worm eggs remaining a chance to grow a new population. Secondly, moving soil and earthworms is a free distribution device. A team of gardeners could not do what a tiny mole accomplishes.

Fritillary Butterfly - Violet Gazette

I have been planning on inexpensive ways to populate the Wild Garden with something more than Pokeweed. I had some violets growing near the fence and they always popped up again through the mulch. Now I see this invasive wildflower has invaded the Wild Garden. The violets are the home base for Fritillary Butterflies.

Now, why am I going on about butterflies in the Violet Gazette? It is because the violet is the food plant for Fritillary butterflies. The adult butterfly takes nectar from milkweed, coneflowers, thistles and many other things, but the eggs of Fritillaries are laid on violets and the larvae feed on the leaves. 
I am thinking of a mock campaign - Stop the Violets! If people do not listen or read carefully, they will donate to this important and life-saving cause. "Will you pledge a mere $50, $25, or only $10 a day to end this plague?"

I find this amusing because, in the course of reading about beneficials of all types, one writer said, "For goodness sake, protect your violets, because they alone host the young Fritillaries." I remembered that name from my mother's butterfly hunting days. "Hmm, I should see to that." One day I have leaf-mulch carpeting the Wild Garden. The next day I have swath of violets growing. "Invade away," I thought.

Do I have butterflies and all the important plants for them? Yes, I do, so we also have them flying around all summer. Like the pest-eating insects, the butterflies need plants for the adult stage but are very particular about the plants needs for the young. The deplorable plants are often the best for all kinds of beneficial insects, including the much admired but often neglected butterflies.

America's investment in lawns means that a vast host of fascinating birds and insects are locked out of yards by:

  1. Neatness - no place to overwinter, no place to raise the young.
  2. Monoculture - few creatures live on grass alone, especially when it is doused with chemical fertilizer, weed killer, and insecticides.
  3. Rototilling the soil, as if one machine in the garden will outperform the earthworms and fungi that were churned away by the sharp blades.
  4. Poor water infiltration, caused by one set of roots, especially when the fertilizing fresh grass is bagged and thrown away.
On the human side we can see that a group of people leverage production by their various gifts. The task of writing a book is made much easier by a team working together. Adam Smith called it division of labor, which may indicate his observation of the Creation.