This year has been all about the yard. We schlepped in mulch for weeks, making the orchard look a little nicer. I moved trees from the pond elsewhere so they would grow better and stronger. I planted more perennials by the pond so it would grow lush and green and flowery all summer long. I planted birch and trembling aspen so I could gaze up at their small leaves as they rustle in the breeze. All of that work, all of that coddling, all of that planning did fuck all to the yard.
The weeds grew through some of the cardboard and mulch we put down (our fault. We should’ve double layered the cardboard). Those trees I moved? Only some are doing very well. The perennials are doing alright, but didn’t bloom as magnificently as I had hoped. Some died. Those beautiful trees I planted around our fire pit, hoping for a magical forest feel one day? They’re doing…okay. But, the part of the yard we ignored and just let it do its own thing? It.Is.Thriving.
Prairie grasses are growing, golden rod and chickory is shooting up from the ground. I counted 5 trees that sprouted from seemingly nowhere, laughing at me as I dutifully plant more, counting out the steps between each one. While I was planting trees and huffing and puffing through watering them all, nature was doubled over with chuckles as trees popped up everywhere else.
Instead of mowing everything down as per the suburbia dads out there, we just let 1/4 of the yard go buck wild. It paid off far quicker, and more beautifully than we could’ve imagined. We wanted to ‘naturalize’ the area, and nature knows just what to do. The fact that it already knew exactly what was needed, and all it needed was a summer to get there, shouldn’t be shocking to anyone. Except, it kind of is. One lousy summer — that’s only 3 months — without us dumb humans getting in the way and ruining everything and it’s already doing better than before.
Cattails and willows shot up in my pond, providing a safe haven for birds to rest and play tag in. My cats crouched down in the tall prairie grasses, using their cover to chase the mice that were thinking they were safe from predators in said grasses. I didn’t spend hours watering anything, saving the water for my vegetables, proving that nature can still flourish even in dry weather if we would just stop planting species that don’t belong in that region. My yard, just by ignoring it and doing absolutely nothing, looks better than it ever has. And, maybe that’s a lesson here. Humans just need to back away slowly and let nature heal herself, let her find what she needs and start to get back to how everything used to be.
We can help her along, of course, pulling weeds where they don’t belong (a lot of those already our fault for introducing plant species that don’t belong in our country), letting others — like dandelion — flourish and provide sweet nectar for bees and butterflies. A lawn carpeted in yellow looks so much better than one that’s been mowed down to 1/8 of an inch per each blade of grass. We can plant trees in areas that have been scorched by forest fires, or ruined from mining or heavy farming, helping speed things along. We can introduce native species to our yards and back into our eco-systems, allowing the plants to flourish and take over.
We can do all of this, while simultaneously ignoring large swaths of land. We humans should be happy to do so, since being lazy is one of our favourite things to do. Why not save the world from our couches?