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Gardening with Nature: Restoring What Once Was

I've been busy preparing and planting my vegetable garden and establishing new perennial gardens so I have to admit, it's been hard to focus on writing.  The constant rains here early in the spring put me way behind and certainly put a new perspective on things, as water always does-- being the great equalizer. Water  knows no boundaries and wears away rock, despite it's sensitive and seeming fragile nature.  When we work against it by trying to redirect or eliminate its natural boundaries, eventually it resurfaces more powerful than before.
It's sad to see what occurred along the Mississippi River area recently shedding light on the man-made disasters created long ago.  Native American homes were destroyed and families relocated, water was dammed and eventually the great powers of Nature undid what man had done and restored some of what once was.  The excessive rains have been a huge message for all.  They cleanse the Earth, bring destruction and teach us about boundaries-- both necessary and unnecessary.   
They also teach us about our emotions because too much water energy creates irritation and release of what has been bottled up.  Water also teaches us that if we do not live in harmony with this planet and stop trying to control natural existing laws of balance, inevitably we will learn the lesson.  As did those who sought to control the mighty Mississippi, a major artery creating biological diversity supporting freshwater systems throughout the region.  Unfortunately, it was the home and business owners who came later that eventually lost, not those who made the decisions long ago.
For me, the rains meant alot of things this spring.  Due to the constant rainfall day in and day out, I was unable to mow my lawn in the back yard which backs up to a subdivision put in many years after this house was originally built.  The backyard has always had more wetness and created a problem in years past in terms of mowing.  As the weeks progressed, the yard was filled with color-- first from the dandelions and later from the buttercups.  I loved seeing the vivid display of color and I began rethinking my plans for the backyard. 
I also began discussing the history of the area and what once was with a neighbor.  It turns out that there used to be a meadow behind us and those who knew this land many years prior to this entire development, said it was also once wetland.  The original neighboring properties never had water problems in their backyards until one day the plows came and that meadow behind them was gone.  One neighbor had so much water on his property thereafter, that he eventually dug a small pond to compensate.  Others put in drainage tile to redirect the water but still this spring their properties were soaked due to the massive amount of rainfall that we experienced.
The previous owners of this house never put in drainage tile so especially this year, the property was extremely wet.  An old willow tree which had absorbed much of the water in years past, died several years ago and had to be cut down adding to an already existent imbalance of water energy on this land.  The wetness creates an acidic soil when the soil is not allowed to breathe properly.  Having a constantly mowed lawn as the summer progresses does not help because the plant life is never allowed to really penetrate the soil and absorb the excess water. Growing a vegetable garden on this type of soil, is also not easy as I came to find out.
Excessive water can eventually create foundation problems around a house, basement moisture, moss growth, excessive insect problems such as ants and fleas, as well as difficulties growing gardens because the soil becomes sick and can even smell bad.  So, restoring what once was helps to alleviate these problems.  Planting water loving trees such as willows and sycamores that love to have their feet in water creates balance, as well as allowing for meadow/wetland areas on the property and creating perennial gardens (not mulch gardens with a few plants) with native and/or naturalized plants around the house all help to alleviate these imbalances of water energy.
Not only do the plants and trees absorb the excessive water, but they also absorb toxins from the soil and aerate it.  When your soil is healthier, your land and home are healthier, and ultimately you and your family will be healthier.  It stems from the ground up.  Rethinking how we do things is key to creating a healthier environment.  Recently, a local environmental corporation discussed their reasons for creating a different corporate environment where they mow less, save money and create more wildlife friendly habitats drawing a variety of songbirds that otherwise wouldn't exist on a typically mowed corporate lawn.  What they're doing is changing how corporations view what is acceptable by setting an example for how things can be done differently. 
Individual homeowners need to consider the same approach.  As more and more habitat is taken away from wildlife through development, we need to change how we do things and create more environmentally friendly home bases.  Since I've created more wildspace on this property, I have drawn a wide range of songbirds including Baltimore orioles, goldfinches, bluejays, chickadees and cardinals as well as many different butterflies. 
Last year when I created many of my gardens they were decimated by the deer because this house stands in the middle of a deer path and there isn't much wildness for them to forage on in this suburban environment.  Interestingly and much to my relief, this year I've noticed that since I've allowed for meadow areas, they are paying much less attention to my cultivated flowers and rarely do I see them eaten.  Personally, I'd rather hear birds singing than weed wackers buzzing their monotonous tones and the constant drone of lawnmowers.
"May your life be like a wildlflower growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day."  ---Native American Proverb
Bull thistle which most tend to eradicate because of their prickly leaves, actually have beautiful fuchsia colored flowers when allowed to bloom and the bees and butterflies love them, not to mention the goldfinches who later use the downy thistle to line their nests and lay more eggs in late summer.  Queen Anne's Lace, a member of the carrot family, cleanses the soil and builds long taproots to aerate and draw nutrients from bottom layers of soil.  Getting a Field Guide to wildflowers helps you to identify what's growing in your yard.  More than likely, it's probably something not only your soil needs, but also your own body, as many wildflowers are highly medicinal and edible (only make sure you know what the plant is before you eat it). 
By allowing wildflowers to grow naturally on your property, your soil is getting exactly what it needs because these plants are correcting imbalances that exist in the soil. Daisies, for instance are often an indication of soil that is becoming acidic and if allowed to grow, they add the necessary nutrients to the soil helping to restore balance and create healthy humus.  Many other wildflowers do the same.
I find it interesting that most people only find tall grasses and flowers valuable/acceptable when they've paid for the cultivated ones from a nursery.  Take a look at your landscape and see how you can work with it creatively, whether it's creating a meadow area, a hedgerow of wildness between a neighboring property or along the road in sewer drainage areas so the plants can filter out the road dust, cleanse the waters and create a sense of more privacy.  And if you're concerned about how your property may look to neighbors, you can have your property certified as wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation and place a sign announcing your intentions. 
"It may be that some little root of the sacred tree of life still lives. Nourish it then so that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds."  --Black Elk
You'd be surprised how Nature responds when you look at her with different eyes.  And your own life will change accordingly.
Summer Solstice Blessings!
Copyright 2011 Awen Environments.

2 Comments to Gardening with Nature: Restoring What Once Was:

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Julio Martin on Thursday, June 16, 2011 9:34 PM
Hello Clarissa, I also have been working on my backyard in Buffalo West side, leveling with clay before a layer of top soil. Clay repels the runoff water during heavy rain. now I have to figure a creative way to use all this water...I keep thinking about a rain patio or so. I believe rain water can benefit the energy of the property tremendously, good feng shuey as you may say. Do you have any links or feedback related to rain patios?
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Clarissa on Saturday, June 18, 2011 9:22 AM
Hi Julio, there's no doubt rainwater is better for your soil than tap, especially during an electrical storm when the rainwater becomes charged. You can see the difference in plant vitality and growth immediately after a rainfall. I don't know about a rain patio, but you may check with Buffalo Riverkeepers as they may have some information. Also, I was looking at Viktor Schauberger's book "Nature as Teacher" again and was amazed how much of what he spoke of has come to pass in terms of our economy as it relates to our environment and overall well being. Absolutely incredible the insights he had.

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