Green is the book of my garden, punctuated by blooms in saturated colors and deep purple fruits, excepting the pea-sized and scarlet hips of the “Darlow’s Enigma” rose. Green is both calming and energizing to humans, despite the fact that “green” is an idea of human perception. Is it green to a squirrel or a dragonfly?
My green book has become a wonderful story apart from me—life has come in, a great diversity. Grackles, cardinals, jays, thrashers, waxwings, sparrows throng the fruiting mulberry trees. Catbirds dominate the elderberries, scrabbling and bouncing off the ground on stems bent with the weight of fruit. The raccoons just pull the umbels to their mouths and feast themselves sick, little purple turds everywhere except the garden beds. I have my first coffee of the morning in the back garden, when the temperature dips into the eighties. At least twice a month, a young red fox joins me. After two years, he’s closer but maintains a ten-foot distance. I check him out, he checks me out, we sit there and look around. After 20 minutes or so, he yaps and moves to the creek on the south side of the property. The creek is a wildlife highway. Six years ago, a mated pair of foxes lived in the far woodpile for two seasons and they became friendly enough. Maybe this fellow is their offspring. The trees are full of bats, they whiz in the front yard at dusk. One bat can eat 10,000 mosquitoes a day, go bats. A pair of barred owls have a nest in the back woods and I hear their children calling. I’ve seen hawks snatch grazing rabbits twice in ten years, and had a wild turkey hen on my front porch on the 4th of July. She became a neighborhood mascot for several months but disappeared after Halloween. In 2011, I discovered a severed deer leg under the peach tree and I’m still mystified. At the time, local social media was hot with talk of mountain lions sighted in town.
My gardening body feeds dozens of bugs—you mosquitoes, you chiggers, you ticks and oak mites—but the plants feed thousands. Over the past two years, new species of insects have moved in with all the new birds, due in part to the increased planting of wildlife-specific natives over the past seven years, plus the boundary line of the east-west flyway, formerly and approximately at the eastern base of the Rockies, continuing to drift east. I had orioles at the feeder in March. Things are really changing; outdoor people know. As an historical rule, humans never react, despite countless warnings, until our asses are against the wall. At this moment, we are in the perfect storm for species failure: climate change, global pandemic, economic collapse, global civil unrest. I don’t fault your despair. I despair more for non-human species.
Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii, Deam’s Coneflower
A decade ago, I told a biologist friend that I believed the planet would be better without humans. He said, “No, we serve a purpose as stewards. But it would be better if we had fewer and smarter humans.” Maybe Covid-19 is doing that. For all the people translating a global pandemic to a political issue, well, Darwin. Its about time we lifted our eyes from the screens. This is the 21st century and its time to fix humanity and make a new world. I have no problem with a global society as long as the current dicks aren’t running it. And you know they intend to.
The elderberry, Sambucus species, is revered from earliest human record as powerful food. Pliny called it, “Nature’s medicine chest.” Linnaeus, the father of botanical nomenclature, was known to tip his hat when he passed an elderberry. In 2003, the local co-op was selling an 8oz. bottle of elderberry concentrate for 13 dollars, much more than a decent table wine. Science knows that the elderberry (Sambucus), like thyme (Thymus), is a strong anti-viral. Ten years ago, the garden was an acre-filled thicket of Lonicera mackii, Amur Honeysuckle, a Top Five invasive plant in Kansas; and “weed-trees”: piss Elms, Redbuds, Koelreuteria and Catalpa. This has been a garden of subtraction, far more removed than placed. I vowed to replace the invasive Lonicera with Sambucus. So far, it’s working. I have more than thirty elders fruiting now, the Lonicera pushed to the edges of the property. I’m guessing that this year’s elderberry harvest is at least five bushels, which translates to nine liters of elderberry vodka, a dozen turnovers and a few pints of jam. Mix that purple vodka with orange juice and a squeeze of lime on Thanksgiving Day and you can definitely call it medicine. I leave the other half of the harvest for my wild friends.
I have never felt more positive about the future of the human race. Our asses are at last against the wall. Now we awaken. Now is the time for communites to bond, care and innovate. Now is the the time to know and create. Now is the time to make your ideal garden and care for life.