I Resolve…

Most dictionaries (I haven’t checked them all) state that “resolve,” among other things, indicates  making a firm decision about something.  It comes from a Latin word for paying a debt.  So, to make a resolution, to resolve to do something is, by definition, something serious.  Not, as seems to be the annual custom, to make a claim for a change and then drop it by the third week of January.

Make 2015 (Where are our rocketpacks, by the way?) the year you learn the names of three trees in your neighborhood.  Perhaps even go the extra step by differentiating more than “that maple over there” to “See that black/red/sugar/Norway maple?”

Good ol' Calvin and Hobbes

Good ol’ Calvin and Hobbes

Aim for two or three herbaceous plants.  How about identifying those three birds you always see, but don’t know what they are called?  Insects and arachnids–what are they exactly?

Whatever goals you might set, make them achievable–saying you’re going to know all the plants in your yard by December might be too lofty–or maybe not.

Visit some new areas in your community; observe what problems may exist.  Is it in your power to effect a positive change?  Our duties go far beyond entering a voting booth.  Let this be the year.

Resolve to love your community, the ecosystem you inhabit and are already embedded in.

Lakeport State Park, MI

Let me end with an excerpt from farmer and writer Joel Salatin’s essay “Healing” found in The CAFO Reader, a book I recommend if your interests lie in ag issues.

For the first time in human history, people can move into a community, hook a water pipe into one coming in, the sewage pipe into one going out, buy food at the Wal-Mart from unknown sources, flick on a light switch for energy from who knows where, and build a house out of materials covered in bar codes from Home Depot.  We don’t have to know the local ecology, economy, society, climate, agriculture, or anything.  Just hook up.  Such a noninvolved existence inherently breeds contempt for the community that sustains our existence: physical, spiritual, mental.  Respecting our humanness requires that we respect–by appreciating our codependence on–that community of air, water, plants, animals, soil, and microbes.

What do you resolve to learn to love in 2015?  Leave a comment.



Parks: The Human Wilderness

Parks and ponds are good by day;

I do not delight

In black acres of the night,

Nor my unseasoned step disturbs

The sleeps of trees or dreams of herbs.

                                                                                     –R. W. Emerson


Some goodly time has passed since the last challenge.  I wonder if this month’s subject isn’t a bit out of time, as we in the north are going to turn inward more than outward.  Nonetheless, I’ll charge on.


For this challenge, I’d like to turn your attention beyond your backyard—unless you’re lucky enough to have one of these adjoin your property.  I’m talking about your friendly neighborhood park.


Sure, it’s probably got a playground with the de rigeur equipment, perhaps a ball field (soccer or base), a disc golf course, or some kind of dog run.  It might be tree less or nearly so.  Full of trash?  Just a corner lot in the middle of the city?

Typical park landscape

Lola Valley Park, Wayne County, Michigan


That doesn’t matter.  You’re sure to find something of interest with some diligent exploration.


Parks, as far as I can tell, originated among the rich in Europe, specifically in England (though I bet some Chinese and Japanese emperors had some) as a place to ride horses and hunt game.  They were surrounded with thick hedges to keep the game in…and the commoners out.


Game animal or park visitor? Lola Valley Park, Wayne County, Michigan

Game animal or park visitor?
Lola Valley Park, Wayne County, Michigan


In the U.S., the claim for the first public park was the famed Boston Common, established in 1634 for the purposes of military training and a public place for grazing animals (You might want to check out Garret Hardin’s noted essay “The Tragedy of the Commons” as a loosely related aside).


Over time, the idea of parks became associated with leisure.  They were established as littles oases, specifically for urban dwellers, a break from the duties and distractions of mundanity.


Today, we’ve got tiny pocket parks owned and operated by cities and towns (urban, suburban, and rural) to county, state, and national parks.


What kind of park exists in your neighborhood?


Natural areas v. areas of human use

Natural areas v. areas of human use

You’ve probably explored the playground, but what is there beyond that?  What species of trees grow in and around the park?  Do flowers and native grasses grow naturally in some areas?  What birds and mammals frequent the area?


Here’s a perfect opportunity to get to know the flora and fauna of your neighborhood.

If your park is not much beyond a turf grassland, the species are probably limited.  If you’re interested you might be able to change that.  Talk to the your parks and recreation department about creating strips of native vegetation.


Does a stream or river flow through or next to your park?  What kind of vegetation grows there?  Most parks use the paradigm of mowing right up to the streambank.  That practice, however, lends itself to erosion, and, of course, limits biodiversity.  Talk to the managers about the best practices for streambank stabilization.


How can you protect your park?

How can you protect your park?

Take advantage of the large green space in your neighborhood.  Help your children to identify trees, birds, and insects that pass through or reside.  Learn to love your park and understand ways that can help increase it’s natural areas.


You don’t have to let nature take over the whole park, but balance can be created for human use as well as for the non-humans.


Explore, learn to care for your park, and work to restore some of the natural areas, if possible.  You’ll increase the beauty and the value of your neighborhood while doing the right thing.

Look for the extraordinary ordinary in your neighborhood park.

Look for the extraordinary ordinary in your neighborhood park.

To the wonder

IMG_1072I can’t make this month’s challenge any easier: Go outside and explore!
We’re on the cusp of a new season–the Autumnal Equinox occurs in the northern hemisphere on Sunday–it’s the perfect time to see the blurring of seasons.
Goldenrod is probably at peak blooming right now (honeybees have only a few weeks left to gather pollen and nectar), maples are hiking up their chlorophyllic pants, nuts are dropping making a mess of sidewalks, you get the idea.
My neighbor’s birch tree has about 20% of its foliage turned yellow. Apples are in season (finally!). I was surprised by mosquitoes today.
What does this fading summer and blossoming autumn look like in your neighborhood? Go out, look around, and report. Maybe I’ll even send a prize to the first person who reports something. Give me at least three sentences to be considered, however.

Late Entry in the Immigration Debate

Normally I try to have my follow up post right at the end of the month, but I was in the invasive capitol of the contiguous U.S. for the last two weeks: Florida. That state is dealing with Brazilian pepper, meleluca, reticulated pythons, monitor lizards, and iguanas, to name only a few.
Anyway, have you been able to ID any plants or animals that don’t belong in your neighborhood? We won’t talk about that stray pit bull that makes you nervous. Again, if you know what belongs in your neighborhood, you’ll be much more successful in spotting what shouldn’t be there.
Yesterday I was able to go to my second backyard and do some permanent deporting. Garlic mustard season is over, but spotted knapweed season is ripening.

Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa)

Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa)

Additionally, I took out the largest honeysuckle shrub on my property, and eliminated a couple more buckthorn trees images.
There are plenty of creatures who thrive in your neighborhood, get to know them, but also be vigilant and heartless in your attempts to find illegal aliens and get them out!