How I stumbled upon making my yard a certified wildlife habitat:
A couple weeks ago I was doing some research on how I could best maximize my yard to provide more milkweed varieties as well as nectar-producing flowers to attract more monarch butterflies and sustain the ones I already had milling about. You see, back in December I had about 8 monarch caterpillars on my single 2-foot-tall milkweed. Well, in no time at all they had stripped it bare of anything save stems. When I got home from work, I noticed that they had evacuated in search of new food sources.
The only problem was there were no other milkweed plants for miles around. In the fading light of that warm Tuesday I began a frantic search for the suicidal caterpillars. With a flashlight I scoured the yard in hopes of rescuing as many as I could find. That’s how I roll. You see, I felt guilty for having lured them in to provide only half of the food they needed to finish the deed.
I only was able to find one sole caterpillar in the end. I can only hope the others had enough food to get them through the metamorphosis. The lone caterpillar was transferred into my indoor insect habitat that I have for just this situation.
It’s an ER for wayward critters and has served me well. She made her chrysalis and emerged several days later and was released.
Crisis averted, barely. Steps would need to be taken however. It was in this vein that I stumbled across the National Wildlife Federation wildlife habitat certification program. In reading about their requirements, I discovered that I was already creating a refuge for pollinators, birds, insects and reptiles by providing food, shelter, water and a place to get it on and raise babies.
Did you know that in 2013, the monarch butterfly population was down by 80%? 80% is insane! Pesticides have all but wiped out the milkweeds throughout the Midwest and central portions of the US. No more food for these essential pollinators. If they can piggyback through the yards of us Americans, then maybe they can survive and get their numbers up. It’s up to us until the farmers of the country wise up! It’s simple, people: no pollinators, no food. No food, no us.
So I applied and received this lovely certificate.
You can also donate a wee bit more money to get yourself a fancy sign for the lawn to show off to the neighbors how much more you care about the planet than they do. This kind of “keeping up with the Joneses” is at least beneficial to the environment! Check out my boasting…
I think I’ll start dressing up like a park ranger on the weekends and offer garden tours. Those who know me well know that this is not out of the realm of possibilities as I tend to take things further than most. Way further.
My 7000 square feet have gone through a massive transformation over the past 3 years. What once was a barren wasteland has become a burgeoning oasis. Take a look at what the yard looked like back in 2013.
Nothing was going on back there. No birds, no butterflies and no bees. No sweet songs of nature, no fertile soil. Nothing. Now take a look at it today.
A quickly forming oasis of newly planted trees and plants and water features. Soon that willow tree and olive tree will be providing even more shade and nesting spots for all the species of birds that are now flooding into the yard looking for prime real estate. I grow millet in the back for them to munch on and they take daily baths in the waterfall. I’ve been planting other trees throughout the yard like this black locust.
And the newly planted milkweeds are now scattered throughout the entire yard to create even more sanctuary for the endangered monarchs. And look, they have returned again to feast!
Now when they have depleted one plant, I can move them to another while the first replenishes its leaves. Or they can crawl to a new plant at their leisure. If they go in any direction, they will now find their favorite meal.
Here are some other details of the yard where all manner of critters can forage, drink, eat, hide and, uh…get it on.
And I even have enough room left over to house my chickens and give them ample room to free range. Notice how the girls are jealous of Piper’s new privileges? She gets so picked on in the run that I’ve been letting her free range during the evenings just to get some peace from those brutes. I’m actually building her some armor to protect her. More on that soon.
When I look at the photos that the selling agent took back in November of 2012, I am blown away at how much of a transformation has occurred. I did it all with my bare hands and strong back. I did it all while working a full-time job, doing multiple freelance jobs, volunteering at a community garden and maintaining a wonderful relationship with a loving woman. I did it all without using a single drop of chemicals or non-organic fertilizers. I’m sustaining it all with micro-irrigation systems and greywater which have dropped my water bill by 42% on average. And now I have the support of (and am supporting) the National Wildlife Federation. I hope this inspires you to follow suit! I’m here to help you in any and every way and together we can transform these wastelands into sustainable oases to help fix the damage that has been done to our environment. Are you pumped? Good! Let’s get to work and as always, mind your dirt!