Oct 8, 2013

Noah's Garden

Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Back Yards
by Sara Stein

This is one of those books so awesome I don't quite know how to describe it all. Even though it's not really what I expected upon first reading the back cover. It's more, and better, than I had imagined. It's informative and descriptive about plants and wildlife ecosystems in one person's yard, how she tried to improve that- but it's also written with a sense of humor. If you chuckle aloud at how someone describes the growth habits of plants, you know that's a darn good writer!

The book is about how the author quit trying to control her land with gardening and landscaping but instead thinking of what habitats the animals need, let things grow up their own way and planted native foliage and took out exotic or invasive trees and weeds. Sounds straightforward perhaps, but she details precisely how complicated it is. Discusses so many things. How out of balance things get in nature when we get involved. How un-inviting to wildlife and birds the open spaces and empty, uniform lawns we like are. How problematic -on many levels- alien species are in the ecosystem. How important and scare open water like ponds are, and their efforts to build and dredge one. How varied the trees of the forest are, their stages of growth, their needs. How the land and plants will take care of themselves if you have the right ones in the right place. How marvelous the return of living wild things to the places you make welcoming for them. How childhood memories of certain birds, insects, frogs and other living things came back when she restructured and left alone the landscape for them. How to make things look appealing (appeasing neighbors who don't like messy or neglected-looking yards) and yet have the foliage, food sources and cover the wild things need. How communities could interlink the plant cover in their yards to create the "corridors" animals need to travel and disperse. And on and on and on.

Most of all, it makes me realize how wrong my own ways of going about gardening and plant tending are (if I want to be nature-friendly and stress-free, that is). Why all my gardening efforts fall prey to insects and diseases- because the plants aren't native or are varieties cultivated for beauty and food value, which of course means they've lost the natural means to fend for themselves. We tend to breed the bitter taste and stomach-cramping factors out of plants we want to eat, of course- the very thing those plants use to ward off insects! I now feel guilty for having dug up and harbored in pots hibiscus and mimosa from seedlings that sprouted in my old yard, just because they were pretty, when they are strangers introduced here...

And I know she's just mentioned a few of the things her reading and research and delving educated herself to, so I wish I could hear the all of it. She's published another book prior to this one, about her gardening before she went the ecology route, and another volume continuing where this one lets off, and I want to read them both but of course my library has none of her works so it's another name/title combo stored in my head for those lovely hours spent poking and browsing through used bookstores in the hopes of coming across a treasure.

I just learned that I will have to enjoy whatever books of hers are extant, and this having only now discovered the author! This post at Sphere about her property informs me that she passed on in 2005. I wonder what has become of her land now.

Rating: 5/5 ........ 294 pages, 1993

more opinions:
Writing and Healing Year 2
What all the cool kids are reading
Town Mouse and Country Mouse


Stefanie said...

Oh this sounds like something I would like very much! Thanks for posting about it.

Jeane said...

Glad to put it on your radar. Hope you get a chance to read it and will like it!

Tabatha said...

Thank you for this recommendation -- sounds worth seeking out.