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Caring for the wild things

June 15, 2012
Andrea Hines , Shepherdstown Chronicle

When we moved to our property seven years ago, we wanted to preserve the abundant wildlife that we found here. It is a three and a half acre lot near Dam #4, with intense woods backing up to Rocky Marsh Run. Filled with a fortress of wild rose, rambling honeysuckle, clusters of paw paw trees, ferns and other hidden things, we cleared only enough space for the house and driveway. We left as many stately sycamores, oaks, mile high pines, wild dogwood and redbud as we could along the perimeter and planned an organic vegetable garden space in the backyard. The butterflies were the first glory we saw, and so we did our best to leave everything in the forest alone.

We wanted a true habitat, as much as one can have in a subdivision, and tried to impact nature as little as possible. We planted English cottage style flower beds, put in a small pond by the door and tried to make it look welcoming and a little wild, yet pleasantly manicured for visiting fellow creatures and friends alike.

The pond brought frogs almost immediately. It has been so fun waiting for the desperate calls in the early spring, the fish waking up after the winter chill to peek out and play under the fountain. We have had raccoons, pairs of woodpeckers, songbirds, turtles, deer, hummingbirds, even hearing some coyotes and foxes at first, at least until the new houses went up around us. The honey bees all but disappeared last year but thankfully we are seeing them return, happy to be among the flowers. I am hoping they found new homes in the forest, which will always be a refuge to whom ever needs it.

It is amazing how a mere three acres can provide shelter to so many creatures. Our newest resident is a tiny green tree frog. He has since attracted several more to the yard. I have never heard them or have ever seen one this close before. His trilling love calls are a true wild adventure right in our front yard and it is delightful.

I attribute much of this excitement to deliberately not using pesticides or herbicides in our gardens and lawns. The bees certainly appreciate landing on a nice clover or dandelion without fear. The deer leave our shrubs alone for the most part because we left their native food source growing in abundance all around us. Our pond provides a water source for wet loving frogs and turtles. We have bird baths and feeders around for our flying and climbing friends. We don't mow as often as we probably should, but our grass seems to stay green long after the rest of the neighborhood turns brown. Each year we try to make the lawn a bit smaller, by adding more garden habitats. All this takes time, yes, but the rewards are great.

We feel blessed to have the chance to see wildlife in all its Monet beauty merely by sitting on our back deck, as the evening bats soar and dive around our rooftop, eating all those insects for us. We will continue to provide our fellow companions a safe haven for as long as we can and I look forward to that responsibility.

 
 
 

 

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