With all of the news about the burning of the Amazon Rainforest it only seems appropriate for each of us to think about we can do for our own little corner of the world. I teach Earth Science to high school sophomores, and a college credit Environmental Science course both of which have required topics about biodiversity and sustainability and many issues that face our planet each day. Those are important topics to communicate and instruct the future caretakers of this planet. In 1997 I took 0.67 acres out of cropland as it flooded every year, (even on my sand). I fought with the government agencies and they said how crazy I was to reduce my corn base (which I didn't use anyhow). I was told I was destroying the value of the farm and many other things. I decided at that time to let this area be an area to study ecological succession. I would do nothing with it and fenced it off on 3 sides. I could have used it for pasture, but decided against that. In 1999 a person cutting my hay thought it was a hay area ( the unfenced side opens to a strip of hay) and cut it all down so really the area started in 1999. Well 20 years later I started using it as a study area for my Environmental Science class. Only one species has been planted in the area, I planted 3 black walnut trees along the edge, otherwise birds or wind or other creatures have brought in a myriad of plants and species and when things get tough and I need a place to think I can go to a grassy area nearby and watch the numerous bird species that now live there. Last year in fact a wild turkey nested in there. Indigo Buntings, bobolinks and several species of native sparrows call it home, as well as a pair of cardinals. I most certainly cannot forget the Eastern Kingbirds that fly around me when I work in the two garden areas one on the north and one on the south side of the plot. Once in awhile a pheasant roams there as well. Add to that all of the butterflies and it has provided a sanctuary for a number of species.
I accidentally started a small patch a few hundred feet in front of our home. When we put up our new home in 2000, I had visions of having a little kitchen garden about 100 feet by 100 feet with neat little raised like beds and quant little pathways, a nice mix of flowers, herbs, small fruits and vegetables. All of that is grand and noble but it takes a lot of time and when you are also trying to get 200 breeds of poultry cared for each day and take care of 14 acres of vegetables for seed it doesn't leave the time to properly keep up such a place. Well by 2004 my little beds turned into a grassy weedy mess and before long I lost all control. Soon I abandoned it and made an excuse each year why I didn't keep it up and soon mulberries and black cherries and a few other trees came up and now 15 years later we have a small jungle. I was all set this year after purchasing a chainsaw to go in and clear the area. Well winter was too long and I fell behind so it was a weekend in May after trees had leafed and it was too wet to do garden work I decided to clear the jungle. I barely entered it and spotted a nest of a tree sparrow and then a catbird started chewing me out followed by a family of wrens then a brown thrasher flew up and then I saw a bird I have only seen twice an American Redstart. A gorgeous little bird sitting on a branch giving me a look like no other. Needless to say the jungle stayed. I will take the flack from the neighbors for the jungle but it is not doing any harm and after the summer got under way I counted a total of 8 bird species that nested there. The Black Cherry trees were a home for 2 butterfly species that need the trees for their larva, the Eastern Tiger swallowtail and Red Spotted Purple. We had many of each this summer and they were a pleasant sight.
The photo for this blog is a tomato hornworm with pupa of a parasitic wasp. The photo was sent to us by Dennis Heltzel in Pennsylvania. In the late 1980's there were many tomato hornworms and many of the parasitic wasps. I even did labs in science class showing how it all worked and now it has been 25 years since I have seen a hornworm with parasitic wasp pupa. Each and every year more and more slips away. Hopefully each and everyone of us can do a little something to help keep our planet in ecological balance. By the way if you see a hornworm with the pupa don't kill it. It will die soon and the wasp will help control your horrnworms naturally.