Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Simple Plan - Earth Day Reading 2012

I love Michelle at The Sage Butterfly's annual Earth Day Reading Project, "a meme where bloggers share what books inspire them to live or garden more sustainably".

TheSageButterfly

Last year because of Michelle's meme, I read the book 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' by Barbara Kingsolver.  It helped us to change the way we eat.  Mostly because this book's plan seemed very doable, even for me.

Monarch butterfly

But when other gardeners ask me about sustainability, I have always questioned whether the little things I could do would make much of an impact.  I needed a plan for my garden.  Something simple.  Something doable.

Then it came to me.

Question Mark butterfly


My father worked at a chemical plant for many years.  I'm certain that there were aspects of his career that were very exciting.  My father's generation was a generation of discovery, exploration, and experimentation.  Space travel was the newest and most exciting frontier.  Cars were being built to go faster, and look sleeker.  Modern appliances were beginning to help with mundane chores.  And advances in chemical research were being tested for use in medicine, agriculture, and consumer use.

Now we know that some of those chemicals have long term effects that were unknown at the time of discovery, some of them causing harm.  The pendulum toward using chemicals is starting to swing back.
  

Variegated Fritillary butterfly

In my garden, I have never used any insecticides or fungicides, not because I was adverse to using them, but because I was too lazy! And a funny thing started to happen.  I started noticing butterflies.  More and more every year.


So now how do I measure success in sustainability?

Look closely - Dwarf Yellow butterfly laying eggs

By counting butterflies.  This has become my doable plan.

 'National Audubon Society Field Guild to North American Butterflies' by Robert Michael Pyle is the book I use for identification of the butterflies in my garden.  Although this book is not one I read from end to end, it gets a lot of use.  It is a great help in being able to easily and quickly identify the butterflies in my garden.  

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly

Chemicals are useful.  They can also be harmful.  So now when making a decision about the chemicals used in my garden, I turn to the butterflies for guidance.  If it might do them harm, I avoid it.   

It may seem obvious to not use any chemicals in the garden.  But it didn't seem so obvious until I started seeing butterflies in my garden.  Suddenly, I felt responsible for something.  Something that affected much more than just my little garden.

Buckeye butterfly

I wish the pendulum could stop somewhere in the middle, where butterflies lived, but not bedbugs.  Perhaps one day we will be able to figure out the perfect balance.  Until then, this is my simple plan for sustainability:  Do what's good for the butterflies.

60 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I'm certain it's not brilliant, but it is simple. So it's an easy plan for me to make decisions by.

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  2. Beautiful photos! I have made an effort to avoid any chemicals that could harm wildlife. It is a small step that does make a difference. It is a joy to see all the butterflies and other critters in my garden.

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    1. I never thought about anything I did in my garden really affecting anything besides what was in my garden. But since butterflies migrate all over, and I'm seeing more and more every year, I realize the little things do have a large impact.

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  3. I agree with you, like it and fully support you. I don't use any sort of chemicals, not even artificial fertilizers and I notice lots of bees - various types fluttering in my garden :-). I never have any problem of getting any plants pollinated; whereas, sometimes I hear from people around me that they have to hand-pollinate because there were no bees or pollinators in their gardens.

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    1. The bees are also wonderful to see. I just don't have a good bee book so I don't know the different ones that come to my garden. Maybe I should check into a bee identification book!

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  4. Gorgeous butterflies, Holley... You have so many different ones... We have quite a few up here in our area also--but since I am not 'into' butterflies, I haven't paid much attention to them --other than just to watch and enjoy them.

    Hope you had a wonderful day.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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    1. When I started gardening, I certainly didn't think I'd find butterflies so interesting. I didn't start getting 'into' them until I started seeing so many and wondering what kind they were. I think naming something gives it a place in the mind, and so they're not just a butterfly anymore. They're a specific butterfly. Not sure if that really makes sense, but that's how I see it. Kind of like roses are just roses to anyone except a rose lover. A rose lover can name each rose, and they are special to him. Sometimes it's just the naming of the flower (or butterfly) that makes it special. :)

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  5. Beautiful butterflies over there.
    I have to admit that sometimes I do use pestiside on my vegetables when it's uncontrollabe level of pest arrives....

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    1. Sometimes, desperate times call for desperate measures. I haven't had a true infestation of pests just yet. Unless you count the tent caterpillars that are driving me crazy right now!

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  6. I'm with you on the "being too lazy for pesticides"... I use a home-made spray made from water, washing-up liquid and crushed garlic to spray my roses, though, and I do use one actual poison for slugs, though it's approved for organic farming and harmless to all animals except gastropods.

    My garden is hosting two protected species; the shrew and the toad are both protected here in Denmark and I'm legally forbidden to harm them in any way, so it's just as well that I enjoy sharing my garden with them. They might not be the prettiest creatures in the world, but they are fairly discrete and besides they eat slugs. I think I should print out a picture of a toad and a shrew and hang them in my gardening shed as a guideline. Less flamboyant than the butterflies, perhaps, but just as important.

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  7. Some lovely butterfly photos. I use what's needed in my gardens but do try to be careful and not over do.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. I think the over doing it is what causes a lot of problems!

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  8. SUch a thoughtful post and truly a wonderful way to behavwe in the garden - vive la butterfly!

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    1. They have really become fun to watch. I love finding a new variety of butterfly in my garden. I really wonder sometimes where they all come from!

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  9. With every passing year I am moving further and further away from pesticides and other chemicals used in the garden. It just makes good sense.

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    1. The more I know and learn, the more I think it makes sense, too.

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  10. Wonderful job catching that butterfly laying its eggs in the soil. I can't imagine a nicer way to know you're doing something beneficial for the world than by counting butterflies.

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    1. I didn't even realize that butterfly was laying eggs. It is such a tiny little thing, I just pointed the camera. When I first saw the picture, I wondered why I took a photo of dirt. Then I remembered - there's a butterfly in that picture! - and realized I had caught it laying eggs!

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  11. Great, success. I am always amazed at the number butterflies and pollinators in my garden. The best thing about not using chemicals is that after a while a balance is created and pests are controlled. This always surprises many people but IS TRUE. I recommend everyone to follow your lead. Christina

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    1. I have found there is a lot of balance in my garden. I've only found a couple of things out of whack, and hopefully even those will balance themselves out as the years go on. I think it would be absolutely necessary if I ever felt the need to use a pesticide.

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  12. A wonderful post. Nature has a way of balancing herself. I try to be patient, watch, and learn.

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    1. The garden teaches us so much! Being patient, watching and learning is a smart thing to do.

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  13. This is a good way to think. I don't use chemicals in my garden but unfortunately, all my neighbors do...one day, when I'll get rich ( lol ) I wish to move in a place where I can have a larger space for gardening in a much natural environment...

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    1. And I took note about the Barbara Kingsolver's book. One day, I read "l'Arbre aux haricots" and I fell in love with her way of writing but didn't have a chance to read other books that she wrote. Now you remember me to search for them, it's gonna be one of my next reading project. Thanks 8)

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    2. I hope you get rich and get to have your large garden! Maybe your neighbors will quit using chemicals some time in the future. I really do think more and more people are beginning to garden without using them. And I hope you find the books you are looking for.

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  14. Holley, this is a wonderful post and an excellent selection. I think your decision to do what works best for the butterflies is a beautiful and noble one. I, too, do not use chemical pesticides, preferring to find natural alternatives that do not harm the natural order of things. I have this book, and it has been very helpful in teaching me to identify butterflies. It is actually fun to see a butterfly, grab the book, and attempt to identify it. From then on, I recognize it. Thank you for participating in The Earth Day Reading Project.

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    1. If you have this book, you know how useful it is. And it really is easy to identify butterflies with it - I think the photos are fabulous! In addition, when I have questions, there is the text that explains it a little more. I am so glad I picked this book up on a whim about 10 years ago. It has really stood the test of time!

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  15. Holley this is wonderful..I also count my critters as success...Your book selections are both great...I have the Kingsolver book still in the growing To Be Read pile...I may have to move it up....

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    1. I think you should move the Kingsolver book up on your reading list. It really is inspiring. And not the kind of inspiring that makes you say "Oh, I should do this, but it would take me 10 years to start", but more like a "Oh, I should do this and I can!"

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  16. Counting butterflies - the blissful way to sustainability. I'm still looking for a copy that Kingsolver book!

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    1. I like that - "the blissful way to sustainability". That is how I feel. :) I hope you find a copy. Surely you could find a copy somewhere?

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  17. Holley, I love your approach--it's so sensible and non-judgmental. It's easy to forget that chemicals and pesticides were expected to do lots of good in the world at one point. I also like the idea of picking one love like the butterflies to be responsible for. Small changes really can have an impact.

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    1. I think we still have many chemicals that are expected to do lots of good. I hope some of them will. Even though a lot of chemicals, especially in agriculture, are harmful, I personally don't think banning all chemicals is the way to go. If I had bedbugs, I would blast them with anything in my power! ;) (just kidding) Butterflies are an easy creature to love. They make me realize what I'm doing in my garden has far-reaching ripples.

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  18. It seems like an easy and good approach. I like it. It must be working in your garden with all those butterflies.

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    1. It is an easy approach. I only have to worry about one creature. But in doing that, I think I'm helping a lot of creatures, especially probably myself!

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  19. What a beautiful post! I love the photos, especially the first one, and I love the principle. I treasure my ladybugs and the birds, and even the earthworms. I feel successful if every square foot of ground is crawling with big fat wrigglers.

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    1. I love seeing ladybugs, too. The birds I try not to attract as much because we have cats. But if that were not so, I would be really into birds. Probably more so than butterflies! I have noticed quite a few earthworms in my garden this spring. It's so exciting!

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  20. I can hardly imagine gardening without butterflies. Like you, I have been almost completely chemical free partly due to laziness and partly due to principle. (My exception is Roundup for Wisteria that is clobbering my trees; the benefit to the garden ecosystem if I can keep it in check or get rid of it makes it worth it, I think.)

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    1. Thankfully I don't have wisteria to deal with. I do spray it on poison ivy when I see it, though!

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  21. Loved your post, Holley. The creatures really do need our consideration and care. The images of the butterflies are wonderful. You do get a variety. I never saw a question Mark before.

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    1. I had never seen a Question Mark until this spring. What's funny is that there is a butterfly very close to it that is called a Comma. Funny names. The Question Mark has a dot under it's "comma", thus becoming a question mark!

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  22. I enjoyed your post and beautiful photos (Tiger Swallowtail gets my blue ribbon). I agree that we should do what's good for the butterflies. I have several bird feeders, and have always tried to be considerate of the birds too. Miracle Grow is my only garden vice, and I should probably work on finding a natural fertilizer to take its place too. :-)

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    1. Isn't that Tiger Swallowtail beautiful? Personally, I would love to have as much compost as I need for my entire garden, but I just don't make that much in a year. It really is the best stuff I've ever seen for soil. I might be wrong, but I think Miracle Gro has an organic solution now!

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  23. A perfect garden blog post, Holley! :)

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  24. Holley, I'm so pleased you tackled this oh-so-important and complex subject. We are all free to do as we want in our gardens, and it only alienates people if we come over judgemental. I think the best way is to encourage people to notice butterflies and other wildlife and make the link for themselves that their actions affect the lives of these creatures. I hadn't seen any lizards in the garden for a couple of years and the other day I saw one scuttling under a bush. It made me so happy. cheers, cm

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    1. You are so right - we are all free to do as we want in our gardens. And it can be a hard decision what to spray, what not to spray. I'm not one that thinks we would do better going back before all advancements. But I do love seeing the wildlife in my garden, and the thought of harming my grandchildren enters my mind a lot, too.

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  25. Holly! Love this idea of Earth Day Reading. All you say about chemical tools are right. I try to attract the butterfly in my garden too, I have the plant called Ligularia dentata (don't know English word)and we have "The garden of Butterfly" from August!
    Nadezda

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    1. I hope you'll join in Michelle's meme - it's open all month. A butterfly garden must be wonderful. I had planned one, but the encroaching shade made me change that area. And I do need to purchase more plants just for the butterflies, but they already seem to be fairly happy.

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  26. 'Do what's good for the butterflies' sounds like a good slogan to me... maybe a little bit 'FlowerPower' but yet good.
    I love the butterflies you have in your garden and I want more in mine too. I'm not using any chems yet, I've planned to use some herbicide in the gravel paths because I have some colonies of bindweed I can't get rid of but normally i don't use anything in he garden because I am lazy too, and then because I am scared of killing my plants and my dogs in the garden rather than weeds!

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    1. Flower Power! haha - Hadn't thought of that slogan in years! I used to use Round Up a lot, but now I try to just dig things out by hand. However, I think it takes total war, including herbicides, to get rid of some things like bindweed, poison ivy, and some other invasives.

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  27. What a beautiful array of butterflies you have! I've never used chemicals in my garden, like you because I'm much too lazy and cheap to go buy them. Pulling weeds seems so much easier to me than donning a sprayer and mask!

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    1. Isn't it funny how we love the 'lazy way'! ha! Pulling weeds is definitely not the lazy way! :)

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  28. Holley - It would interesting to compare the number of different varieties of butterflies in your garden compared to a neighbour who doesn't practise organic gardening. (I have yet to find a butterfly in my garden even though I don't use pesticides.)

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    1. That would be interesting. I hope the butterflies come to your garden, and I'm sure they will. It took the butterflies a few years to find mine, and it seems more and more find it every year! As with all things gardening, I guess it just takes a little patience.

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  29. I loved reading about your journey to gardening for the butterflies! This is an aspiration all people should have for their gardens! Every year I see more and more butterflies and wildlife in my garden. I feel very responsible for providing a healthy habitat for them to prosper. Great post!

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    1. Once you start looking for the butterflies, it's so much fun to see them multiply every year, and bringing their friends! I, too, feel a responsibility for them. After all, they chose my garden, and so they must trust me!

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