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.
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.
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.