Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

On Creating a Brush Pile

When Christmas is over there is often the question of what to do with your expired natural tree. Well, that is if you do real trees. The debate of real vs. artificial is all together another discussion for another day. But if you do have a live tree how do you dispose of it?

There are several ways that they can be reused to benefit your garden or local environment. Most of you readers probably do one of these already but here they are for a quick reminder.
  • Many municipalities offer recycling programs where they chip and shred trees turning them into mulch which can then be used in your garden, in public parks or walking trails.
  • My in-laws sink their tree into their pond for the fish to use as a refuge and breeding area.
  • You can give it a second life as a Christmas tree for your feathered friends by placing it in your garden and adorning it with fruit and nuts for the birds to feast on. 
  • If you have bird feeders you can lay the tree nearby and song birds will use it as a place to perch and take refuge.
  • Perhaps you might consider using it as a trellis in your spring vegetable garden for peas or beans to climb up.
Our local zoo feed their animals the pre-cut Christmas tree which didn't sell at the tree farms. It's a really cool concept! If you've never seen this before check out the post I wrote a few years ago here.

This year we've decided just to add our tree to a brush pile that we started earlier this year. Initially the brush pile was actually a burn pile. You see, my husband had removed several cherry trees from our front garden and we could only drag the really heavy tree trunks so far so we left them in an open area just in front of the woods with the intention of burning them in the fall. (Think fall bonfire, smores, and apple cider) Then in early fall my husband began removing some shrubs which had been a thorn in my side since we moved into our house. The shrubs are those builder grade shrubs which need lots of maintenance and don't provide any purpose to wildlife. You know the type. I can't tell you how happy I am that they have now all been removed. (Here's me doing a happy dance)  We threw all these shrubs on top of the logs because it seemed the most convenient place at the time. Then we added some limbs from a little bit of pruning that we did around the garden.

The pile sat and the shrubs died and the pile sat some more. And you know what happened? The birds found the pile. They used it as a spot to perch before flying to the bird feeders. It became a safe haven from predators. When the weather turned cold (as in last week when it dropped down into the teens) the brush pile was filled with song birds using it as shelter from the severe weather and I think they even gave me their version of a big group hug. So it was time to rethink this burn pile because now it had become a haphazard brush pile that was providing value to the wildlife in our garden.

The non-native shrubs that weren't any use to the wildlife or the gardener when they were upright [alive] are now getting a new life creating a habitat for our wildlife. It was one of those light bulb moments where I thought to myself, why didn't we do this before?

I wanted to show you some photos of the birds in the brush pile but my zoom lens is being cleaned/repaired and I am just not able to get close enough with my other lenses without the birds either flying away or going deeper into the pile. This little wren is the best I could do. So better bird shots will have to wait for another day, another post. I can tell you that we see lots of white-throated sparrows, wrens, mourning doves, Eastern towhees, cardinals, thrashers, titmice, warblers, mocking birds that are hopping, perching, side stepping, jumping, or hunkering down in the pile.

Brush piles can also provide cover for ground nesting birds. I would love to see some quail find a home in our garden! It is also a place for the chipmunks, rabbits and squirrels to hide when chased by hawks, owls or our very spirited dogs (who are sometimes more determined than the natural predators).

Going after a vole. (Maybe we'll plant a tree here in the spring)
Our brush pile being located at the edge of our woods makes for a nice transition spot for wildlife to emerge from the protection of the woods out into the open. At this time of year the pile blends nicely into the landscape and is rather inconspicuous but what about in the summer when all is green and bright. Well I think it will look wild and wonderful but some of our neighbors could find it to be a bit of an eyesore since it can be seen from the road. My solution is this. We collected seed pods from our very productive passion vine plants this fall so we have laid them around the brush pile. Hopefully there will be enough sunshine in this spot for them to grow this spring and the vine will make an attractive cover over the pile which will then support bees and butterflies during the summer and fall months. Stay tuned if my plan works I will definitely be sharing the results.

And, as the brush pile begins to rot and decay more insects will arrive helping in the recycling process as well as provide additional food for the birds. I've already see some insects buzzing around on some of our warmer winter days. It just seems to be a win-win solution for the wildlife and the gardener.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The New Year is All About Growing Stronger

Welcome 2015!

Wow, the years just seem to be zooming by faster and faster don't they? It felt like 2014 was over in a blink of an eye. This may be in part that we were so busy and at times it felt there wasn't even time to breathe. But I am all about looking forward and a new year means renewal and awakening, goal setting and getting organized and I'm ready for a fresh start.

I have been tossing around several concepts for how I want to approach the new year and finally settled on two words that I want to encompass in all areas of my life.

G.R.O.W     S.T.R.O.N.G

Last year our calendar was chock-a-block full of activities, commitments, daily happenings and there was very little down time. I was in survival mode most of the time and some core values got pushed aside or overlooked. It left me physically and mentally exhausted and frankly being on overload didn't leave time for reflection, inspiration or peace of mind. Last year I only wrote 16 blog posts. And, worst of all I found very little time to visit my blogger friends and read about their gardens and life experiences. I have missed you all more than words can say! So, this year I am going to refocus on some of my principal ideals and grow stronger in these four areas...

Working on strengthening my mental endurance so that I effectively handle all the challenges that I am faced with on a daily basis. Building my inner strength through physical and mental exercises so that I remain focused on the beautiful people in my life while reducing stress levels. Standing tall like these flowers and stretching toward the heavens with purpose and strength.

We are aiming to eat clean. When schedules are busy and we are running the kids here, there and everywhere we end up eating dinner late, skipping meals or not making the healthiest choices. Now I am planning ahead so that we have homemade, healthy meals and snacks. We are eliminating processed sugars and artificial dyes from our repertoire and eating more vegetables, especially greens.

We are exploring the world of essential oils to incorporate into our wellness scheme. I am really excited about learning how to make homemade products such as cleaning supplies, soaps, and natural alternatives to pharmaceutical medicines to keep us healthy and strong.

There are times when we need to be still. This is critical for me to lead a healthy life and was very lacking last year. I am going to make sure that I give myself this time for reflection and spiritual growth. Outer changes begin inside so looking inward to be authentic to my core beliefs and letting the light shine in to rejuvenate and grow stronger will be vital.

Saving the best for last. Without a strong mind, body, soul the garden won't happen. Likewise the garden is the fourth element that ties it all together.

I am still committed to building a healthy ecosystem which supports the wildlife in our garden. My goal is to continue to add more native plants which serve an important purpose in this mission. I hope to see more species of bees, butterflies, birds and insects this year because of our efforts.

Growing our kitchen garden with a new herb garden that will be used for culinary and medicinal purposes. Exploring new heirloom seeds to grow in the garden so that we can add them into our clean eating menu be it harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables for canning, dehydrating, or eating raw.

As our garden is going on six years young, I would like to add some areas in our garden where I can spend time relaxing, reflecting and observing. I'm thinking benches, chairs, rocks, water, vignettes.

Lots of ambitious goals here but I am determined to grow stronger this year and get back to these areas of my life that are so vital to me. I will be incorporating my progress into my blog posts throughout the year.  I am looking forward to reconnecting with my gardening friends and growing and supporting you in the gardening journey. 

Reflect * Think * Solve * Create * Grow