On Becoming a Habitat Gardener
Fortunately for me, my husband shares my passion for plants and the outdoors and is all in when it comes to creating this wildlife sanctuary that is my vision.
The aerial photo below shows our neighborhood as it looked in 2007 when we purchased our home. I remember vividly when we relocated here from Texas thinking we were very secluded in our country abode. To put this in perspective, we had moved here from a 1/4 acre lot in Austin in a development of 2,000 homes. Of course it looked spacious!
|Our original homestead outlined in red|
We happily gardened here for five years, during which time the housing market blew up and the neighborhood developer went bust. As was the story across the country, empty lots sat undeveloped and ripe for plant invasion. This was fine with me, as this city girl had grown use to living in the 'country'. We had been dreaming for some time of expanding our refuge and in 2013, the 2+ acre lot adjacent to our home became available. We jumped at the opportunity.
|This map outlines the plot where our house sits flanked by the acquired lot #2.|
|I never thought we would own one of these. And unlike most homeowners we don't use it for mowing turf. It makes clearing open areas much easier.|
In 2015 we were presented with the opportunity to procure the 4 acre lot (Lot #1) which borders Lot #2. This was a more complicated sale since there were survey issues and discussions on county jurisdiction. As you can see in the map below the shaded blue area is one county and the white area is another. We sit neatly on both. But just in time to celebrate the year's end the sale was finalized.
Our newest procurement is a mix of approximately two acres of open land fronting the main road that leads you to our subdivision. The remaining 2 acres is forested (as is lot #2) with white oaks (Quercus alba), northern red oaks (Q. rubra), post oaks (Q. stellata), yellow poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera), and several species of hickory (Carya glabra, C. tomentosa). American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), American Sycamore (Platuanus occidentalis), Winged Elm (Ulmus alata) and Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) also inhabit the wooded area.
|view from the main road at front of subdivision|
A small creek flows through this lot from the overflow pool on the other side of the road. There is some water running most of the time.
|gently flowing creek|
|Lots of potential for water loving plants. I see button bush growing here|
All this previous farm land is ready for a make over. Out with the nasty invasive plants and in with the natives. This is our big winter project. Hardwoods are being liberated from strangling vines.
|Japanese Honeysuckle vine girdling a hardwood tree|
Removing the understory layer of privet that has become trees in a short period of time requires a chainsaw to take out. This will make space for an new understory layer of native trees to grow and thrive.
|Standing in front of some monstrous privet|
Reclaiming this land to its natural glory will take some time. There is so much to clear! Just look at it all.
|disturbed land overrun with invasive vines|
So how did I get here? It was my wish to create a watchable habitat for wildlife right out our backdoor. Observing and photographing native pollinators, insects, birds, reptiles and other mammals evolve with the native flora. It was the desire to show our children how to be good stewards of the land. Providing food, shelter and support for food webs in the garden to educate our kids in the sciences.
Turning these 10 acres of former agricultural land, which was further disturbed by development, into a habitat of diverse flora and fauna is an ambitious undertaking but we are up for the charge. The rehabilitated space will provide us with a sense of place and an appreciation for the landscape that is unique to our region.
Becoming a habitat gardener has come naturally. It flows easily. It feeds my soul. It is my life's mission.