Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Looking back at our accomplishments this past year and then looking forward toward our goals for the coming year is one of the best year end activities. So today, on the last day of the year and decade, one last post.

To be completely frank, this year has been extraordinarily intense and full of life changes for our family. I felt I was constantly in fast pace mode during most of 2019. Blogging took a back seat as I didn't often find the quiet moments I need to write and photograph the garden. Hence far fewer posts than I would have liked. I am so appreciative of all of you for being so understanding and reassuring. Thankfully, December has been a calmer month and allowed me time to get organized, clean out the clutter and attend to some neglected activities.

Of course the major milestone this year was my husband's retirement. It's almost surreal that we've reached this stage in life. My husband has transitioned from commuting in Atlanta traffic and working 10+ hour days to being a stay at home dad and gardener very well indeed! It won't be long before he becomes a full-fledged gentleman farmer. 

Around this same time an opportunity presented itself for me to return to work outside the home with a position at our county Extension office. This was a huge decision as I've had the flexibility of my own schedule for 15 years. Being beholden to an office job (again) has been an adjustment for sure. And while we are still homeschooling our two youngest (teens), they are becoming very independent and responsible young men. For the most part, the changeover in family responsibilities has gone smoothly and we're handling our new roles rather well.

The biggest gardening event this year was being on the Hall County Master Gardener Garden Walk. We were one of five gardens featured, which brought around 300 people to tour our garden one June day. Getting ready for this big event required an entire year of careful planning and execution of gardening projects and work days (lots and lots of weeding!). Sometimes it was overwhelming and stressful, but all worthwhile as it was a wonderful opportunity to educate others on how to create a habitat garden in a neighborhood setting, as well as show how great native plants are. 

After the Garden Walk in June, we took time off from the garden. It was a long, miserable summer with more than 90 days of over 90 degree heat and minimal rain fall. Surprisingly, the garden performed well on neglect despite the extreme weather conditions. Native plants + mulching = survival.

One of the biggest achievements for our 16 (now 17) year old son was the completion of his Scout Eagle project and earning the Eagle Scout rank with 45 merit badges and 5 Eagle palms in March. His project was creating native bee habitat at our local nature preserve. He lead Scouts in building nesting boxes for mason and leafcutter bees, they sowed a meadow with native plant seeds using seed balls. He also created an educational brochure on these gentle bees and made two presentations; one, to the local chapter of our Georgia Native Plant Society and one to a Ladies Homesteading Group. This was a big leadership project for him and we couldn't be prouder of his accomplishment.

This year I was invited to give presentations on Gardening for Wildlife and Gardening for Pollinators to 7 local garden groups. For the second year, I instructed a class on how to grow your own prairie at our State Botanical Garden and lead 22 weeks of gardening classes at a local elementary school in their after school garden club program. This was in addition to my new job. Whew! 

Our garden was recognized by Monarch Across Georgia with the Pollinator Habitat Award. A donation was made to the Monarch Butterfly Fund on behalf of Southern Meadows. 

I was honored to receive this recognition and hope that many more Georgia gardens will participate in supporting pollinators. 

In June, I attended the Garden Blogger Fling in Denver (in Madison in 2020, registration opening soon). We toured remarkable gardens with unique landscape features and plants. I have much to share with you in forthcoming blog posts. 

A trip to Montreal in October for a mom/sister weekend was outstanding and completed my travel for the year. 

Now the focus is on the new year. I want to thank you faithful readers for sticking with me. Your support and readership means the world to me. I promise to be here more frequently in 2020 and share lots of garden insight and experiences. 

Wishing you a year full of exciting animal encounters and growing gardens!