Sunday, April 14, 2013

Live and Let Live

My name is Maggie Flynn and I am a Master Gardener in Dutchess County, New York. Unlike Patricia, I am not a total vegetarian.  I will say that I almost never eat red meat and pork.  I limit my consumption of chicken, turkey and fish.  I try to eat as much of a plant based diet as possible.  One day perhaps I will be a total vegetarian.  Patricia and I run together every week.  Sometimes we do 6 hilly miles and occasionally we do 9-10.  Exercise is an important part of my life.

Until Patricia gets sick of me, I will be a regular contributor to this blog. My writing may focus on a variety of topics but will mainly be about finding ways to realize nature's presence in your everyday life.  As a mother of two boys, ages 10 and 12, it bothers me that the outdoors has become to most kids a foreign, scary concept…a little like Gerard Depardieu. I decided to start volunteering my time, teaching others about plants and gardening in an effort to help people and kids regain the joy that comes with being outdoors. Whether it's a view through a window, air quality, meditation or a vegetable garden, each experience changes our quality of life.

My gardening passions include; native plants, beneficial bugs, birds and butterflies. I always assumed all people were as enamored with these as me, not so. In the past couple years, I have met a man terrified of butterflies, the majority terrified of bugs and spiders, and a woman who really can't stand to see any birds in her trees.  There is obviously more of a challenge to getting everyone to embrace the outdoors than I originally thought.

Part of my volunteering time has been manning the phones for a horticulture hotline. People call in with a variety of questions regarding their lawns, homes and oh yes….bodies. The questions range from, "why is my grass a little brown?" to "what are these tiny bugs that are biting me in my sleep and living in my mattress?"  The most common question by far and away is "how do I kill……?"  It could be flies, grass, rabbits, moles, wasps, snakes, aphids, mosquitoes - you name it, people want to kill it. Americans are obsessed with killing anything and everything that lives on their property. Obsessed.  Don't believe me? Go into a home and gardening supply store and breathe in...that's right, take in a big breath of chemicals; chemicals to kill everything that even think about flying, crawling or creeping onto your grass. If you can identity it, you can find a spray, powder or liquid that will suck the life out of it. In physics I learned that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Wouldn't this be true with our actions toward our perceived invaders?  Why do we have such imbalances of beetles, aphids, ticks, deer, geese, bats and pretty much everything? Has our Spartacus-like need for control and domination of our 1/2 acre lots manifested itself into a giant environmental cluster *%$#?  Evidence would tend to point in that direction.

Europe has banned chemical fertilizers and all pesticides; organic and non-organic.  You can only get them with a license.  Ontario, Canada has recently banned these items as well.  What will probably shock you, as it did me, is that NY State has been trying to get similar legislature through. So far, it has been blocked.  What we don't seem to want to understand is that everything has a place in an environment. Bugs feed birds, brush houses birds, bees and butterflies pollinate plants, bats eat 1000's and 1000's of mosquitoes. Oh yeah and snakes eat white footed mice. The biggest carrier of deer ticks is not deer; it's mice. Predators like hawks, snakes, fox, coyote and even chipmunk will eat them if they are alive to do it. Without predators, the mouse population has gone haywire. Coincidence that lyme disease which is carried by deer ticks is out of control?  Probably not.

As you prepare for summer and the beauty it brings, accept imperfection. Embrace it. Instead of spraying the roses, stop and smell them. Yes your parsley may have caterpillars in it, but either a bird will feed its young with the caterpillar or you will get to see an amazing metamorphosis. A sign of a healthy environment is a sign of life; a damaged plant, a hole in the ground and yes, BUGS!!!!!!!

Happy Gardening,


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