Freshening up

Panorama of the garden in spring 2020. You can see our garden beds with leftover spring crops, young tomatoes, an occasional rogue sunflower, the chicken coop in back, compost bins, and our herb patio.

Back when this blog used to be a generic blog about teaching music and our meager attempts at gardening, “Sing to Your Plants” was my creative moniker for a space that tried to play host to two big elements of my life. But as time went on, I found that while I love teaching, I don’t necessarily love writing about it, so my blog became increasingly focused on the plant side of cultivation rather than the cultivation of young minds.

Freshly-harvested mullein leaves – the mucilage content of this soft-leafed herb makes it fantastic for supporting mucus membranes and respiratory complaints.

Like all dreamers, we were dreaming big when we first set out to buy a house – we wanted sprawling acreage with streams, trees, meadows, and more from where to start a small homestead. But the price tag was just too much, and we realized that perhaps the more feasible path was to buy a home in town and build equity and skills until we could afford a move. Fast forward to a modest garden and a blossoming patio area full of pollinator flowers and culinary herbs, and we realized we had an opportunity staring us in the face. We could dream and wait for the perfect farm 5, 10, 15 years down the road, or we could practice and explore the dream on a smaller scale with the space we do have. Plus, as we have found out with the spring of 2020, sustainability and self-reliance can’t wait for the dream farm. (My husband jokes that we are “Farmin’ Charmin'” by including mullein, often mislabeled as lamb’s ear, which can be used as toilet paper in a pinch.)

And so, our permaculture practices really got underway and our plans for the yard spanned multiple pages of maps, sketches, and measurements. We became determined to make the most out of the space our corner lot could offer, one square foot at a time. And so, welcome to Corner Lot Cornucopia.

While all this provides beauty, medicine, and food to our family, it also provides a thriving habitat for wildlife. We are excited to announce that as of May 2020, we are a Certified Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Foundation. Yes, even here in the center of town, we have a habitat that provides for birds, bees, chipmunks, skinks, butterflies, rabbits, toads, and so much more!

Excuse the blurry photo quality of the Eastern chipmunk that has made its home in our backyard.

We weren’t endeavoring to qualify as a Certified Wildlife Habitat, but our work to grow and provide through a permaculture lens naturally resulted in a flourishing habitat right here in our backyard. Believe it or not, getting the certification was surprisingly easy – fruiting trees & bushes, perennial herbs and pollinator mixes, our bird feeder, our water fountain, and a small pond all help establish an environment for wildlife to flourish and grow. Our setup provides food through feeders & bushes, cover & safety, water, places to raise young (mature trees and bird houses), and sustainable practices like encouraging native plants, capturing rain water, and organic practices.

Certification is certainly not necessary, and there was a small fee to be recognized, but we are glad to do it for two reasons: 1) by certifying, we are supporting the National Wildlife Foundation, and 2) displaying our sign and pictures helps inspire others to do the same for their backyards. We mounted our sign outside our fence so its viewable by onlookers using the sidewalk, and my hope is to inspire a few curious minds to look up the NWF and maybe start exploring simple ways to support wildlife in their own home. It is SO easy to get started – add a hummingbird or bird feeder, install a bird or bee house, let the dandelions grow, add a native perennial to your front yard or backyard patio (if you are a Midwest gardener like me, I would love to give you recommendations!).

All of this on less than a quarter acre. You can do it, too.

And to help, along with updating the blog layout and title, I included a new Resources page to help catalog some of our favorite resources along the way. From YouTube videos about herbs to my favorite books on chickens and even some websites on worms, I want to make it easier for those striving to move in the same direction. Check back frequently, as I will endeavor to keep adding items as we discover new allies in the fight to #growfoodnotlawns.

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