The Zombies Ate My Brains

Rescuing what might remain of the grey matter.

The Back Forty

I always promised myself that if I ever lived on a large-ish property I’d let it revert to nature. I enjoy the untamed, natural look and the opportunity to provide a habitat for wildlife. Mowing a lawn wastes gasoline and it fouls the air. Besides, it’s hard work!

Wherever I moved, and for one reason or another, I did not follow through on the no-mow policy. As a matter of fact, when I lived in the most rural of settings surrounded by corn or soy beans, not only did I mow the entire expanse, I even reclaimed a portion that had gone to seed. Sow thistle and stinging nettle mostly. It was the right thing to do, especially as regards that nettle (vile, evil, demon weed from Hades). But still!

At my current address, most of the 3.5 acres is steeply sloped and heavily wooded. The house sits on a half acre of lawn at the foot of a ravine. When I first moved here, I considered letting nature reclaim the rear yard, but Neighbour South had a beautifully landscaped property. I didn’t want my place to be a jarring eye sore. For the first year or two, I kept the lawn trimmed. Until one day, South commented on how much he loved goldenrod.

“Really?” I said. “Would you be upset if I allowed the lawn to naturalize?”

“Not at all!” he said. To confirm his claim, next week he brought us some wild aster he found on a road trip.

Golden Rod

Goldenrod

Right now, September, the scene is glorious. The golden rod is in full bloom and the air is fragrant. Black-eyed  Susan and Queen Anne’s Lace have taken hold. Only one of South’s aster’s survived, but volunteers have self-sowed here and there. At the rear of the yard, under the black walnut, I discovered a colony of tall plants that wasn’t there last year. Just last week they bloomed, and I believe they are Jerusalem Artichoke, a native plant with edible tubers. That’s kind of cool, but also a bit disconcerting given the colony is about three metre’s square where last year there was nothing!

Deer and wild turkey visit regularly. I’ve seen a fox quite often this year and for the first time in the six years I’ve lived here, chipmunks have taken up residence by the dozens. I think that’s because the property across the street has been bulldozed which forced the chippies out. For the third straight year, a semi-tame coyote roams the woods, too. He plays with neighbour South’s dog. The birds and butterflies are happy.

And so am I.

The Prompt for Writing Essential Group for Thursday September 4, 2014

Come along and join in the fun!

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Categories: Gardening

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81 replies

  1. I like the concept, and the pictures are beautiful.

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  2. The Mister’s schedule put mowing the back 40 on the back burner in June, and I must say I enjoy it wild. BUT, since the grass is now taller than my knees and overcomes my boots, I have requested that paths be mowed out here and there.

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    • Good on you for allowing beautiful natives to naturalize and provide for pollinators and birds! Such gorgeous plants and so much better, in every respect than a has-to-be-watered-and-mowed lawn!

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      • Hi Tina. Now that you mention it, I don’t care if the lawn needs watering or not. Hasn’t been an issue this summer, but if it goes brown, I know it will recover.

        One of my favourite gardening things is watching the flying insects as they gather nectar. Such industry!

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    • When I came inside from taking photos, I had to de-burr my leggings. A drawback of the arrangement, for sure. I mow the perimeter so we can have access to the sheds, and to make a kind of transition space between the nicely groomed south garden and our unruly patch. You can also see the path that is mowed under the clothesline – that’s to keep the laundry away from the undergrowth.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gorgeous – and I’m so jealous of the deer and other wildlife … especially if you have bunnies, although I’m sure the coyotes and foxes keep that population in check.

    My yard has also become semi-wild – but more from neglect than grand plan. Not nearly as photogenic as yours 😉

    I hope you will be giving updates next spring of that season’s wildflowers!

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  4. That really is beautiful! Good for you to let nature do her thing… she really is an artist!

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  5. I love jerusalem artichokes – a tasty treat I hardly ever see for sale, and no one I know has heard of them!

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  6. I enjoyed the post, and thinking of you enjoying your “estate”–remember how cheery I found brown-eyed Susans when a child, despite my strong dislike for many other yellow flowers (silly picky Asperger’s). Too bad about all that beautiful feathery goldenrod: Won’t be visiting you–A-CHOO!!

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  7. Wish I could do that. I live in a suburb with suburban lawn. Thought about getting a goat but the neighborhood is opposed to goats. The one good thing about my lawn was that I got a blog post.

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  8. We’ve done the same, but the neighbors aren’t quite so supportive.

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  9. Aah, sounds lovely! I was just thinking, “I bet coyotes would move in,” when you mentioned one. Nice!

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    • Thanks! I just read your piece on coyote. She doesn’t look anything like the critter in our yard. Ours looks like a full-blood, but my husband insists that the animal that’s been hanging around the last three years is a coy-dog. I’m not so sure.

      At first we were terribly alarmed since there are at least a half-dozen cats from three or four households out in the yard at any given time. One day I came out to see the coyote walk from neighbour’s back deck right in front of a cat – who didn’t bat a whisker.

      Whatever its bloodline, it is one sturdy critter. It survived last winter’s polar vortex, though it did been injured or acquired frostbite to its one hind leg.

      By the way, I haven’t been receiving updates from YOUR blog. I just followed you on Facebook.

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      • Oh, thanks, Maggie! Sorry to hear you haven’t been receiving our updates–I think some things went wonky when we moved to self-hosted.

        I do think coyotes are unjustly maligned, especially when it comes to cats and small dogs. I’m sure an extremely hungry coyote might attack a pet, but in general I understand they’re more interested in small rodents, as well as fruits and such.

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  10. This is GORGEOUS, Maggie (and this is the new me). Not only do I remember all too well your whinges about The Men and your mowing, but I had begun to think you secretly addicted to it. [grin]
    It’s a lovely thing to have that section of ‘wilderness’ at the back,and everyone’s happy. Talk about yer win|win !!! 🙂

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  11. Your yard is gorgeous, Maggie. My back yard is wild. Not gorgeous like your. Just wild. I gotta get out there one of these days….

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  12. That is so great, Maggie, I love that you’re restoring nature on your place. We have grass around the Barn which is loaded with clover and violets and buttercups which we let thrive. When it goes dormant from lack of water, so be it. And then we have the field in back which we let go wild with grasses, goldenrod, and milkweed. It hums from all the bees and under one grove of trees you can see where the deer bed down. Very cool!

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    • Ah Barbara, you are kindred! Love the picture you describe.

      When we tromp through the woods at the back, especially in winter, we can see where the deer had camped for the night by the oval deer-shaped depressions in the snow.

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  13. Beautiful garden, Maggie! Natural is better. But a “semi-tame” coyote?? I’ve never heard of that before. Here in Southern California they are the personification of mean.

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    • Yeah, I don’t know, Steve. The fact that he/she and South’s dog have a grand old time chasing each other through the woods tells me it’s not completely wild. Yet it looks exactly like a coyote.

      The first winter, it was in terrible shape. It’s hind end drooped, no fur on the tail. Neighbour North put out food for the deer and the coyote. All along our street neighbour’s had spotted it but it eluded all efforts to trap it.

      I called the animal control people, telling them that “someone’s dog” was injured and hanging around our yard, would they come and retrieve it? The agent that came by and as luck would have it, the critter was within a hundred paces – easy to see. The guy declared that it was a coyote, and as such, could do nothing for us. Wild animals, even though they are clearly not doing well, get no special treatment. I’m torn about that policy.

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  14. Maggie, what a beautiful garden you have. Yellow is always so cheerful. I used to have Queen Anne’s Lace, but not since I moved. 😦

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  15. Hmmm …. great post Maggie — and yeah, I’m completely for naturalizing … but I wonder if you realize something critical about goldenrod?

    By the way, I have almost a full acre of it – great for bees, if they would care to make an appearance – and it’s absolutely toxic to deer, which is both good and bad – but Goldenrod is HIGHLY invasive.

    This is one plant that you really have to be careful of —- because its roots are damn next to impossible to control. It will show up over 300 feet from where it was last growing. And once one single little stalk has set in, well, yeah, it will grow and multiply as it wants, no matter how well you think you’ve managed to control it – i.e. by weeding or containment. And, if you’re really zealous in trying to dig out clumps, be prepared to break shovel handles a plenty – it’s beyond stubborn.

    So yes – all hail to Golden Rod – it IS necessary and bountiful and beautiful – but be cautioned – it will take over a small space (and large) without hesitation. And it chokes out all other things, mostly, in the process.

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    • Good advice, thanks Pat. It is the lesser of several evils in our yard. We are fighting fire with fire. At the foot of the ravine is a stand of more invasive Japanese Knotweed. We also have the highly noxious garlic mustard, which is incredibly sturdy in any habitat. Dame’s Rocket is taking hold too, though that one I like – it’s very pretty and highly fragrant. Since the golden rod is native, we prefer it to the introduced or escaped species.

      Fortunately, I find that goldenrod is easy enough to pull up if and when it does hop over the mowed perimeter into the flower beds.

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      • Well you certain have your hands full then — chock full of “weeds” — snort – who exactly decides what a weed is – other than any plant not wanted in a particular space, is my definition a weed.

        I’m glad that at least you’re up to speed on it — and for the moment, have no trouble keeping it in check. I hope it stays that way – so you can enjoy its beauty – which is truly lovely, especially at this time of year. 🙂

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        • I share your sentiment, exactly, regarding weeds. Except for stinging nettle. BOOO! HISSSSS! Begone vile demon weed from Hades!

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          • Yeah, stinging nettle may have useful purposes — but to the unsuspecting person – or if one has just plain missed it — BEYOND nasty!

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            • If you pick them in the spring (with gloves), you can eat them (cooked, and only cooked) like spinach and think of it as getting your own back.

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              • You know? I hate them so much… I can’t even begin to consider the good points. Hm. There’s a blog post here, somewhere.

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              • True – that is one possibility, but I still wouldn’t do it. I’ve had way to many experiences with it, including coming up to plants that had stalks like Dinner Plate Dahlias and that towered over 6 feet, and so, for me, the best revenge is to get rid of it, carefully.

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                • I never actually knew about nettles until I visited (and then moved to) the U.K. Getting nettled? It was just a set of words. Right now I’d getting pretty well nettled as I reach into the hedges to pick blackberries. Short as I am, the nettles don’t tower over me, mercifully. I think if they did, I’d run for my life.

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                  • Thanks, for this, Ellen – I didn’t know about the saying “getting nettled”. It’s rather too mild a term, in my experience. These things require very careful handling and skin well protected.

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                  • I can understand the sentiments completely – sometimes in order to get to the good stuff, a little pain must come our way. The real danger lies in having reactions to the stings – I’ve have mild to moderate reactions, but I know of people who had severe ones, requiring urgent medical attention – as they ended up looking like they were burned – and in fact, they were treated as such. Nettles can be absolutely dastardly. I’ve had my fair share of the unexpected after working as a professional gardener for over 20 years. My thoughts: ARGH! 😉

                    Liked by 2 people

  16. This sounds like paradise. Good for you (and South).

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  17. Love that you had the space to naturalize. Native plant and wildlife habitat is precious.

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  18. Wish I could do this where I live. Unfortunately the HOA frowns on “unkempt” yards. The trees and shrubs I planted 3 years ago have gotten big enough to start attracting more wildlife, though. Collared doves are new this year, as are the bunnies. We’ve had a bumper bunny year along the Front Range (Colo.), and they are everywhere. Took me a while to figure out that those adorable bunnies are responsible for the large bare area in my back yard. Apparently a well kept lawn is a bunny banquet.

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  19. Sounds like your HOA has similar ideas to those of some local communities here: that is, no clotheslines. How preposterous!

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  20. Quite lovely. All of it. What a stunning garden! We too are big fans of naturalization and are happily in that process here at the new place. Love your love of nature!
    I share your sentiments regarding the nettle; we battled an army of it. Our neighbour at our previous address grew a small batch every year, she used it for tea, until her gardens got away from her. Even our tending to them and a wooden fence couldn’t keep it at bay! Hubby now claims the super power of being able to throw himself at it and emerging victorious…if not slightly itchy. 😉

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    • Your hubby is made of strong stuff, indeed. I arm myself to the eyeballs when I approach the stuff, yank it out by the roots and let it dry to dust before I put it in the compost pile. No way am I taking any chances with it rooting.

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  21. What I wouldn’t give to have a patch of earth to call mine! (I own my car and home, which keeps costs low, but it’s no palace.) Beautiful place ya got there… 🙂

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  22. Idyllic. And what a great neighbor!

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    • The South’s are awesome. The North’s are too, but we are completely isolated from their yard by an 8′ board fence that runs the length of the property… well, to the base of the ravine.

      Mr. and Mrs. South are avid gardeners. Well she is – he just waits for instructions. Thanks to their efforts, we a beautiful garden makes up the south border – all of the benefit and none of the work!

      Liked by 1 person

  23. i must ask what you are holding in your hands in your profile picture?

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  24. Hi Judy! It’s a portion of a huge mica crystal!

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