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  • Writer's picturekendallmier



This week’s environmental news had two highlights – the release of data showing the decline of almost 3 billion birds from our sky, and the shame of 60 UN Ambassadors for their lack of accountability for a generation of neglect. I can envision the scene of resplendent Ambassadors and their staffs all looking at their shoes like errant school children. The Power of a 16-year-old Swede was demonstrated this week and Rachel Carson approved and Jane Goodall smiled.

It is easy to retreat. It is easy to think that these issues are so big and carry so much inertia that one person can have little effect. It is easy to feel helpless in the face of the scale of the numbers. What can we do? How can I start? Will it matter? Yes, small acts can have a ripple effect far greater than we can see.

What can we do? Look to your back yard. Is your yard a showplace or a stage? I get it. Urban yardkeeping is a highly competitive sport. The neighbors across the street keep upping the ante! I must keep up my end or feel the hot shame of the neighborhood. I get it…heck, I was a willing participant! No dandelions for me! Yep, fertilized 3 times a year and applied the chemistry to make sure no bugs got further than a few wriggles into my neatly clipped turf.

Did I have an epiphany? A conversion? No, not really. I just found out that I liked having Nature in the yard. A different (less competitive) set of spectator neighbors appreciated the birds, butterflies and bees that came to visit my yard. They stopped to talk about our feeders and flowers, not because they were pristine but because they were well used.

Titmouse and chickadee at tube feeder.
A well used bird feeder is the centerpiece of our backyard.

YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Take small steps to get used to it. Of course, you can buy pesticide free birdseed which will reduce the chemical load on the fields used to grow Prairie Melody™. We would appreciate that and the birds, bees and butterflies that greeted me with every trip to the field will thank you. You can also reduce the yard fertilizer applications to once in the spring and once in the fall. Don’t apply lawn insecticide until you have examined your yard to see if you have harmful pests or simply great diversity in your landscape. Your local Cooperative Extension Service team can help you identify the flora and fauna that are part of a healthy yard. You can cut back or shut off the irrigation system to let your yard go dormant – I promise it will come back when the rains return, and the temperature is fit for outdoor activities like mowing.

YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Provide healthy food and liquid water to your wild birds and the other creatures in your back yard. We had 3 mating pairs of Eastern Bluebirds in our back yard all summer and they did a great job of keeping the moths under control. Dragonflies, swifts, Martins and any number of other insect eaters kept the mosquitoes at bay. A family of fox kept the small furry flower destroyers on their toes.

Clean water is critical for backyard birds.
Finches grace our bird bath for a drink on a warm summer day.

Yes, YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Right in your back yard. It will save you money and time and it will give you the opportunity to make new friends. You don’t have to solve it all at once, but it is our responsibility to start small and be successful. Start in your backyard and let the neighbors know about it. Your example will grow faster and with more beauty than their pristine green landscaping.

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