My neighbor came back yesterday. I enjoyed my first summer in 21 years in this house without a next door neighbor spraying chemicals, spreading chemicals, fussing over chemicals, and generally applying chemicals to his little yard out here in the middle of Mirkwood, surrounded by wildlife and native vegetation that dare not step foot on his land without the harsh sentence of death. I do believe not one native plant or animal has been allowed into his yard without dire consequences. Ever. And actually, that spreads out over two consecutive neighbors. The first one died of severe COPD. Not saying it’s related, but I can’t help wondering.
So this week, after a summer of his yard going to seed and his garden filling up with opportunistic native plants while he was far away, I’m expecting a frenzy of mowing right down to the dirt (seriously, poofs of dust because the blades are set too low) and much chemical spreading- herbicides, pesticides, and then growicides. Oh, wait, that’s chemical fertilizers. This man is completely sold (like the one before him) on The American Way of razing the land and then super controlling everything on it with funky jugs of chemicals that line up like candy in hardware stores. The only problem with this idea is that a lot of his chemicals wind up on my own little patch of land, then in my chickens’ mouths, and eventually in the eggs I eat.
Sometimes I have to stay in my house with all the windows closed in beautiful weather because the spraying gets so noxious that it triggers breathing problems. The guy before him constantly sprayed flower bushes until the air in my yard smelled weirdly sweet, and I learned to run into my house and close my windows on days like that. Sometimes it rains really hard after granule treatments and the runoff from his lawn travels right down my slopey lawn by my chicken pen all over the first patch of clover and other groundcover that my chickens love to nibble on. He sterilizes his tiny little patch of grass and then eyes my chickens walking around MY yard, as if their very presence next door will destroy his garden. He even put up an electric wire about ankle high just for my chickens one year after he found nibbles in his cukes and zucchini, which also stopped rabbits, armadillos, field rats, skunks, raccoons, and who knows what else, but he was determined it was my chickens. One year another neighbor on the other side of me caught a weasel AND a mink getting their chickens, which I doubt would dig up a garden, but it’s a great example of just how deep in the woods we have carved our niches. At any rate, my chickens are pretty content to tear up my own little garden, mostly by dusting.
In my own yard we get deer circling through on a regular daily/weekly route, we have a woodchuck that lives just past the back yard in the woods and comes up to graze, we get an occasional wild turkey, and then all the usual squirrels and crows. We’ve had foxes come right up in the yard in broad daylight less than 20 feet from us and nab a couple of chickens and a duck right under our noses. We’ve seen a raccoon climb all over a duck pen trying to figure out how to get in, thrown several possums back into a field across the road, trapped field rats and chipmunks stealing chicken food because they can also nibble off chickens’ toes in the middle of the night if they’re pregnant and craving calcium. Well, I don’t know about the chipmunks doing that bit, but we did find almost a gallon of hen scratch they had moved over time into underground storage on the other side of the house. Happened to be our garden. What a surprise that was for all parties. I think chipmunks are the contraband kings of the animal world.
I come from a different experience than my neighbors. I lived on a 300 acre ranch bordering the Mark Twain National Forest for awhile growing up, had a dog that was part coyote and a dad who grew up in the heart of Mennonite country. I enjoy nature. I’m not keen on ticks in my yard, and yeah, I can see treating a yard for that, but you mostly just learn how to avoid getting eaten up every time you go outside. My dad tucked his jeans into rubber wading boots and that seemed to stop a lot of it right there. I also learned that treating a dog with Frontline is about the easiest way to ‘vacuum’ up all the little pests in the yard that you don’t want biting you. The cleanest my yard ever was from crawley bitey bugs was when I had a dog.
I’m curious why people want to ‘get back to nature’ and spend loads of money doing it, and then make sure nature gets stomped out of the way. They miss so many delightful little things when they obsess about chemicals. I question the point of having an expensive manicured lawn in the first place when so little use or joy is gained back from having one. The American dream- more like an American obsession. In the end, my own yard has touched more people than his ever will.