Times are a’changing

After such a depressing post yesterday on income inequality and the resulting cost to our environment I thought you might need a dose of the little things that show a positive movement.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead

lake views

These pictures were taken one afternoon on a walk with my granddaughter. As a result of being around people who notice and care about the natural world she notices the little things and also cares about the world she inhabits. These were images she wanted to have for herself of the things she said make her happy.

It’s easy to have an influence on a child as children are so impressionable.  For good or bad our children look to the adults in their lives and adopt many of the same values. It’s much easier to teach others when you live by example rather than lecture or preach at people.

autumn colors

When I moved here one of the first conversations I had with a neighbor was about another neighbor’s yard. The yard in question is filled with trees; small trees, big trees, flowering trees and shrubs. The trees block access to the front porch which doesn’t seem to bother them as they use a different door to access their home. The neighbor pointing out this yard wasn’t too happy with the sight of the trees I could only laugh and tell her that she wasn’t going to be happy with my property then either because I had lots of plans to plant trees every where I could.

It’s been a year since we had that discussion and out of the blue she asks me what kind of trees could she plant in her yard so her visiting grandchildren would have the experience of playing under them.

Who says people are rigid and won’t change? I don’t know what changed her mind and I’m not going to ask.

After talking to her for a few minutes I realized she also loves flowers and the color pink. I suggested she look for a Rose of Sharon for one spot in the front yard. She doesn’t know what this is but plans to ask around for one.

source
source

The neighbor boys who are often found at my door asking for work they can do around my yard have suddenly taken to chopping up a section next to their house filled with weeds. They came to me and asked if I would help them pick out trees and plants they could put in this section instead.  I told them I would think about it. Anything they put in this spot will have to be hardy because the “weed” they are trying to eliminate is known as Japanese Knotweed a perennial that spreads like crazy and makes growing anything else in the area difficult at best.

This is not her lemon tree which hasn't set fruit yet. It's easy to grow lemons in a pot.
This is not her lemon tree which hasn’t set fruit yet. It’s easy to grow lemons in a pot.

 

My daughter-in-law has been looking through the seed and garden catalogs in my home and often has a lot of questions about gardening and plants in general.  She wistfully mentioned she would love to try growing lemons in her home, so for her birthday I ordered her a lemon tree. Then last week she spotted a picture of a suet feeder and asked if the birds actually liked “this stuff”.

I told her I rarely consider suet in the warmer months but that yes birds do like suet but so do squirrels.  She called to tell me she bought a suet and a suet feeder and that it was gone in less than two days.

Other little changes I’ve been noticing include:

dishwasher powder

My daughter-in-law had been taking my larger laundry items home to wash for me since my move here. I would send her a jar of my homemade detergent.  One day she called and asked if she could use some of my detergent for a load of her clothes to try because she loved the smell of my detergent.  Of course she could. Now I’m asked to make her up batches to use instead of the commercial brands. She also asked about the dishwasher powder I made and when learning how inexpensive it was, and safer to have in the house with a toddler, now makes her own dishwasher powder.

eating clover

My granddaughter, now five, laments every time the grass is cut at my house because the edible flowers she likes to sample have been mowed over.  She’s quickly memorized which flowers are edible, even I didn’t learn this at home when I was her age. Her older cousins also wander picking dandelion and clover to eat because they think it’s fun.

Shortly after I moved here I learned the neighbor children were terrified of all living things outside.  A small frog was both interesting and something to keep their distance from. The other day the smallest boy took it upon himself to help me dig out a section of the property I’d tried to hire an adult to do for me. All of a sudden he starts calling me over to look at a bug he found.  Turns out he found a cicada that was barely alive.  There is one category of cicada we expect to see out this year and maybe this was one of them. Anyway, the child who was terrified of every insect, and frog, a year ago wanted to save this bug. He asked me to get a container, what he could feed it and took to caring for the cicada until one afternoon he came to tell me it was no longer in the dish he’d kept it in.

Although a few days later he brings me a bug he found while clearing weeds and asked me if it was okay.  This time he’d found a slug and I had to laugh because my first instinct was to tell him to kill it. I didn’t instead I told him it was fine and to put it back where he found it. I didn’t think to take a picture but lean and Learn has a lovely photo of a white slug in this week’s Second Look.

wet leaves

One afternoon I mentioned to the neighbor boys that I could smell rain coming. The middle child shocked told me you couldn’t smell rain. After telling him what to expect and to sniff the air he got excited and told me that indeed you can smell the rain. I also showed him how the maple leaves were turned up to catch the water. Now he comes by to tell me he smells rain or when he goes on walks with me checks the leaves to see if they expect it to rain.

I am under no illusion that I am changing the world. I am in fact adding to all the other voices out there to change the conversation, to impart a bit of my knowledge to others and help them see the world in a new way. I will never make a huge difference, one large enough to change the way we as a society see the world. As Margaret Mead said, a small group will change the world. It is the only way change will happen. So share the tricks and tips you have learned, let others hear your concerns for the natural world, show by example that we can be happy with less. It will mean something to at least a few who see how you live.

What ways have you seen changes in the people you meet?

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21 comments

  1. Lois, I have been tied up, and only popped in to read a bit. Luck would have it , I read the sentences about the boys clearing Japanese Knotweed…

    I know only what I have read in news articles, so take it all with many grains of salt..but…I have read that Japanese Knotweed and Hogweed are one in the same. That both can cause blistering and worse on skin, which can take years to heal, even. A small bit of the plant, spread elsewhere (as in your yard, carried on their shoes, pants etc), can flourish. I saw one documentary on it, and they strongly cautioned only doing anything with it, if one was totally / properly / severely covered up, and I believe burning the cuttings.

    Odd, that is the only few sentences I have read on your blog for a couple posts, so maybe it is karma, and there is something to what I recall (or maybe Knot )

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      • Not sure I would want to try and eat it still. 🙂 Who knows when I will have the time to help the boys with that patch I’m trying to be positive and plan on fall which would be a good time for planting new trees in that spot. That is if they can get the patch cleared enough.

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    • I do hope they don’t track the knotweed to my property, I have enough weeds to contend with already. 😦 I have instructed them to be careful with the roots and not to drop pieces any where so far so good. I also haven’t noticed any skin issues in them but thanks for the heads up. It just got warm enough for summer clothes so now that their legs are exposed I’ll keep watch and see if they get any irritation from it.

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  2. This was indeed a happy post. I have never thought about the smell of rain and when I look at it from the point of view of the boy, it must seem like magic. What a world that is opening to him. Also, I concerned that the Japanese knotweed is going to discourage him in his planting endeavors. Does he have enough space to move his bed? I guess if all doesn’t work out, I read that knotweed is good for honey bees in that it is blooming when a lot of other things aren’t. Maybe he could think that he’s helping the bees. Or can you talk to him about invasive species from other places and the need to control them?

    There is definitely a reason that you made this move and chose this house. You are definitely one small light that is casting a large, important beam around her. Or perhaps, Margret Mead said that sentiment a little better.

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    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Live and Learn. The patch of knotweed is the only spot of land that family has by their house, the entire spot is filled with it. I’ve told them to be careful not to drop pieces of the roots but we’ll see how they do. I’ve noticed they are still working on it so they haven’t given up yet. 🙂

      There are days I wish my house was in another location mostly because I’m further out from my son and his family than I planned but I do have to believe there is a reason this house called to me.

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  3. The thing with kids is, you never know what little spark you have ignited that will grow into the next environmentalist! Or at least a conscious consumer. I loved your stories, and just think how much better the world could be if every grandmother taught a few.
    I read your post yesterday but it was one of those days I was overwhelmed with bad news and I just couldn’t stay to comment. Last night we cleared our heads (after driving 3000 miles through America mostly on Interstates and seeing what is happening all along the way. Every inch of the Smokies and Blue Ridge Mountains will someday soon be filled with another Walmart, another giant truck stop gas station complex complete with McDonalds.) by taking a walk in the dark to watch clouds fly over the full moon, watch the fireflies dance in the field across the way, listen to the cicadas and frogs, and bring peace to our souls again.
    Have a good weekend, Lois.

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    • Cynthia, I have been following your recent travels via my phone but can’t seem to comment using it. I’ve been having computer issues but now that I’ve got that sorted out I’ll stop by soon. I was shocked how fast your house sold!

      I hate traveling on the thruways for many reasons the first being that you drive so fast you miss a lot, I also feel detached from the act of driving when on the thruway. I am within 10 miles of the WV border but when visiting I don’t go into coal country because the last time I did I saw the beginning of the mountain top removal and it made me cry.

      How are the cicadas by you? This is the first place I’ve lived where I share space with them and while last year I enjoyed the sounds this year we are over run with them. To call it an infestation would be putting it mildly.

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  4. There was a lot here, Lois. As usual, I’m behind and prefer to only read good news. You are the neighborhood ecologist. I know what rain smells like and can feel a change in the barometric pressure. I know what a tornado feels like when it’s coming. I did not know you could grow lemon trees in your part of the country. I think it’s too cold for them here too. I would sure love one though. I learn from you while you teach the kids. We also had no concept of nature growing up. I thought food came from the commissary. 🙂 Look at me now, getting ready to plant my own garden. 🙂 Keep up the good work.

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    • Me Too!! There is a lot we can learn about our weather if we just take the time to listen and smell for it. Yesterday, I checked the forecast and saw we had a zero percent chance of rain so I headed out to paint. The moment I got outside I could feel and smell the impeding showers. Sure enough the forecast was wrong!

      It’s hard for me to picture you as knowing nothing about where your food came from but that piece of info gives me hope for the children who haven’t been taught to learn in the future.

      No, we can’t grow lemon trees here, that is planted in the ground. We can grow them in pots and take them inside at the end of summer and continue to have lemons year round.

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      • If I had somewhere to keep a potted tree in winter, I’d think about growing a small lemon tree, unfortunately, there is little light inside other than the middle of the kitchen floor. Not an ideal place for a tree. The world is filled with contrasting experiences. I didn’t have any connection to the earth until my thirties when we moved into our first rented house. It was my first experience with playing at gardening and loved it. Military families move and are very disconnected. I can’t say it was a bad life, just very different than most I know. So there is always hope that someone is kind enough to help us catch up on all we missed while we share all our travel experiences. Our weather rarely gets it too wrong but I hope they are this weekend. Triple digit heat and we are doing a yard sale. 😦 Not my idea. I’d rather give it away.

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        • I always thought a military life would be fun but then I learned early on to accept the fact that I prefer being alone so the problem of making new friends on each move wouldn’t have bothered me.

          While I grew up with a small garden and farm stands to have local food, my grandfather claimed the garden as his domain so it wasn’t until I was close to 30 that I planted my first garden. I get so much pleasure from being among my beds I can’t imagine not having them any more.

          I hope you don’t get that triple digit heat, that’s just too hot. It’s been hovering between 85-89 here which would be fine if it would just rain again to reduce the humidity. Not that I’m complaining. I have a rule for myself: If I complain about winter I have no right to complain about the heat. 🙂

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          • You’ll never hear me complain about the winter. 🙂 Heat is another matter and it’s here. It’s almost 8p.m. and 87 degrees. Tomorrow, 102. Sunday 100. Monday, back to a reasonable 92. 🙂 I hate the heat. Time for a shower and a hopefully I can sleep tonight. I’m beginning the magic starts to happen in our 30’s. 🙂 Your grandfather was about his garden as my mother was about her sewing. I had to teach myself after my kids were here. I’ve been trying hard to get my daughter to sew and she has done a bit quite well.

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          • It’s 11pm and still 82 and muggy here but at least I don’t hurt the way I do in the winter so I’m happy. I haven’t even pulled out the fan as the house has been staying about 74 which is perfect for me.

            My grandmother could have been a seamstress and wanted to teach me how to sew but I wanted nothing to do with it, now I wish I had.

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          • You know the saying, hindsight is 20/20. 😉 Your talents lay in other areas. You sew well enough to get the jobs done you want to do and spend more of your time educating open minds to a different way to be in the world. That’s a valuable talent and needed more than another seamstress. Keep up the good work. You can only change an open mind. Get them while they are young! You are having an impact. Never forget that.

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          • Agreed. I do sew well enough to make repairs or a simple skirt to be able to teach the girls how to make them. Hopefully, they will take the basic skills I can share and build on them.

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    • Lindsay, I’ve missed you too. I haven’t been online nearly as much lately. I have a full inbox just waiting for me, I’ll be by soon.

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  5. Hi Lois – trying to catch up (what a year!)…

    I noticed your reaction to slugs, the same as mine. However, last year, my husband was curious when he found a leopard-patterned slug and it turns out that those are garden helpers and eat other slugs 🙂 We didn’t know that!! Now those can stay.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limax_maximus (it is present now in some parts of the US and Canada, though originally a European species)

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    • Hi Swiss Rose! I am so far behind myself it’s been a busy summer so far here.

      I found the information on the slug very interesting. I’ll keep my eyes open for them here it would be nice to have a helper in ridding the pesky slugs.

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