Certified (Front)yard Habitat, St. Johns

fuchsia sidewalk roses, St. Johns

Although I recently celebrated the garden at my current workplace, an elementary school newly pursuing Backyard Habitat certification, for the last year I've actually been teaching in a stuffy windowless room. Having our own, quieter space has been welcome; having no windows, not so much, especially when I used to be able to look out actual windows at the courtyard garden, windows often open for fresh air. When the school psychologist across the hall has her door open and when our door is open—meaning, if the timing is right—I can just barely peer out one of her tall windows, which at least is something. But that means that getting out of the room at lunchtime (our only break) is even more imperative. So lately I've been trying to eat minimally and then head out into the neighborhood on dry days, even if only for 15 minutes. On one of these walks last week, I noticed that a house down the street from the school was a Silver-level Certified Backyard Habitat—only the bulk of its flora seemed mainly to be found in the south-facing front yard and east-facing side yard, not the backyard. ("Backyard" just sounds catchier than "yard.")

in the front yard: Certified Backyard Habitat sign, St. Johns neighborhood

The next day, I lugged my camera to work and snapped a few quick photos from the sidewalk. I didn't see the home gardeners themselves but found a few bumblebees and honeybees hard at work on a purple flowering bush of some kind, collecting pollen. It's nice to know the bees are not all dead yet. Massive American bee colony die offs in the past year—along with steady increases in autoimmune disorders in humans related to pesticide use and exposure to other nasty chemicals—should sound equally massive alarms that the modern pesticide-heavy agriculture system is sick and that a return to the ancient practices of organic agriculture is the only possible healthy future for bees or humans. (Let us take lessons from Cuba in this, as well as glean tips for an effective yet inexpensive national heath care system).

working bumblebee

white clematis in side yard, St. Johns

Imagine spring without asparagus, strawberries, or cherries. Consider summer without avocados, olives, peaches, nectarines, berries, plums, apricots, or melons. Picture autumn without grapes, pears, figs, almonds, walnuts, or pumpkins. Reflect on winter without potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, apples, citrus, or squash. Fathom a world without cotton. Is this the diminished bee-less world we want? I think not.

working honeybee, St. Johns

Metro offers a "Grow Smart, Grow Safe" resource guide to alternative pest control. To save the bees and ourselves, we must start using such alternative gardening methods rather than reaching for the first bottle of poison at hand. And more of us should also be marching against the likes of Monsanto.

red sidewalk roses, St. Johns

For more Certified Backyard Habitats, check out the sample galleries available on the organization's web site. Though the certification program isn't available yet down here in Clackamas County, I do come across certified yards in my Portland wanderings, especially during the upcoming neighborhood garage sale season, so this will probably become a regular blog feature as I come across and photograph more Certified Habitat yards. Thank you, Certified Backyard Habitat participants, for taking these extra steps to support the birds and bees and other wild things among us.

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