Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Category: Ecology (page 1 of 2)

NPR’s Freakonomics podcast: How Stupid is Our Obsession with Lawns?


A friend just turned me on to last week’s episode on America’s obsession with lawns. It has a lot of different points of view and recommendations on what to do differently; native species, alternative lawn care, and urban agriculture are some of the topics. Listen here:

Plants for Birds – a garden planning resource

Are you getting ready to plan your garden? If so, here’s a find! While its integration with local merchants doesn’t apply to Canadian gardeners (as we wouldn’t be able to shop and bring plants back across the border), we share some of the same Zones as the northern states (for example, Montreal is in Zone 5). As a Native Plants database cross-referenced with birds that enjoy those plants, it’s great research for making decisions — that migrating birds can then benefit from, as they pass through.

How to use it:

You have to enter your email address and a US zip code. Montreal is closest to Champlain, NY, so I looked it up at 12919.

(Entering your details gives you direct access to the database, no need for a subscription confirmation.)

Armed with plant ideas and information (from all the pretty pictures!), we can then enquire at local nurseries, plan, and plant.

What’s one thing you can do today to help birds? Grow bird-friendly plants!

The Audubon Society launched a website called “Plants for Birds” that helps American gardeners find plants in their area that will encourage birds to visit and stay awhile. Click the pictures to be taken to the site.

Birds, in order: male Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Black-throated Blue Warbler, American Goldfinch, female Ruby-throated Hummingbird,

Source: Plants for Birds

Creating lawn habitat for the Rusty-Patched Bumblebee

Bumblebees are important pollinators of native and fruiting crops, and Rusty-patched Bumblebees have been decimated by 90% of earlier population counts. They have finally been granted Endangered status in the United States. This article gives you all the details on the bumblebee and its status. In one of the comments, a reader writes that people in the midwest can create habitat for the bees by ripping out their manicured lawns, and creating meadow replacements with water features.

Garden certification from Espace pour la vie

Hello, wildlife gardeners! Last year, I certified Big City Little Homestead’s garden as Wildlife-Friendly with the Canadian Wildlife Federation (you can too, and I’ll help!). As the Montreal Botanical Garden offers a similar service, I also registered my garden there. Here are the certificates I received:


Here is where you can register your garden: Certification is annual, so you need to update your pictures every year, by October 15th. There are three themes for certification:

  • Biodiversity garden
  • Bird  garden
  • Monarch oasis

They have a map extension they call the “Gardenaut Gallery,” so that you can visit the photos that gardeners have submitted to the program – there are over over 300 entries in all of Quebec!

My entry is here:

An anecdote about the green driveway

Last night I saw something charming enough to post it on Facebook. I’m often confused about whether the birds are American Tree Sparrows or Chipping Sparrows, but the absence of the distinct call of the Tree Sparrow, with the presence of the distinct call of the Chipping in spring, persuades me which one it is. Since 2012, when I really started paying attention to the birds in  Little Burgundy (Montreal), this bird really is increasing in numbers. This is good – all cities need native habitat and the birds and animals that use it.

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