Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city is hip and urban – and you can, too.

Category: Rewilding (page 3 of 3)

All articles that pertain to the BCLH service, “Rewilding” – green driveways, native plant landscaping, and bird protection.

How the green driveway conversion is holding up

In 2015, I posted about converting a standard residential parking spot into a green driveway. It’s a pictorial, part of our Project portfolio. Three months after completing the job (from mid-May to August), I’d gotten used to the results and I was quite happy!

A year and half later – that is, last fall –  I was still pleased, having seen the results over seven seasons (spring through winter, then spring through fall). It was like an extra yard with cobblestone wheel paths, and an Adirondack chair in place after I got rid of my car.

There were only two problems I can complain about. If one parked on the green driveway for too long, without sun, the plants under the car would die back, but as soon as you parked elsewhere and watered them a day or two, the green would come back. So, if you drive to work most days: no problem! The other issue I had was when someone else parked in my driveway and they had an oil leak. It killed the plants, but as oil does biodegrade, the vegetation came back only a little worse for wear (creeping thyme is hard to grow) in about two weeks. It still beats seeing an oil stain on your driveway!

Now the driveway is under a foot and a half of snow. With no car, I have no need to shovel it out. The effort of shovelling a green driveway is different than that of a standard one. For example, you cannot use salt, but neither do you have to go right down to the pavement. You shovel out the wheel tracks and path to the car doors and keep them even, but otherwise, if the snow packs and turns to ice, you put down sand or sawdust instead.

If you have a driveway that could stand converting over from hot and ugly old asphalt to something a little more cool and welcoming, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re looking for people to serve!

If you enjoyed this post, the mailing list will contain questions and answers and I will be most curious and happy to answer yours, especially if it will spread the word about how viable this project is.

How to stop killing birds with your windows – bird crash prevention!

Window crashes, also known as bird strikes, kill millions of birds with *every* migration. You might not think it happens to you, but it does. And we can stop it.

When I was in Toronto this week, I saw a newly constructed glass building in the new West Don Lands area that used bird-friendly glass, with dots impregnated into the glass every 8-10 cm (ideally, though, it should be every 5 cm).  Birds need to see that the reflective glass is not “air to fly through,” so interruptions or obstructions in the reflected light are necessary.

The Corktown Common park was a joy to visit. It has a constructed wetland that they seeded well with native species. It has reeds, duckweed, and native water fleur-de-lys, making it a wonderful habitat for birds. I only wish it were larger, but that it is so accessible to wandering humans means they have a chance to see nature they won’t otherwise see. It whets the appetite for the real thing.

I saw a nesting red-wing blackbird that was feeding his young ones. Or, more like, I saw him arrive with food, heard the cacophony of chirps, and then saw him fly off to get more.

On the walk to the park, we also saw a lone swan nesting, or resting, by the viaduct. It was strange to see that in a “no-man’s-land” off the eastern part of downtown, but as always, it was welcome.

Though we need to carry out bird-friendly design (and leaving some places alone to be wild) everywhere, Toronto bylaws require bird crash prevention – new buildings need to have bird-friendly glass. Toronto is in the middle of a flyway. Vancouver, too, has a new standard, as reported in Canadian Wildlife Magazine:

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Why you should make your chimney available to Chimney Swifts

A chimney swift is a bird, an aerial insectivore that consumes more than 1000 insects per day. It roosts in brick-laid chimneys. It’s not a dusty child from a Charles Dickens novel!

When the winter hearth fires are put out until next autumn comes, this article, How to make your chimney a home for chimney swifts, is an inspiration to an urban wildlife lover (click the link for a 6-minute read).

The key point is if your chimney is not lined with a metal tube, you’re in luck! You could host some chimney swifts. Montreal’s population will be here in May.

Their numbers have dwindled and habitat has declined, but with an open-sided chimney cap, you could take part in boosting their numbers now! (If your chimney’s dirty, clean it — you need to do this for fire hazard and insurance purposes every few years, because creosote builds up.)

At Le Nichoir, where I’ve volunteered, they have a rehab aviary for the young and injured and a habitat for healthy chimney swifts. As I later found out, Hurricane Wilma in 2005 decimated Quebec’s population of chimney swifts. Their population still needs help.

“The chimney swift has declined in Canada by 90 percent since the 1970s. In Manitoba, we basically sit at the northwest periphery of its global range, and when a species declines it always declines from its edges… We’re probably at the frontline of trying to help this species here in Manitoba because we’re at that edge.”

Tim Poole, Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative
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Gardening for Wildlife: Free Backyard Certification

What Rewilding is about is making your architecture and garden hospitable to nature. We want to help you do that – and so we’ll offer you a free backyard certification to make sure it is wildlife-friendly ($10 for the certification itself with the Canadian Wildlife Federation, free for the Espace pour la vie). Our service will help give you great ideas to make your back yard as zen as can be (such as the pond pictured here), while welcoming wildlife and beneficial insects. The CWF will, for a low ($15) cost, send you a sturdy outdoor sign that you can hang to show your guests and neighbours – a well-earned right to brag!

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Newer posts

Rewilding is about converting your lawn to groundcover (bit by bit!) to native species. This fosters biodiversity. It also creates habitat for urban wildlife. Finally, you'll only trim it 2-3 times per season rather than every 7-10 days!

The green driveway gallery shows you how you can DIY a driveway conversation using my first model as an example. There are other ways to do it, and things I learned in the process and afterward. Please call me at 514-815-5163 for my landscaping service, or to discuss upgrading your driveway.

The work season is April 1st through June 30th, but I install bird strike prevention (to stop birds from crashing into windows and glass balconies) whenever the temperature is above 5ºC. Call the number above or email. It's important to do this earlier rather than later,  in time for bird migrations in late April to end of May, and late August to mid-October.


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