Big City, Little Homestead

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

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Replacing your grass lawn with a meadow, or just allowing one to happen

Do you hate mowing the lawn? Holy cow, I used to. We had a lawn that was half the size of a football field, and I spent many hours doing it. It’s not a hobby. And loads of gasoline spilled, actually. It kills the grass, but the grass comes back after a week or two.

When I first published this post (in June, 2017), a friend just turned me on to the Freakonomics podcast episode about America’s “stupid” 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 at the link.

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New project: build a nest box for bluebirds and chickadees!

It’s been on my todo list for a few weeks to build a couple of bird houses with the scrap wood I have leftover from other projects and so finally I did the job JUST IN TIME for spring migration.

In fact, almost too late – except that some species breed more than once. Those birds who are have been sticking around or arriving earlier already have young, and and some just arriving are getting ready to find a nest box. AND that’s what I’m going to provide!

And so can you. Do it this weekend!

Resource: NestWatch’s All About Birdhouses has everything you need to know about different birdhouses and nest boxes for different types of birds, and also how to set them up with a nest camera!

Cornell Lab of ornithology

I turned this into a new kind of post called a Portfolio post. I decided it was a nice way to do it with a picture gallery, and I could create a series of DIY projects that way. Go check it out. It’s called “Using Old Wood To Build A Birdhouse.

Leave a comment if you do get this project under way / done. I’d love to see the results!

Get your trowels ready! Montréal’s garden giveaway is coming up.

The spring gardening season is upon us with even more speed than it usually assaults us, since winter lingered just a little longer than some people had hoped.

So it comes as small surprise that the Ville and its annual “embellissement” campaign (this translates to “embellishment,” but also “beautification”) is coming to many boroughs just a little late, on the fourth weekend of May, this year (with exceptions).

This annual campaign gives residents of Montreal a panier — a basket — of seedlings for their gardens and balconies: impatiens and begonias, an annual flower such as echinacea, fine herbs like sage, rosemary, and basil, and sometimes mint and tomatoes or cucumbers. Also included is as much compost and wood chips as you want to take.

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Sugar ants aren’t pests – they’re harmless and helpful!

Photo caption: A legion (hah, get it  – not army, but part thereof!) of sugar ants committed mass suicide in my bottle of honey. In honour of those that might resurrect – I can see some of them will – I pooled it in the sink and gave them a chance to extract themselves (sugar ants are resilient to injury). A few less foolhardy brothers and sisters are supping from the edges.

People don’t know what to make of the teeny-tiny ants that march indoors like school children on spring and summer days (when they should be outside!). They can’t be mistaken for carpenter ants. But, like the many other species that aren’t carpenter ants, all searches end up on results about killing them. As if they were as dangerous as carpenter ants. Carpenter ants won’t hurt you, but their infestations are dangerous to your house – they devour wood.  

Common talk, mass media, and the extermination industry has effectively enabled people to think that insects are disgusting and undesirable. We know this is just flat-out wrongheadedness. All it takes to realize that bugs aren’t your enemy is to observe them objectively, and if that isn’t enough, it always helps to do a little research.

Of course, when you try to do some research, you have to get past the “get rid of” them websites. The truth takes lot more digging. So that’s what this blog post is about.

Tapinoma sessile is the name of this kind of ant. Here’s the path I took:

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