The natural world is a wild place.  Many of us do not notice how wild, because we have built our habitats to keep ourselves safe and comfortable, insulating our lives from its wild elements.  I’m happy to report that in our 36 years gardening in Tucson’s suburbs in the Sonoran desert, I’ve never seen a rattlesnake, bobcat or Gila Monster in my garden.  Jim has run into all these creatures while working, and takes their presence for granted.  He says that they are like the mountains that surround our city; they are there everyday, yet we rarely see or notice them.

This photograph was taken at Tohono Chul Park, a world class botanical garden, situated right in the middle of our city.  The mission of the park is to ” enrich peoples lives by connecting them with the wonders of nature, art and culture in the Sonoran Desert region and inspiring wise stewardship of the natural world.” They seek to accomplish their goal through lectures, exhibits, bird watching tours, and acres of desert gardens.  They succeeded in their mission the day I visited recently with out-of-town guests.  I was stricken with awe of the desert I live in, but rarely see.

Standing in  the desert, I feel less like a resident and more like a visitor; it  feels wild and somehow unfamiliar and uncomfortable.  Alone in this environment, I would wonder: Where do I rest?  Where do I find a drink?  How do I get cool or warm?  What do I eat? The creatures living here have answers to all these questions, making THEM the residents, while reminding me that I am a visitor on Earth.  There is room for me to make a home and plant a garden, but only for a time.

This reminder encourages me to continue to strive to care for the space I take up in the larger environment, not just the space I call my own.  In my garden, a rattlesnake would be an invader, a danger to people and pets; but out in the desert-scape it is I who invades; I am the trampler.  I must tread with respect. I want to know that I leave the world a better place for my grandchildren and their grandchildren. 

One of the simple ways I can do this is to cherish my surroundings and teach my grand children to do the same.   I can also reduce the negative effect I have here by recycling trash, making compost and re-purposing old items in a way that makes them newly useful.

This past year Jim and I have made about four, thirty-two-gallon-sized bins of compost out of our kitchen waste and some of our yard waste.  We have also recycled all of our plastic bags, our office paper, plastic containers, glass and aluminum containers, cardboard boxes and anything else that our trash service will take and re-use.  We even wrapped our Christmas presents in Sunday comics.  This practice took such little effort on our part, it almost doesn’t deserve mention, but it is a start.  

I had fun re-purposing a few old things into needed items that have become indispensable.  I found the idea for my glove holder on Pinterest.  I used an old sign that previously directed visitors to my parents’ sold cabin, turned it backwards, glued a few clothespins, and walla… my gloves stay handy and dry.  I still haven’t decided what to paint on the sign, but I’m thinking of something like: All Hands On Deck.

After we laid a new wood floor in our office, we were left with a pallet which I re-purposed to hold old tools that Jim has retired from landscape service and donated to our garden.  I’m thinking of painting the slats with different colors of leftover paint to make it pretty.

As owners of a landscape company, we always have a pile of neatly stacked plastic pots, until the pile gets as tall as the fence, then Jim takes them back to the nursery to be re used.

  And that’s all we ever did with them, until I found an idea on Pinterest of covering plastic pots with burlap to make them more attractive to be used to grow vegetables. This idea was right up my alley. The tomato stakes are re-purposed Yucca stalks.

Photo Courtesy of Reid Park Zoo / Tucson

Another way we found to reduce the litter we add to the desert was to donate a trailer load of African Sumac tree branches, that would have gone to the landfill, to be used as browse for our  zoo elephants,  giving them something to do as they strip and eat the leaves and bark.

The zookeeper joked that the huge pile of branches would keep the elephants busy for a few minutes, reminding me, again,  how small we are.

A few of our next projects are: adding a rainwater harvesting system, and learning how to use natural pest control products.

In the meantime, we will continue to respect the Earth we inhabit as residents and visitors, while we limit our impact as invaders.  These small steps on their own are not much, but multiplied by a million people over a hundred years!  That’s something to talk about.  Click here to attend the Fishtail Cottage Garden Party #11  





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