An Ode to a Rural Backyard

My husband and I recently shared our home with two boys from the Bronx as part of the Fresh Air program. We ran through sprinklers, kicked soccer balls around the park, jumped into lakes and ate s’mores over a campfire. It felt like a real summer. It was pretty awesome.

The boys were surprised, however, by my fascination with the bugs in my backyard. Bugs were scary, they said. Bugs were meant to be destroyed. Being from the city, it made sense that they felt this way. So they were shocked to learn how much I loved the insects around my home.

For the past five summers we have been trying to transition our backyard in the woods from a pile of sand and mushrooms to a sea of green and flowers. Ok, I have actually been preoccupied with this particular task, as evidenced in a recent post about my mushroom obsession.

It is working. My dogs no longer roam through dirt. They get to sit in the sun in a green backyard.

To my joy, along with the green and flowers, came the pollinators.

It is not unusual for me to become distraught and teary-eyed when I listen to the news. This is particularly true when I hear stories about the struggles of the creatures with whom we share this planet. It doesn’t matter if it is a story about an emaciated polar bear or a series of interviews with scientists about the shocking decline in bees and monarch butterflies. They have an equal effect of making me feel, well, exhausted with sadness.

But something happened when I listened to one particular group of stories about pollinating insects. I suddenly felt charged with energy. I had the opportunity to do something in my own backyard.

So, instead of having a real lawn, I spread wildflower seeds. Anytime a mushroom came out, a flowering perennial went in. I stopped thinking about neatness and instead focused on the beautiful chaos that would allow insects to thrive.

It may be silly, but I think of my backyard as a little life raft, an escape from an insecticide-filled world. I proudly sneer at the sight of round-up and other weed killers (“They don’t just kill weeds, folks”). I go to permaculture lectures and learn about ways to cohabitate with creatures that want to live here. The truth is, it isn’t my backyard. It is theirs.

I am proud to say that by the end of their stay, those city boys were bee lovers. Hooray. When it comes to spiders, though… well, they were not with me on that one. Maybe we’ll get there next summer. 



Any interest in the news stories from above?

NPR pollinator stories

NPR about monarch butterflies

Recent polar bear sighting


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Long live bugs everywhere! They are the busy and hard-working critters who support the complex chain of nature. Thank you for making your little piece of the outdoors welcome to them and to those who would otherwise never see their arthropod beauty.


    1. Thank you so much for your comment, and I agree, they are incredible (and important) creatures!


  2. Amy says:

    You might enjoy a poem I called “Look Closer Still;” you may not. It speaks of bug-wonder. Kudos to you for sharing it with the boys! Also, as a former beekeeper, I’m grateful to hear of others to whom the bee sightings bring joy. Oh – and I loathe Round Up too. Happy solidarity!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Looking forward to reading it! Thanks so much for your message.

      Liked by 1 person

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