Sunday, February 6, 2011

LittleHUGE

When my days are done I will not go down in the annals of history. I will not have cured cancer, brought peace to the middle east, or stopped global warming. I reconciled myself a long time ago to living life on a much smaller scale. The universe I affected was limited to my home and family, circle of friends, and students and colleagues at school.


Honeybees love the sweetspire 'Little Henry' shrubs.

I began to garden almost 16 years ago. Tired of the bare, scrubby yard of our military base house, I longed for color and a diversion from being a young mother home with a two year old all day. I wanted to garden as organically as possible, but aside from tilling cut grass into the vegetable garden and burning my plants with manure, I didn't know how. I accepted the necessity of chemicals as readily as gloves on a cold day. The organic offerings at our base exchange or local Wal-Mart were slim to none, so I chose what looked the least ominous and hoped for the best.

As my gardens grew larger and my skills deepened, my perspective changed and I began to see my garden as a habitat, whole and encompassing. It wasn't just a collection of pretty flowers and a bird bath, but home to the bluebirds who nested in the same spot every year, generations of butterflies, and a pit stop for migratory birds. My world was suddenly larger and my choices had become littleHUGE. Choosing to fertilize the lawn or gardens with chemicals or organics was a little decision, but the impact was huge.


A swallowtail butterfly caterpillar munches away on the curly parsley.

 Some of the decisions I made were so small, I can't remember making them. The extra curly parsley fed dozens of caterpillars, the bronze fennel hosted leigons of beneficial insects, and the rose of sharon, freed from the pesticide used to control japanese beetles, sang with life, it's boughs heavy with song birds and blossoms bursting with bees. Of all those decisions, only the choice to replace the pesticide with milky spore was significant. The others evaporated as quickly as they formed, leaving only a cognitive shadow to remind me of my plans.

A monarch fresh from its chrysalis rests on the phlox.

As my garden became more organic, the impact of littleHUGE sang, flapped, fluttered, and hopped in front of me daily.  Seeing the garden as an ecosystem that lived or died based on little decisions I made was transformative. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, an estimated 67 million birds a year die from pesticide contamination by eating poisoned insects. The weight of this information was overpowering and I refused to be a contributor. I couldn't save 67 million birds, but I could create a haven for those who stopped by. I could simply be as littleHUGE as possible.

22 comments:

  1. Your voice so eloquently reflects my own experience...it's transformative and fascinating. We may only have impact on a small corner of the world but it is significant!

    We've been traveling and am only now able to respond to your comment about my photos. Your compliments are so humbling and I'm honored you would want to include one of my photos in your home! The photo you spoke of is one I'd like to mount on canvas too. My girlfriend is a professional photographer and I'll ask her how to share a print quality image across the miles. Possibly I could send it to you in a zip file?

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  2. Absolutely!!! Austin is such a cool town I wouldn't be surprised if you found a small independent gallery that would show your work. Just put together a portfolio and start asking around. You have nothing to lose. The worst they'll say is no but they just might say yes! Then I'll order a picture so you can be fairly compensated for your tremendous talent. :o)

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  3. I think your impact is more than little huge. Is great having people like you helping earth

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  4. It's great to garden for the birds and insects,adds another dimension as you point out. What they give us in enjoyment is a bonus :)

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  5. I love the concept of littleHUGE, and it applies to so much we do beyond the garden. I like reading about your evolution as a gardener --- it's intriguing to me to learn how others came to create their gardens and impact the world around them!

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  6. Dear Organic Gardener Extraordinaire,

    This piece of your heart is one of the most beautifully written blog entries I have ever encountered.

    Thank you, thank you for a wonderful beginning to a new week.

    A fellow organic gardener and lover of a garden's true nature,

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

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  7. I enjoyed your well written post, TS. I have my wildlife habitat sign hanging on our fence, as well. Creating a garden teaming with life...butterflies, bees, birds is a win ~ win situation.

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  8. This was a very heartfelt post with such good contributions to your garden and much beyond. Very well written and I am sure made a lot of readers really think about your philosophical outlook to the larger picture.

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  9. I'm with you ~ the garden isn't just for the gardener. It's very satisfying to provide some habitat when so much has been lost.

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  10. Amen! Immensely well written. I so enjoyed reading how your approach and philosophy to gardening evolved over time. As each person makes a small impact in their corner of the world so evolves the larger impact hence your LittleHUGE! It still amazes me how reliant most homeowners are on chemicals. When I did my Master Gardener training we had an excellent speaker talk about the evolution of chemicals being marketed to homeowners starting in the 1940-50's. And surprisingly most homeowners don't even use the chemicals properly. Some chemicals are even taken off the market because they aren't used properly. If only people would realize that organic methods are so much more effective in the long run!

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  11. Wonderful uplifting post...from one newly organic gardener to another we can learn so much from the small things we do and I look forward to reading and learning more...

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  12. In his book Bringing Nature Home, Doug Tallamy says that the only hope for our environment is in each of our gardens, one at a time. You eloquently echo his belief by showing that it's the small decisions that add up to something big. There is no easy answer that will be implemented by "them", there is only "us" and the sum of our small steps.

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  13. Just baby steps in the right direction is all it takes. Nicely done.

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  14. I had no idea that so many birds were falling victim, as a result of the chemical control of insects. That is huge loss! I wish more people felt and acted as you do. Every little bit helps the environment.

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  15. I like your use of the word littleHUGE. A small gesture from one person, will not make much impact on the prevention of the killing of 67 million birds but its the seed of a global realisation that every small gesture in all parts of the world will one day make a HUGE step towards that prevention! Such a humble, heartfelt and honest post!

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  16. Everybody - I'm so glad this post has resonated so deeply with everyone. Instead of feeling helpless to make the world a better place, gardening has empowered me and every bird song and butterfly flitter validates my choices. We all make a difference that is more huge than we realize! :o)

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  17. Well said! You have captured how I feel about organic gardening in a much better way than I could have ever expressed! Beautiful photos too :)

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  18. Wonderfully powerful demonstration of how small choices can make such huge differences to wildlife. I am making a mental note to grow more parsley in hopes of attracting more caterpillars - so long as they are not theose that become Cabbage Whites...

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  19. Just for this one post alone, you deserve the award of Stylish Blogger...for what defines style is right here, and what you are doing.I feel that the award is being passed around from blogger to blogger as a way to acknowledge that there are as many varieties of 'style' as there are of plants and insects and birds.Do come over to my blog to pick up the award and join in the fun of learning more about your new blogger friends.
    Rosie

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  20. I really enjoyed this post, all so true! I've found that not using pesticides attracts the natural insect eaters anyway - Ladybugs always seem to show up after the aphids try to take over the roses.

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  21. Greetings from Southern California :-)

    I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to.

    God Bless You, ~Ron

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  22. Bravo to you! We know little of the ripple effects from our small decisions, but when our gardens are teeming with wildlife we know we are doing some good. I am glad to see that even the big box stores are now offering some organic choices, because the demand for safer, more eco-friendly products is growing.

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