Article and photos by Jennifer Howard
Summer keeps making the odd appearance still, but fall is definitely here. Beautiful crisp mornings, less daylight. Leaves are turning and falling. My screech owl greets the dawn with song near my home just before it goes to bed, as I am getting up. I will never get tired of that. Keeping it natural is so important to our wildlife, shelter, food, dens and nests, all year long. Survival. Acorns appear to all be down and the maple keys to are plentiful. Mother Nature is calling for a good winter from her food supplies. Don’t take them away.
There are a few fall flowers around for the remaining bees and insects, possible migrating hummingbirds. And other small birds. Some people want everything cleaned up for the winter. I was one. But over the years I realized, by watching the birds through the winter months, I shouldn’t.
One year winter came early, and nothing got done. I couldn’t believe how many lives depended on those old dead flowers and their seeds, food. Then I learned that so many lives overwinter in the stems, under the leaves. Ladybugs, bees, toads, insects, so much depend on our leaf litter and seeds to survive. Small brush piles for shelter, but don’t burn them if you decide you don’t want them without checking for any lives inside.
As it seems here at my house, we don’t seem to have the time to clean everything up, we tidy up, but we do not cut back or pick up. It’s food or warmth for others as well. Skunks, raccoons, foxes, you name it. Take that away. Their life becomes more difficult. And to be honest! Snow covers it all up anyways right. Wood frogs also overwinter under leaves, Mother Nature has given wildlife many options, but we get in the way, and take it away on them. Mostly unknowing. Next time you look outside, look at it in a different way. It’s not, oh my gosh I must get that cleaned up, that tree needs to come down, granted safety first but leave 15 to 20 feet up. It’s still habitat and a food source. And it’s not dangerous anymore. Every life matters. Maybe not to us, like those pesky insects, but every life is a food source for something else. Spiders are food for birds and even dragonflies etc. Spider in the house, cup it and gently put it outside. No need to kill them.
This winter sit and watch the magic unfold by leaving your garden intact, come spring, watch as the critters reappear to greet the world again, unharmed. But make sure you wait until it is at least 50° F or 10° C for at least one week before you do your clean up. They need to warm up before they come out. Then feel the warmth in your heart for having made sure all these tiny little lives were safe all winter because of your kindness.