Review of The Humane Gardener, by Nancy Lawson

Reviewed by Ann Di Fiore

As a Fairfax Master Naturalist and Audubon at Home Ambassador, I am always on the lookout for books on native plant and wildlife gardening. The Humane Gardener (2017, 224 pp) offers insights on both topics, but what sets Lawson’s book apart from others is her emphasis on creating habitats that nurture all forms of wildlife. Interspersed with chapters on native plantings, creating habitat, and the benefits of decaying plant material are profiles of humane gardeners whose properties range from modest backyards to commercial farms.

Many of the principles Lawson lays out are well known to master naturalists: “Plant for all seasons and sizes” to address “diverse diners”; use “green mulch”—native grasses and groundcovers—rather than bark in between shrubs and trees to improve soil; choose straight species over cultivars; and don’t “love” –overwater and over fertilize—native plants.

Lawson urges us to be attentive to gardening activities that have tragic consequences for wildlife.  In a section entitled “Don’t Mow the Teenagers,”she warns us that mowing, pruning, and raking can cut short the life cycles of ground insects and other animals. Fritillary larvae, for example, crawl onto violet plants in early spring and, as Doug Tallamy puts it, “we murder them with our lawn mowers.”  Baby rabbits in hidden nests and other young animals are vulnerable as well.

When removing invasive plants from our properties, Lawson asks us to “triage” their removal to minimize adverse effects on wildlife that make use of these plants. Early blooming invasives may be the only available nectar sources to bees, fruiting shrubs like Amur honeysuckles may fill a significant part of a bird’s diet.

In The Humane Gardener, Lawson addresses an uncomfortable truth:  the wild creatures most gardeners want to support are songbirds and pollinators. Many other forms of wildlife we consider interlopers—enemies. She enumerates the cruelties inflicted by pest removal services, glue traps, even “humane” deterrents (predator urine, for instance, is captured from caged coyotes and other animals on fur farms). She advocates flexibility and a more generous perspective:  opossums and raccoons eat carrion, ticks, and slugs; rabbits devour dandelions; and moles and chipmunks till the soil, increasing its fertility.

In a world of shrinking natural spaces and biodiversity, Lawson asks us to reconsider our ideas of ownership and make room for all forms of wildlife.  Above all, she asks that we be conscious of the consequences of our routine gardening choices.  She promises that our gardens will be healthier—and more humane—as a result.

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Diversity Inclusion in Environmental Education webinar

The United States prides itself as a melting pot and with the current overall demographic shifting, we are seeing more nonnative- English-speaking students engage in both the traditional and outdoor classrooms. However, various stereotypes and misconceptions tend to follow this multicultural student, and it is our job as educators to evolve to meet the needs of all of our students. Whether you are interacting with nonnative English speakers during a school presentation or offering educational programs in a nature center, this webinar focuses on various techniques you can use to better connect with your audience. And, no, you do not need to learn a second language!

Presenter: Mariya Hudick, Tri-County/City Soil & Water Conservation District

Mariya Hudick is an Education Coordinator with Tri-County/City Soil & Water Conservation District. Her primary focus is to educate the local community on soil and water conservation efforts. For the last three years, Mariya worked for the Department of Conservation & Recreation as a Park Ranger where she provided meaningful environmental education opportunities for the general public. Mariya is originally from Russia and immigrated with her family in the early 2000s. As a former ESL student, Mariya has used her experiences to better connect with other non-native English speakers in the hopes of inspiring future stewards. She has been conducting research on the multicultural student in environmental education and has partnered with various Master Naturalists to collect and interpret data on the subject for the last two years.

Webinar Details

When: November 27, 2018, 12:00 pm

Meeting Number: 225-404-939

Link to join: Join Webinar

(This link will connect you to the video feed, but you will need to connect your audio separately to hear the speaker.  Zoom will prompt you to do that once you have connected the video feed.  See the technical information below for details on connecting your audio.)

Link for recordings of this and past webinars:  VMN Continuing Education page 

Native plants for beginners symposium: Save the date

Photo by Barbara J. Saffir (c)

  • Create a beautiful yard
  • Save time so you can enjoy other activities
  • Create habitat for birds & pollinators
  • Save money on fertilizer
  • Improve water quality
  • Reduce erosion
  • Stop mowing, Start growing!

Learn more at the Prince William Native Plant Symposium on Saturday, February 23, 2019 at the McCoart County Administrative Building

1 County Complex Ct., Woodbridge, VA 22192.

9 a.m. to 2 p.m.  

The $15 fee covers coffee and donuts, lunch, and materials.  

Registration begins December 1, 2018.

Let us help you to stop mowing and get going on your dream landscape!  

Call 703-792-7070 for more details and share the flyer.

Explore the Clifton Institute in November and December

Photo: Barbara J. Saffir (c)

YHikes!

Saturday, November 17, 9:00AM – 12:00PM

Our monthly YHikeS! (Youth Hikes) program continues. Children ages 5 and older are invited to come along as we explore the field station and learn about the plants, animals, and fungi that live here. Parents are welcome to drop off their child or they may attend the program.

Monthly Bird Walks

Wednesday, November 14 and Saturday, December 1 at 8:00AM

Novice and experienced birders will enjoy these guided 1-2 mile hikes to look for the many species of birds that can be found on the field station. The ducks are starting to show up and pretty soon our ponds will be full of waterfowl. You never know what we’ll find!

Nature photography, FMN annual meeting, December 7th

Photo by Fred Siskind

St. Dunstan’s Church

1830 Kirby Drive, McLean VA

Friday, 7 December 2018

7-9 pm

Potluck:  please bring a dish to share

Public invited!  Our Fairfax Master Naturalists board officer elections will be followed by our Fall Basic Training Course graduation.  Candidates for election follow:

President: Joe Gorney
Vice President/Program Committee Chair: Kit Sheffield
Secretary: Shannon Dart
Treasurer: Ron Grimes
Past President: Michael Reinemer

Fred Siskind will then give a presentation on nature photography.  (One hour continuing education credit for Fairfax Master Naturalists.) Fred will discuss macro photography in the field with an emphasis on photographing insects – dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, caterpillars. He will briefly describe the equipment he uses and cover the essential requirements for producing a good photograph – composition, background and foreground control, depth of field, gardening, and lighting.

Fred is a nature photographer specializing in wildlife. In addition to regularly photographing in Washington area parks, he has traveled to many U.S. national parks as well as game parks in Kenya. He is a longtime member and former President of the Northern Virginia Photographic Society, and a member of the North American Nature Photography Association. He completed the Fairfax Master Naturalist Program in 2016.

His photos have been published in many magazines (Audubon, Birder’s World, Bird Watcher’s Digest, National Geographic Kids, Natural History, Nature’s Best, Outdoor Photographer, Smokies Life), books (American Birding Association, Capstone, Kidsbooks, National Geographic, Western National Parks Association), calendars (Audubon, Shearson, Tildon), and used in exhibits (Huntley Meadows Park, National Park Service, National Arboretum) and brochures and posters (Huntley Meadows Park, Time-Life Books, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). He collaborated with former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis on a poetry/photography book for children titled Face Bug, which can be ordered on Amazon. His photos can be seen at www.agpix.com/siskind.

Fall/winter service opportunities at Hidden Oaks Nature Center

Photo by Barbara J. Saffir (c)

Hidden Oaks Nature Center

7701 Royce Street, Annandale VA

Flying Squirrels Gliding in Tonight

Saturday, 24 November 2018 or Saturday, 8 December 2018

6:30-8:30 pm

Assist a naturalist in calling in these amazing night gliders and looking for flying squirrels at roosting boxes near the nature center. Teach families how to encourage flying squirrels to visit their yards. Contact Fiona Davies, fiona.davies@fairfaxcounty.gov. Record hours as E110: FCPA Nature Programs. In the contacts field, record the number of people attending the program.

Office for Children Outdoor Play in Fall/Winter

Saturday, 15 December 2018

8am-1pm

Assist naturalists in educating up to 50 child care professionals in sharing nature with preschoolers and outdoor play during fall and winter. Contact Suzanne Holland, suzanne.holland@fairfaxcounty.gov. Record hours as E110: FCPA Nature Programs. In the contacts field, record the number of people attending the program.

Visitor Information Desk

Sunday afternoons, 2.5 to 5 hours

Greet visitors and orient them to the exhibits, park and programs. Answer natural history questions for the public. Shift can be 12:00-2:30pm or 2:30-5:00pm or 12:00-5:00pm. Contact Fiona Davies, fiona.davies@fairfaxcounty.gov.  Record hours as E111: FCPA Nature Center Visitor Information Desk. In the contacts field, record the number of people you talk to.

Earth Sangha needs you, Nov. 10th and beyond

Native Planting

Marie Butler Leven Preserve
1501 Kirby Road, McLean, VA 22101
Saturday, 10 November 2018
10am – 1pm

Volunteers are needed to help plant over 70 native trees and shrubs, and a few flats of native grasses and forbs. Please bring your own reusable water bottle and we’ll provide tools, gloves, snacks, and water refills. The group will meet in the parking lot and walk to the planting site together. If you arrive late, please call Matt at 703-859-2951. Click here for more information.

Nursery Workdays

Earth Sangha’s fall nursery workdays are Sundays, Mondays, and Thursday, from 9am to Noon. The last nursery workday scheduled for the Fall is Monday, November 19th. They may need volunteers for a day or two in December and will announce those dates separately. Click here for more information.

Meadow planting & Accotink Gorge walking tour, Nov. 10th

Accotink Gorge
7245 Fullerton Road, Springfield
Saturday, 10 November 2018
9am-1pm and 1:30-4:30 pm

Join Friends of Accotink Creek at this great volunteer opportunity! Bring trowels and shovels to help install a native meadow at a Fairfax County maintenance facility. Afterward take a walking tour of the adjacent scenic Accotink Gorge and spend some time along the way cutting back the alien invasive Chinese wisteria vines that are engulfing this biological gem. We recommend sturdy work shoes, long pants, and long sleeves. Water and work gloves will be available. Free event. RSVP and see this and other volunteer and educational opportunities by visiting the Friends of Accotink Creek calendar.

Stream monitoring, attend and learn Nov. 11th and Dec. 1st

Accotink Creek Stream Monitoring Workshop

Rutherford Park, 4743 Guinea Road, Fairfax VA

Sunday,  11 November 2018

10 am-12:30pm

Join the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD) and discover aquatic life at Rutherford Park! Sampling will take place at Long Branch, a tributary to Accotink Creek. This official NVSWCD stream monitoring workshop covers watershed health, what macroinvertebrates tell us about stream quality, and what you can do to prevent pollution in your local stream. Registration is limited. RSVP to Ashley Palmer.

Broad Run Stream Monitoring Session

Bristow, VA

Saturday, 1 December 2018, 10:30am-12:30pm

Join a stream monitor at this adopted outdoors science lab to learn more about water quality for more awareness in Prince William County. Registration is limited. RSVP to Sonnie Cuffey.

VMN webinar: Mason Bee Project update

Are you interested in learning about mason bees? Master Naturalists across the state and mason bee researchers at the University of Virginia’s Blandy Experimental Farm were able to monitor spring-emerging mason bee populations. Over 150 Master Naturalists all over Virginia were involved by deploying bee “hotels” (nest boxes) in 2017 and 2018 and bee bowls (traps) in 2017. This webinar will cover the natural history of spring-emerging mason bees, it will describe our project setup and methodology with a live demonstration, results will be shared, and we will share information for how to participate in the 2019 mason bee monitoring project season. Everyone is welcome to join the webinar.

Kate LeCroy is a Ph.D. student studying ecology in the department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. She is advised by T’ai Roulston, Ph.D., at University of Virginia’s Blandy Experimental Farm in Boyce, Virginia. Kate graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama and went on to complete a Master of Science degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh studying the community ecology of flower color. Now at UVA, in 2017 and 2018, Kate worked with over 150 Virginia Master Naturalists throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia to document springtime wild bee diversity, particularly the diversity of mason bees (genus Osmia). Kate enjoys interacting with Master Naturalists because of their curiosity, their steadfast commitment to projects, and their enthusiasm for conservation and the natural world. When she’s not out “saving the bees” Kate enjoys spending time in Charlottesville with her husband Riley and their dog, Magnolia.

Webinar Details

When: November 13, 2018, 12:00 pm

Meeting Number: 467-052-749

Link to join: Join Webinar

(This link will connect you to the video feed, but you will need to connect your audio separately to hear the speaker.  Zoom will prompt you to do that once you have connected the video feed.  See the technical information below for details on connecting your audio.)

Link for recordings of this and past webinars:  VMN Continuing Education page 

Nature’s Best Photography on display at Museum of Natural History

The 23rd Annual Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards exhibition opened on October 29 at the National Museum of Natural History. Named for nature photographer and conservationist Windland Smith Rice, Nature’s Best presents breathtaking fine art prints and short videos that highlight the best of nature photography—and our spectacular planet.

The “23rd Annual Windland Smith Rice International Awards Smithsonian Exhibition” is on view through September 2019, on the second floor of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Entries to the 2019 competition may be submitted beginning November 1, 2018.