Monday, July 11, 2011

An Ecosystem to Love

A suburban greenmom bids farewell to an amazing forest ecosystem...

Today is our last day in gorgeous coastal Maine.

My parents live up here most of the year, and this year especially I have been struck by the unique and ecosystem-respecting landscape they have maintained on their couple of acres in a former-quarry-now-pine-forest area on the quiet side of Mt. Desert Island. My mom loves flowers, and she has always grown vegetables, but they are essentially living on top of a huge layer of granite with a little gravel, soil, and highly acidic evergreen needles growing atop it.

She does a lot of container gardening; her tomatoes, strawberries, and herbs all grow in big deep pots beside the driveway. During the winter the herbs come indoors to the little sunroom she’s built onto the side of their small log home, so the plants can survive the winter. The property is covered with perennial wild rugosas, lupines, columbines, ferns, and wild blueberry bushes—plants that can deal with the small amount of highly acidic piney dirt they have access to. Some of these have always been here; some my mom has carefully cultivated by gathering lupine seeds from other parts of the island and helping them germinate here. She also has a few half-barrels with "good" soil in them, where she grows her brighter-colored annuals, but mostly the area is grown and filled-in with its own native life. Chipmunks and birds visit their many feeders, and my dad has a long-running battle with the squirrels to keep them from demolishing the goodies meant for chickadees, cardinals, and finches.

There are a few natural quarry ponds on the property, adorned with water lilies. Wildlife is everywhere—at night we can listen to loons and frogs, and in the mornings the deer wander down looking for munchies. This is an awesome place for my kids to visit…without even needing to consciously teach any specific lessons, they are learning about land and life that works together, each providing for the other’s needs as long as each aspect respects and learns to understand the others.

It’s not a National Park. (That’s on the other side of the island—and no less gorgeous.) It’s a home, in an area with numerous other homes, also peopled by those who would rather carve out a small spot of their own in this beautiful territory than tame and dominate a landscape to suit their own needs. A really, really beautiful place. I will miss it till next year.

--Jenn the Greenmom


Green Bean said...

As a fellow suburbanite, I too love visiting places that are more countrified. My parents live in the Napa Valley here in California. There is a lot of wine grown there but there is also farm land and quite a bit of open space. I always feel so rejuvenated when I come back from a visit there. Your parents' place sounds wonderful!

Mental Arithmetic said...

Your parents' place sounds great.I think it would be a great place to go to rest and recharge.


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