wrote about this on her blog a while back. And then I was weeding in my 500s, and there it was, just waiting for me. I’d never even noticed it before. It falls in the dreaded number 508, the number for general natural history. This is where natural history memoirs go. They usually get starred reviews in the journals, so I feel obliged to buy them, but no matter how interesting the book may be to actually read, I can’t get any of my patrons to actually check them out. This book was over ten years old, though, so even though I read it and it was really good, and anyone interested either in gardening or in having a low-maintenance yard should read it, it’s now in my personal collection, not the library, but still up for borrowing.
Noah’s Garden by Sara Stein Author Stein wrote in a previous book about her family’s journey to become Gardeners, after buying a largish property. This book is about her becoming an un-gardener, planting with native plants rather than exotic imported plants, letting the flowers feed the bugs and the birds rather than spraying the bugs and raking away the food. Noah’s ark wouldn’t really have worked without bringing the plants, because the larger predators eat the smaller insect- and herbivores, and everything is highly adapted to live off of the native plants of that particular region. That means that if we want birds, rather that buying birdfeeders, we can look for native flowers and fruiting shrubs, without even knowing what will feed who when. Though she’s got a recommendation from Michael Pollan, this book is closer to Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle than The Ominvore’s Dilemma, more her own particular tale with some background woven in than the reverse. Even though their property was an old farmstead, she talks about the power of everyone planting their corners and edges with fruiting bushes that provide food for birds and cover for small animals, creating safe corridors where they can travel. There are ideas here for yards small and big in this gentle and inspiring book.
For us, we were already planning on replacing the long-ago vegetable garden and more recent raspberry and maple jungle with a native meadow. (Sadly, they didn’t have the kits at the farmer’s market yet this weekend.) After reading this book, I’m hoping to put in more understory trees, shrubs and native woodland plants in, expanding the shady areas of our yard where the grass doesn’t like to grow anyway. We’ll save the front lawn, and in the back, eventually, have paths to three or so open grassy areas. That should provide a lot more for wildlife, and also make mowing much less of a chore. I’m anticipating that exploring paths will be more fun for children than one big open lawn, too.