I put this list together initially for an Extension program called Homegrown Lifestyle. It was a 12 week class for folks wanting to learn how to homestead. It appears to no longer exist which is depressing.
My job was to teach participants how they could be self-sufficient and productive with their land while ALSO creating a landscape that was friendly to wildlife. And because I like top ten lists, this list was born!
Before starting the list, I want to mention that this is part II in a series of posts on being wildlife friendly with your land. Post one was an introduction to landscaping for wildlife.
I am not a hunter myself but I have immense respect for people who gather their food this way. It is just one way nature provides for us. Around here in the Upper Midwest, habitat can consist of well stewarded woodland with plenty of mast crop trees (ex. acorns). Or it could be open grass which isn’t hayed until after August 1. A cover crop not only does your soil favors but can provide winter cover. Bonus is that habitat for game species will also support some non-game species as well.
Water is a necessity for all wildlife. Providing water by building a water feature or by enhancing an existing pond can provide you with a water source for some livestock while also providing an important resource for wildlife.
Nature is a lot of wonderful things but it isn’t neat and tidy. It’s a little messy and chaotic and…well…wild. It doesn’t have to look ugly and unkempt! Think of a cottage garden with layers upon layers of flowers. The mess also doesn’t have to be everywhere; just think of leaving an area or three that are a little less orderly.
Lawn is nice for some things, like playing football or having a picnic but biologically speaking it’s a desert. Do you need an acre of lawn? Does the ditch have to be mowed? #ditchprairie
An herb garden is a great dual purpose part of the homestead. Many herbs are native species, they are often perennials and many have flowers that are attractive to pollinators. Grow it in a wild riot and it can also provide some shelter and wild space. And you still get the benefits of having culinary and medicinal herbs right outside your door!
Not only can perennial vegetation be easier to take care of, it is much more beneficial for wildlife. It provides a stable year round spot of cover for wildlife that is also reliable from year to year. Devote part of your farm to perennial plants.
So you have to be willing to share to make this one work for you and wildlife. These trees and shrubs not only provide great food for us but are also providing nutrition for wildlife. Also many fruit-bearing trees and shrubs bloom in the spring when there isn’t much else blooming, so they are vital sources of nectar for many pollinators.
It’s so much fun providing homes and feeding areas for wildlife. Who doesn’t get pleasure from watching the bird feeder or seeing a bluebird family be raised? And guess what those bird families are eating lots of? Insects, some of which may be damaging to your crops. Bats are also champion insect eaters and if you have some that have colonized a barn or even your house, you might consider providing them their own house! They’ll repay you by taking care of a lot of those pesky mosquitos!
Plants that are native to your area are always going to support more pollinators and other insects. Yes, I know I was just touting a bird’s and bat’s prowess at eating insects but I’ll address why it’s good to both have things that attract insects AND things that eat insects. Native plants are also frequently the easiest to take care of, perennial or self seeding and many have beautiful flowers like this butterfly milkweed. So instead of planting only ornamentals from the garden center think about landscaping with some perennial natives!
When nature is functioning healthily it is in balance. Herbivorous insects keep certain plants in check, predaceous insects and birds and small mammals keep the herbivorous insects in check so they don’t take out too many of the plants. This is an equilibrium to shoot for! It means being tolerant of a little loss but also receiving the benefits that pollinators and insect eating birds provide!
I love books and reading, so I can’t resist including a book recommendation with each post. The book will, in some way, correspond to the post.
Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore is a series of essays about nature and grief and it is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. Whether you are grieving or not, the point of this book is how much we learn from being in nature and how much we gain in understanding and comfort. So, make sure nature, wild nature, has a place on your homestead! To learn more about the book click the cover below.
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