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Saturday, 6 August 2016

Waste Land?

   I'm sure most people have driven on a divided highway that has patches of grass between the lanes bound in opposite directions.  Many of us see the overgrown grass, Queen Anne's lace and red clover and think to ourselves how messy it looks.  Couldn't someone trim this wasteland to make it look nicer?
   Last month my husband and I had the opportunity to go to Iowa, a state in the mid-western United States.  We were surprised at how non-existent such wasteland is there.  As far as the eye can see neat fields of corn or soybeans fill the landscape.  The grass along the road side is not allowed to get out of control; most farmers cut and bale it into hay.  All this cultivation looks pleasing to the eye, but something is missing.  There are very few birds or butterflies to be seen as you drive along these paved roads where light traffic is the norm.
Corn and soybean crops; the grass at the side of the road is also baled as hay.
   The reason for my being in Iowa in the first place was to take a course called "Issues in Education." My husband who joined me for the road trip seized the chance to ride his bicycle on the relatively even terrain for five days.  In the cultivated areas, even traveling at a slower speed he still did not see much wildlife except at an abandoned gravel pit. The photo below shows a variety of wildflowers. What the photo does not show were the ten plus varieties of birds he was able to see there, including red-headed woodpeckers that we don't see in Ontario, Canada.
Biodiversity in ... an abandoned gravel pit.

   This is more than a lesson in biodiversity or ecology.  Sometimes in our drive for efficiency, we squelch creativity.  Sometimes having packed schedules there's no room to notice someone who needs our help.  Productivity-driven mindsets can marginalize relationships.  Pushing students to study and cram from early in the morning until late in the evening makes them less than human. For life to flourish, there needs to be space for the unplanned, the spontaneous, the sometimes unruly.  It's something I need to take to heart.  How about you?


  1. I love this so much, Harriette! We have an open field beyond our back fence and the City used to leave it alone. Deer, turkeys, rabbits, frogs, grasshoppers, woodchucks and the odd fox could be seen enjoying the hiding and hunting. Plant species varied in the dozen or so. A neighbour's constant phoning to City Hall resulted in a twice monthly mowing of the whole field and it's been pretty barren for 6 years now. The neighbour passed away last year..... should I call the City and tell them to save the gasoline and labour? Because I miss the swishing grasses, pooling water and trailing grapevines, etc. Shirley H.

  2. I'm very happy we have roadside waste lands. God makes a better garden than we ever could. The colour schemes are right up there with the colour wheel (who made that eh??) and actually we do have red headed woodpeckers in Ontario. They come to our feeder sometimes and are in our trees now and then. A lot of the diverse plants that are along the roadsides and ditches are edible or useful in another way. Most folks want everything pristine and neat and tidy but it doesn't allow as you say for the wildlife. I was happy to see a garter snake around my garden this year!! And toads and even some frogs which are becoming rarer in our farm area especially when it is so dry. I always enjoyed our children growing up and actually playing and being creative and having spontaneous fun together and separate. Enjoyed your blog...........:) I enjoy your thought processes ........