There is a ritual to my summer evenings. Before I check the answering machine or start dinner, I stand barefoot in my yard, feeling the damp grass, listening for the opera of crickets and birds. As their music rises, and fireflies form and unform constellations, the voices of obligation, the screech of city traffic, noises the day has etched in my brain, become silent. My eyes adjust to the growing darkness. I am home.
Our backyards are our sanctuaries--small patches of nature that remind us of what our planet looked like before it was paved. More and more, though, backyards are also becoming precious havens for birds and other wildlife--an "average" yard is regularly visited by at least 15 to 20 different bird species. As suburbs grow and forests shrink, how we manage our backyard sanctuaries will have an increasingly profound effect on whether birds can find safe nesting spots, clean water, and food that isn't laced with pesticides.
Last summer, when we announced the Audubon garden makeover, we had no idea we would get the response we did. More than 2,200 of you sent in entries, some of them beautifully compiled in books, strung together with ribbons, their pages full of photographs. You told us what your gardens meant to you and your families, how wildlife had gradually disappeared, and how desperately you wanted to help bring it back.
The good news is that you can bring wildlife back--even in nine short months--as we discovered during the makeover of Ed and Bonnie Worme's backyard in Long Island, New York. The story of what we did with their backyard--and what you can do with yours--is found in "The Audubon Garden Makeover." You may not be able to do it all at once, but to help get you started, we posted previous "Backyard" columns on our web site. These columns discuss everything from what to plant to attract butterflies to how to put in a water garden or build the perfect bluebird house. We'd also like to hear your backyard success stories, and will post them as well.
Turning your yard into a wildlife sanctuary can be as simple as putting in berry bushes for birds and reducing the size of your lawn. Or it can reach the ambitious scale of photographer Stephen Dalton's 54-acre "yard" in England. (Read about Les Line's visit to "Dalton's World") Where some of us might put in a water garden, Dalton built a full-size pond. Where we might plant shrubs on a border, Dalton encouraged a small forest.
If you do nothing else after reading this issue, please do one thing: Kick off your shoes, walk into your garden at dusk, and look and listen for the other creatures that live there. This is, after all, their home, too.
© 2000 NASI