Wildlife in the backyard

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A large part of our plan for the Runamuk farm revolve around wildlife.  In our home we love to watch the wildlife in our backyard: birds, bats, squirrels, butterflies and other insects–and so we garden with animals in mind.  After we’ve moved into our new home, I’m looking forward to increasing our efforts to invite nature to share our space.  We’ve been limited thus far because the property we live on is not our own, but soon that will all change–and we welcome it.

Meet the Needs of Wildlife

Natural habitats in many areas are already lost to urban sprawl, commercial development, and industries like logging and farming.  As a result animal populations are declining worldwide.  Recently, scientists have noticed a 40% drop in the numbers of migrating birds, and it is estimated that 30% of frog species are in trouble.  But we can help with the naturalization of our backyards.

tufted tit-mouseWild creatures have four basic needs: food, water, cover, and nesting sites.

Technically we have all of those things at our present location and so we have been able to enjoy wildlife despite being in-town.  We offer food by leaving the sunflowers in the gardens after the season has ended, there are also numerous berry-bearing shrubbery surrounding the property, as well some blueberries that were left behind after we picked over the bushes.

There is lots of brushy undergrowth about this property too, so that offers the animals cover and protection.  Some older trees with dead branches provide habitat for rearing young, as do tall grasses left uncut.

We don’t have a water source directly in the yard, but Getchell Stream and the Kennebec River are both within a stone’s throw from the house.

And  gardening without the use of harsh chemical pesticides and fertilizers protects the health of the animals, ensuring that there will continue to be a thriving ecosystem in our backyard.

Enjoy and Learn More About Wildlife

mated pair of tufted tit-micetufted tit-mouse and sunflowerSome of our favorite homeschool activities have been based around our own backyard.  We’ve participated in the Audubon’s annual Backyard Bird Count, and this summer we took part in a firefly count.  The boys have learned so much from the garden, composting, and beekeeping–about insects and plant production and ecology in general.  We all share this love for nature, and at Runamuk Acres I intend to capitalize on this.

We will have a large meadow left wild for the native populous.  The grasses and weeds and wildflowers will grow up, providing habitat for insects like beetles, pollinators like bumblebees, sweat bees, wasps, butterflies, and so much more.  Birds will love the meadow, and maybe–depending on our location–we will see some deer.

Our ideal homestead will have lots of native trees and shrubs, a mixture of conifers and deciduous trees, as well as some berry-bearing trees and shrubs like the Maine-native choke-cherry, serviceberry types, and honeysuckle.  If these are not present I am prepared to plant some myself.

It would be wonderful to have a little stream running through the property, though I haven’t much hope of actually acquiring a property like that, so I will likely end up establishing some sort of water feature for the wildlife that frequents our backyard.

Keith is looking forward to constructing nesting boxes of a variety of types in his workshop–since different bird species require varying nesting conditions.  Basically we’d like to have at least one of everything–bluebird house, wren house, owl house, etc. and don’t forget the bat-house, native pollinator habitats, etc.  It will take some time to establish them all, but it will make for an amazing variety of wildlife when finished.

A picnic table in the shade at the edge of the meadow will make an attractive spot for farm-visitors.  We can use the wildlife meadow as a teaching tool with other homeschoolers and to promote agritourism, as well as for our own enjoyment.

To learn more about how you can invite wildlife into your backyard, whether you’re in-town or in a more rural location, check out these links:

How to Create a Wildlife Friendly Habitat – from the National Wildlife Federation.

Invite Wildlife to Your Backyard – a nice resource from the Missouri Conservation Dept which offers a nice planning guide for creating your backyard wildlife sanctuary.

Backyard Basics for a Wild Life Style – from Defenders of Wildlife; offers some nice tips and even more resources.

Wildlife Gaining Ground – a PDF resource from the Earthvalues Institute.

Gardening to Conserve Maine’s Native Landscapes – a publication from the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension; supplies a nice reference chart on native perennials for Mainers.

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