Redecorating our Guest Room
Normally when I entertain esteemed guests, I put my best finery on display. The fine china, the heirloom serving dishes, the best linens. I clean places and spaces to a degree that I haven’t since the last time I entertained. You all know the drill.
For our Friends
So, I’m a little embarrassed by the mess on display right now for some of my all-time favorite guests: Our pollinator friends. For the last five years, the Sisters of Providence have devoted 90 acres of commodity crop land here at the Woods to pollinator habitat. Think of it as the guest room for the birds, bees, bats, beetles, butterflies, moths, and other critters who delight and amaze us with their gifts.
In 2016, we enrolled that land into the USDA Conservation Reserve Program for 10 years in an effort to plan species that will improve environmental health and quality for pollinator and wildlife habitat. We took it out of crop production and planted all manner of grasses, forbs, and perennial and annual flowers like milkweed, black-eyed Susan’s, and rattlesnake master. This mixture mimics the classic Indiana prairie of old and gives shelter and food to a group of critters vital to our food supply. You’ll find these fields north of the north alpaca pasture wrapping around the Nature Trail all the way up to Bolton Road (this field is now owned by Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College). The other fields stretch along St. Mary’s Road east of the east entrance to the campus.
An absolute need
Even if you already know this, it bears repeating: Every one in three bites of food we consume requires a pollinator to bring it to fruition. One in three. If you know me for more than, oh say, 15 minutes, you’ll likely pick up on the fact that I really like to eat. So, it causes me no small amount of distress to know that our pollinator friends are stressed and in decline. Perhaps there are no better examples of how interdependent we humans are with all creatures great and small. The truth is we need them all for our food supply. Happily, we provide this land for their health and well-being. Truly, our own health and well-being depends on them.
But their room here at the Woods is a mess right now as we fulfill our mid-contract management commitment on that land. To ensure its health for the long-term, we mowed the fields and prepared them for a replanting of seed this winter. It’s looking pretty drab right now. This process, however, will reinvigorate the existing growth and fill in spaces and species that perhaps didn’t establish well at initial planting. I guess I should just think of this as redecorating the guest room. Come Spring, it will be resplendent and guest-worthy again.
Anything for my favorite guests.