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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Selective Stewardship

Today is the summer solstice, and last night there was thunder and rain. I could hear Bow protesting the weather in the middle of the night, but in the morning he was calm and sweet and well behaved.

We went out into the outer pen early, and at first all was calm. Then we heard gunshots in the distance, and Bow decided to display.

I support other people's right to hunt on their own land. I just don't want them hunting on mine. I think that between the hunters and the farmers, a lot of my neighbors are driving the wildlife onto my land and away from theirs, and as I see it, that's a good thing. If society really wanted to support conservation, the best thing to do would be to remove property taxes. That way, there would be no government pressure for people to make money off their land. Those who did exploit the land would lose out on wildlife, and those who didn't would gain. But with property taxes hanging over people's heads, they often have no choice but to use it for the maximal immediate monetary gain.

Also, sometimes different animals and plants are at war in an ecosystem, because they occupy the same niche.  It makes sense to allow each landowner to decide what sort of animals they want to allow. One of my friends favors purple martins, and she makes sure that their natural enemies do not prosper on her land. What you end up having depends as much on what you drive out as what you foster.

I am struggling right now with having  too much poison ivy growing on my land. All around the purple milkweed there are posion ivy plants.

Sometimes, I really have to struggle not to brush against the poison ivy as I film the butterflies on the milkweed flowers.

 I love the wildflowers that naturally grow in my pasture, and I have no wish to go weeding them out.

I like to see them move in the breeze. This black-eyed susan would just not hold still for a picture!

I have three kinds of milkweed growing on my property, and each of them is surrounded by poison ivy.

You can see that the common milkweed sprouted up this year not too far from the dried shell of last year's plant. The old plant is serving as the support for another that is twining itself and climbing on the dry remains of the stem.

The butterfly milkweed is beautiful, but so far it has not attracted any butterflies.

I wonder whether I should weed out some of the poison ivy from the untended areas on my property, because it seems to be in competition with the plants I like, such as this Missouri primrose.

I am not such a purist as to frown on all interventions. But I also understand that everything in the ecosystem is interconnected. So my question is: what unintended consequences would result from my selective destruction of poison ivy plants? What does poison ivy contribute to the plants and animals that I enjoy seeing on my property?

I think it's up to each of us to decide on issues such as these. As long as there are many different landowners, any mistake made by one can accrue to the benefit of another, as animals and plants flee an inhospitable territory and come to live where they are welcome. There is no greater threat to the ecosystem than a takeover of everything by a single landowner who applies a consistent policy --such as the government. But as long as there are many of us, divergent policies of selective stewardship make sense.


  1. Aya, great article! There is so much to think about with this. I really agree with this: "What you end up having depends as much on what you drive out as what you foster." That is so true! Drive out the the non-native birds and the native birds will flock to your property. Kill (drive out) all the fescue and the native wildflowers will flourish, even without planting seeds.
    Regarding the property taxes - they've gone so high in some states that they're serving to 'drive people' out of those states now. Wisconsin is one of the ones from which many elderly are fleeing. They own their homes - well, they have no mortgage anyway, but the taxes are so high they can't afford to live there anymore. Many of them are moving to this area. It's such a shame, but at least (for now), they can "vote with their feet".
    I enjoyed your videos - none of your plants wanted to sit still!
    As to the poison ivy, well, I'm very allergic to it, so I kill it back a certain amount from the house, otherwise, I don't bother with it much.
    Mowing it often will make it go away eventually, especially right now. The only thing good about it is the fruit it bears for the birds. But that means that they will spread it for you. :)

    1. Hi, Kathy, it is good that we can still vote with our feet. But I'm afraid that all the great western migrations of mankind were also instances of people voting with their feet. Eventually we run out of places to go.

      I'm allergic to poison ivy, too, which is why I take such care not to touch it or rub against it by accident. I do have everything close to the house mowed and weed-eaten, but I'm afraid that if I mowed the pasture to get rid of the poison ivy, that would get rid of the milkweed, all the other wildflowers and the saplings that I want to foster.