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hummingbird sipping nectar from orange flowers

Sometimes my most significant revelations are the annoying, kick-me-in-the-pants ones that follow a period of contented denial. One of those seismic shifts in thought came last year at a dinner party, when a man nearly half my age honed in on a flaw in logic I’d subconsciously buried. A plant...

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By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
Monarch butterfly in flowers

The suspect creeping up near my front fence was a tough character—broad-leafed and thick-stemmed and threatening to invade my property and swallow it whole if I didn’t act fast. There was no hesitation that summer morning as I headed to work: Off with his head! It was a decision made all too easy by...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
brown rabbit in the grass

Somewhere between childhood and middle age, people’s natural affinity for wildlife often melts away, overtaken by exaggerated fears of of marauding armies of deer, insects and raccoons intent on invading our gardens and homes. Scorn for rabbits, the sensitive stars of many a bedtime story, is...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
woodchuck in the grass

It starts out mildly enough: Heading to work on the subway, you realize you forgot your wallet. No big deal, you think. I’ll borrow money to get home. Soon the lights go out and the train hurtles toward the sky, speeding through the atmosphere. Time passes—it’s hard to tell how long. The subway is...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
a bluebird sits on a tree with a loud weed whacker in background

Sitting on her porch in the desert one afternoon while recovering from surgery, Christine Hass closed her eyes. The operation to fix her detached retina had been difficult, and she sought respite from the lingering pain. “Suddenly I could hear all the birds singing. It was March—the migrants were...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
hummingbird sipping nectar from orange flowers

Hummingbirds are top contenders for many avian superlatives: Bee hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world, as diminutive as their insect namesake. In proportion to their body sizes, rufous hummingbirds make one of the longest migrations and Anna’s hummingbirds fly faster than space shuttles...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
fat caterpillar curled on a leaf stalk

As my beloved seedlings languished untouched on the display table, I improved my sales pitch: “Would you like a late-flowering thoroughwort to help migrating butterflies refuel? What about an aster that’s the only pollen source for some bee species?” But unlike the animals who would devour these...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
small mouse hiding in brush

The mountain lion known as P-47 survived fires, freeways and hostile ranchers. But in March, the 3-year-old big cat—tracked by California biologists since his kitten days—succumbed to a hidden hazard: an insidious form of food poisoning. Six anticoagulant compounds—chemicals used to kill rodents...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
baby robin sitting in a nest

Here lies Lucy: expert pilot, supermodel, squirrel eviscerator, custom homebuilder, attentive mother and devoted mate. RIP. If she were human, Lucy might be commemorated this way, her life story etched in granite. She might take her place in a family plot beneath her favorite lookout, a weeping...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
Mother and three kids on a nature walk

We zigzag from tree to tree, seeking refuge under the leaf umbrellas. Drizzle turns to deluge as we dash beneath a tall canopy to plot our escape. The sky booms. My dad takes my hand, and I look up to see if he shares my sense of foreboding. But he’s smiling at me, his eyes twinkling. He says...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
baby raccoons in a hollow tree

Wherever you are in the U.S., a coyote may be taking up residence less than a mile away. If you live in the city, you’re more likely than your rural cousins to encounter raccoons. And regardless of geography, you probably share your home with dozens of species of insects and spiders. These facts...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER

Prairie dogs are one of the most controversial and widely misunderstood wildlife species in North America. Since early European migration onto the North American grasslands, prairie dogs have been celebrated as an essential keystone species for healthy grasslands ecosystems, but also vilified and...

Resource
Some content adapted from Wild Neighbors
woodpecker on persimmon tree

As my neighbors and I stood 10 feet apart and swapped tips for scavenging kitchen staples this spring, the wilder residents of our community shared no such concerns. Squirrels twirled maple seed clusters like bouquets to reach every tidbit. Bumblebees made a mockery of social distancing in their...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
Monarch butterfly in a field of grass

Standing in the street and admiring each other’s gardens one day, Sherrie Pelsma and her neighbor made a discovery: They’d become hosts to a buzzing block party. “We could actually see the air traffic of bees and butterflies crossing the street between our two habitats,” recalls Pelsma. “I said,...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
hummingbirds sipping nectar from bright red flowers

It’s a peculiar rite of modern homeownership: Plant a tulip bulb in autumn, cage or spray it to deter nibblers, admire its fleeting blooms a few months later, let it rot in soil ill-suited to its needs and repeat the whole cycle again the following year.

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
An American robin eating a hawthorn berry during a snow storm.

As monarch butterflies and hummingbirds headed south this fall, I dreamt of following my favorite snowbirds to Mexico and Central America. But I stayed home instead, where I have a window onto the spectacular world of winter wildlife: northern flickers tossing maple leaves with their beaks in search...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
Photo illustration of a dim light bulb with illustrated butterflies

On summer evenings, my husband and I head to the darkest spot of our property to look for the light—in the form of fireflies rising from meadow grasses and twinkling their way into the trees. As the tulip poplars behind this spectacular display settle in for slumber, white yucca flowers open their...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
open gate leading into a lush green garden

The house next door sits vacant, placed on the market after the last renter moved out. A succession of owners has knocked down walls, replaced carpeting and installed standard-issue appliances. Edging the exterior are shrubs from conventional landscaping palettes, including invasive species that...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
monarch butterfly on a milkweed flower

Much of what we do in the name of aesthetics comes at a cost to our overall well-being. From fad diets to chemical peels to cosmetic surgeries, beauty routines attempt to squash what’s natural in favor of an unattainable and short-lived “otherness.” The mindset isn’t limited to the treatment of our...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener