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Illustration of a mole peeking out of a burrow

While soaking her raised beds in preparation for tomato planting last summer, Gail Goldman was startled to see a tiny, waterlogged creature pop up out of the soil. Later another one briefly poked out his head. “Basically, I was watering shrews,” the Seattle gardener says of her foiled vegetable...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
Neighbors working in a community garden
Article
By Bethany W. Adams
vole in the grass

To experience the natural world, we often navigate congested highways to swim in the sea, fly over patchworked terrain to hike through preserved forests and climb distant mountaintops to catch rare views. Largely because of our ever-increasing mobility, the areas nearest to us are rarely the dearest...

Article
By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
Turtle crossing the rural road

The term “roadkill” was coined in the 1940s, according to Merriam-Webster, entering the lexicon alongside “DDT” and other harbingers of a dystopian technological age that runs roughshod over the natural world. In the 1990s, the word became a cheeky insult when a rival called then-House Speaker Newt...

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 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
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
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 frog jumps to safety out of a pool using a ramp to rejoin the other frogs on the safety of the grass

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Buy a house with a two-acre property, let our energetic herding dog have the run of the place and spend blissful summer days digging side by side in the dirt with her. And it was blissful, watching Mattie carve out her napping spots behind the ferns and tall...

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
a dog points in a field of grass and wildflowers as a rabbit looks on

Many Marches ago, as I mindlessly contorted myself to pull a deep-rooted weed from the garden patch, my thoughts turned longingly to the smell of fresh basil that would eventually grace what I saw as a still-barren vegetable graveyard. This spot was not so lifeless as it appeared, I would soon learn...

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
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
Two deer in a landscaped yard.

Last summer, deer snipped the tops off goldenrods and helped themselves to swamp milkweed buds. They had wild lettuces for breakfast and black raspberries for dessert. Despite the diverse tasting menus on offer, most plants in my garden didn’t tempt these gentle herbivores, who sampled purpletop...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
a green spicebush swallowtail caterpillar munches on a leaf

Pop quiz: What’s the best way to help butterflies in your backyard? If you answered “Plant butterfly bush,” you’re in good company. A recent survey of my gardening friends elicited the same response from more than a few. It’s easy to understand why: Aside from its self-reinforcing moniker, the plant...

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...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
Wearing gloves, Lori Thiele relocates the baby squirrels to a cardboard pet carrier

To most people, the tiny voices rising above the din of traffic would have registered as everyday birdsong. But to Lori Thiele’s finely tuned ears, the high-pitched staccato emanating from a neighbor’s yard last spring was unmistakable, a sure sign of distress. “I was getting ready to go out on a...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
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
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
Chipmunk outside, on bird feeder

As the world stopped turning and the fires started burning this summer, there was a hole in my heart that only a chipmunk could fill. Shy at first, the distant object of my affection warmed to my presence, until one day we even had breakfast on the patio together: a coffee for me and a snail for Mr...

Article
BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER