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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...

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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...

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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
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...

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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...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
Young girl playing near stream in forest

Atiya Wells was 22 when a walk in a park changed her view of the world. Growing up, she thought of natural areas as places for family cookouts, “not really seeing the forest for the trees,” she says. But on a date with her then-boyfriend-now-husband, Kieron, she ventured beyond the picnic areas of a...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
overhead view of a woman tending her garden

Walk into a roadside restaurant after a long day on the highway, and you can practically taste your meal before sitting down. The familiar smells of fresh-baked pie and salty fries need little introduction en route to your belly. That sensory experience is similar for wildlife coming upon lush...

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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...

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By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
DIY painted bird baths made from clay pots

As a new homeowner susceptible to sales pitches from the garden industrial complex, I spent my early planting years salivating over glossy magazine spreads exploding with color and texture and promises of endless summers. “Flower porn” was how my husband described those lushly photographed...

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By Nancy Lawson, author of The Humane Gardener
Mom bird feeding her babies in a nest

Decaying logs and miniature bogs, hollowed stalks and piled rocks, nutritious pollen and leaves fallen: They’re not the stuff of traditional nursery rhymes and baby showers. But if wild mothers-to-be had gift registries, these natural supplies would top the list. Though the basic elements for...

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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...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
native seed packets

They were like moths to a flame or, more accurately, butterflies to a native plant. No sooner had I unloaded two joe-pye weed perennials from my car last August than three tiger swallowtails dive-bombed the pots, as if to validate my purchase. If only my fellow shoppers knew what they were missing...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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.

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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...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
Neighbors working in a community garden
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By Bethany W. Adams
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...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER
Bird and babies in the nest tucked in a tree trunk

It’s not easy to accept that all things must eventually come to an end. We often go into denial in the face of the inevitable and airbrush away the aftermath when it does occur. So it probably shouldn’t have surprised me to read about a gardener who glossed over the demise of an entire tree with...

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BY NANCY LAWSON, AUTHOR OF THE HUMANE GARDENER