Celebrate an animal-friendly Easter by resurrecting the Earth.
I confess: Easter has confused me from the get-go. Each year, as young children, my sister and I received hand-sewn dresses from our grandmother, paired with new tights and squeaky white patent-leather shoes. Since I was more of a jeans-and-dirty-boots tomboy, this obligatory femininity caused me to squirm in the church pew and pray for the power of invisibility.
Further, I was baffled by the theological conversation about Jesus’s death. Indeed, it took decades—and education at multiple Seminaries—for me to sort out my beliefs about salvation and resurrection. Lastly, we were, without fail, forced to compete against other kids by running through the church’s fields to locate dyed eggs. This last feat was expected to result without dirtying the lustrous shoes or frilly dress.
And so, as a mid-life adult, I rebelliously redefined the holiday for my own family. I ditched dying eggs, the post-church ham dinner, and Easter dresses. And I focused instead on contemplating resurrection—from renewing forgotten projects to rekindling old friendships and restoring what might be withering.
Resurrecting the Earth
Each Easter, as crocuses peep through barely thawed dirt and buds peek out from long branches, what seems dead, bursts forth with life. And yet, on the flip side, it’s no secret that our planet is struggling. From climate weirding to rampant loss of biodiversity, postmodern lifestyles often contradict what our ecosystems genuinely need to flourish.
All too often, we now think of nature as something we visit—perhaps by tossing the kids in the car and heading to a State Park. Or strapping bikes to an SUV and heading off to a mountainscape. Oddly, this “seeking” of nature conveniently ignores the naturalness right outside our windows.
Considering our yards something different than Nature-with-a-capital-N, we often design them oblivious to what the ecosystem actually needs. “The local disappearance of once-common plants and animals does not bother us because we have grown up with no knowledge of these species, and we cannot imagine why they are important to us,“ asserts ecologist Douglas Tallamy. “It is tempting to garden for beauty, without regard to the ecological roles our landscapes must perform. All too often, such narrow gardening goals result in a landscape so low in ecological function that it drains the vitality from the surrounding ecosystem.”
To rectify this oversight, Tallamy urges us to resurrect the land we claim ownership of, by stewarding it as part of a large interconnected “Homegrown National Park” that meanders from yard to yard, homing native plant life and sustaining wild beings.
Thinking Beyond Me to We
Doing our part to resurrect our yards—and the planet—requires looking at “our” land differently. We must care for it in ways that provide rich soil for plant life as well as water, food, and shelter for other beings—from pollinating bees to migrating birds and underbrush rabbits.
I admit I used to be one of those gardeners who fastidiously fenced beds and dropped soap shards near blossoms to keep them from being eaten. I purchased deer-resistant bushes and got upset when critters munched my hosta row like it was a salad bar. Paradoxically, I call myself an animal-lover. I suppose I just presumed they were getting their food elsewhere. But think about it for a minute. It’s not like animals can pop into the grocery store. Humans now occupy most of the land that used to home and feed generations of wild beings.
And so, we need to enter a mindset that considers all those who live on “our” property—ditching any lingering proclamations of “It’s not my responsibility.”
Rewilding our Earth Practices
Once we enter this frame of mind, Easter and spring practices take on a new life of their own. Instead of wasting, we preserve. Instead of competing, we support. Instead of finding hidden eggs, we uncover and welcome new yard mates. As your yard awakens from its winter slumber, consider these revitalizing ideas:
Shrink your lawn.
The Jewish and Christian sacred texts set an excellent precedent for avoiding lush lawns that support not much more than barefoot human feet. The Bible suggests that people should leave the edges of their fields alone―in order to provide sustenance for “the alien, the orphan, and the widow.” (Deut. 24:19, NSRV) Likewise, we can leave the boundaries of our yards wild to provide sustenance and habitat for others. Every square foot of lawn left wild is a space that can encourage new life.
- For expert tips on sustainable landscaping, read Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Ranier and Claudia West.
Invite the locals.
Invasive species can be likened to unwanted gentrification of city neighborhoods. While the impact starts small, it soon spreads throughout, leaving little space or resources for others. Native plants have learned to live together and get along over eons. When we introduce new species, they can create problems. Placed outside of the check-and-balance of their natural habitat, they can take over, choking existing plants and animal food sources.
- To learn how to handle alien plants and help locals thrive, read Nature’s Best Hope: A New Conservation Approach That Starts in Your Yard by Douglas W. Tallamy.
- Coexist with hungry critters by using ingenious ideas from Tammi Hartung’s The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Food in Harmony with Nature
Bee kind to pollinators.
Instead of hiding eggs in your yard, create places where wild beings can hide—especially pollinators! By now, you’ve probably heard about how important bees are. According to experts, they are crucial for facilitating over 85 percent of flowering plants and about two-thirds of the crops we eat.
Bees need safe places to nest, usually in the ground. You can help choose where they will nest (aka away from your deck) by burying a roll of toilet paper—with its hole facing up—about ¾ of the way into the ground in an area protected from rain and running water. And you can keep wood-boring bees from tunneling into your house trim by drilling a dozen ¾” deep holes into remnant 4” x 4” or 6” x 6” wood blocks and stashing those around your yard in out-of-site locations.
- Attract and support native pollinators with tips from The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
- Learn about partnering with butterflies, bees, beetles, and even flies, in The Pollinator Victory Garden by Kim Eierman
Safety-proof your out-of-doors.
We often child-proof our stairs and pet-proof cabinets. But what about our lawns? Backyards can be deadly for many animals if we don’t take the same diligence. Avoid leaving exterior lights on—they tire out the winged ones. Don’t leave soccer nets up overnight—animals can run into them and become trapped. Install window well covers—so turtles don’t meet their demise.
- Discover tips for helping humans and wildlife thrive together out-of-doors in The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife (How to Create a Sustainable and Ethical Garden that Promotes Native Wildlife, Plants, and Biodiversity) by Nancy Lawson
Keep reading: “Six Sustainable Gardening Practices for Animal Lovers.”