Apparently Doing Nothing

The most serious gardening I do would seem very strange to an onlooker, for it involves hours of walking round in circles, apparently doing nothing. —Helen Dillon

 

Mostly what I am doing when I wander — which I do most days from May through September and a few times a week otherwise — is looking for. Looking for what? I’m not quite sure, but I suppose I’m looking for what I wouldn’t see if I weren’t looking for it, if that makes any sense.

In spring and summer, I have some expectation that I will see insects, snails, caterpillars, arachnids, moths and butterflies, as well as small plant buds and plants emerging above ground in spring, leaf fungus, slug trails, volunteer shoots, new weeds I’ve never seen before, but for all that expectation, I also feel open to what comes, ready to be surprised by what suddenly comes into focus.

trifecta: longhorn beetle, skipper butterfly, and American Lady butterfly on echinacea, July 2014
trifecta: longhorn beetle, skipper butterfly, and American Lady butterfly on echinacea, July 2014
scarlet lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii) on tiny fritillaria leaves, June 2014
scarlet lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii) on tiny fritillaria leaves, June 2014
longhorned beetle (Clytus ruricola) on filipendula, July 2014
longhorn beetle (Clytus ruricola) on filipendula, July 2014
longhorned beetle (Typocerus) on echinacea, July 2014
longhorn beetle (Typocerus) on echinacea, July 2014
yellow-collared scape moth (Cisseps fulvicollis) on comfrey, Aug 2014
yellow-collared scape moth (Cisseps fulvicollis) on comfrey, Aug 2014
eastern black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) butterfly caterpillar on fennel, Sept 2014
eastern black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) butterfly caterpillar on fennel, Sept 2014
milkweed tussock moth (Euchaetes egle) caterpillar on asclepias, Sept. 2012
milkweed tussock moth (Euchaetes egle) caterpillar on asclepias, Sept. 2012
many milkweed tussock moth (Euchaetes egle) caterpillars on asclepias, Aug 2013
many milkweed tussock moth (Euchaetes egle) caterpillars on asclepias, Aug 2013
hickory tussock moth (Lophocampa caryae) caterpillar on asclepias, Aug 2013
hickory tussock moth (Lophocampa caryae) caterpillar on asclepias, Aug 2013
three monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) caterpillars on asclepias, Sept 2012
three monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) caterpillars (and some yellow aphids) on asclepias, Sept 2012
many milkweed tussock moth (Euchaetes egle) caterpillars on asclepias, Aug 2013
many milkweed tussock moth (Euchaetes egle) caterpillars on asclepias, Aug 2013
lesser maple spanworm moth (Speranza pustularia) on trollius leaf, July 2013
lesser maple spanworm moth (Speranza pustularia) on trollius leaf, July 2013
monarch butterfly resting in apple tree, Sept 2014
monarch butterfly resting in apple tree, Sept 2014
common wood nymph (Cercyonis pegala) butterfly on annual phlox, Aug 2014
common wood nymph (Cercyonis pegala) butterfly on annual phlox, Aug 2014
wild indigo duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae) butterfly on buddleia, Aug 2014
wild indigo duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae) butterfly on buddleia, Aug 2014
American copper (Lycaena phlaeas) on yarrow, July 2013
American copper (Lycaena phlaeas) butterfly on yarrow, July 2013
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) butterfly on echinacea, July 2014
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) butterfly on echinacea, July 2014
cabbage white (Pieris rapae)  on clover, July 2014
cabbage white (Pieris rapae) on clover, July 2014
summer azure butterfly (Celastrina neglecta) on Joe Pye weed, Aug 2013
summer azure butterfly (Celastrina neglecta) on Joe Pye weed, Aug 2013
clover lopper (Caenurgina crassiuscula) moth, Aug 2014
clover lopper (Caenurgina crassiuscula) moth, Aug 2014
Herpetogramma abdominalis moth, Aug 2014
Herpetogramma abdominalis moth, Aug 2014
Haploa Clymene moth, July 2013
Haploa Clymene moth, July 2013
clematis clear-wing moth on lemon balm, Aug 2013
clematis clear-wing moth on lemon balm, Aug 2013
Eutrapela clemataria (curved-tooth geometer) moth, 3 June 2014
Eutrapela clemataria (curved-tooth geometer) moth, 3 June 2014
rusty tussock moth egg case, April 2012
rusty tussock moth egg case, April 2012
orange mint moth on hydrangea leaf, July 2013
orange mint moth on hydrangea leaf, July 2013
baptisia emerging,  April 2014
baptisia emerging, April 2014
Rodgersia emerging, May 2012
Rodgersia emerging, May 2012
leaf hopper (Graphocephala)  on crocosmia, July 2014
leaf hopper (Graphocephala) on crocosmia, July 2014
Leaf-footed bug (Acanthocephala Terminalis) on patio table, Sept. 2013
Leaf-footed bug (Acanthocephala Terminalis) on patio table, Sept. 2013
beetle in soil, April 2012
beetle in soil, April 2012
Green stink bug nymph (Chinavia hilaris) on raspberries leaves, Sept 2013
Green stink bug nymph (Chinavia hilaris) on raspberries leaves, Sept 2013
hover fly (Syrphid syrphini) on filipendula, July 2014
hover fly (Syrphid syrphini) on filipendula, July 2014
wasp-mimicing syrphid fly (Spilomyia fusca) on white echinacea, Aug 2014
wasp-mimicking syrphid fly (Spilomyia fusca) on white echinacea, Aug 2014
Hover flies (Temnostoma alternans) and maybe fungus gnat and syrphid fly on anemone sylvestris, June 20144
Hover flies (Temnostoma alternans) and maybe fungus gnat and syrphid fly on anemone sylvestris, June 2014
snail on sedum, Sept 2014
snail on sedum, Sept 2014
slug on chives, Oct 2013
slug on chives, Oct 2013
Leiobunum vittatum harvestman on cilantro, Sept 2014
Leiobunum vittatum harvestman on cilantro, Sept 2014

Occasionally I shriek.

dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) oncomposter, Aug 2014
dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus) oncomposter, Aug 2014

While I look, I listen, not for the sound of my own shrieking but mainly for bird song and calls, insects, anything else that floats in. I’ve heard of a Native American practice of stopping during the day to notice 7 sounds, and sometimes on my walks through the yard, I do this. Focusing on sound amplifies sound.

As a gardener, I also take note of problems that I could address with garden tools, bare spots in need of more planting, and depending on the season, plants under attack from aphids or grasshoppers or deer, tomatoes too shaded by their own leaves, vole and chipmunk holes, damage to tree and shrub trunks from rodents, winter kill, wind shear, animal tracks and scat, and so on, all useful information for future decisions.

oleander aphids on asclepias, Au 2012
oleander aphids on asclepias, Aug 2012
grasshopper on hydrangea, July 2013
grasshopper on hydrangea, July 2013
katydid on comfrey, Aug 2013
katydid on comfrey, Aug 2013
bear scat, Nov 2013
bear scat, Nov 2013
grey squirrel, Dec. 2013
grey squirrel, Dec. 2013
deer track, Jan 2012
deer track, Jan 2012
deer pellets under apple tree, Feb 2012
deer pellets under apple tree, Feb 2012
tracks in back yard, March 2013
tracks in back yard, March 2013

To my neighbours, though, I must seem a tourist in my own back yard, as I snap photos, take a closer look here and there, marvel at this or that wonder, muse over perplexing clues, and often, just stand in one spot, looking around, doing nothing in particular.

The first permaculture principle is Observe & Interact; I think I may have this one down pat.

 

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