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The minute I first saw the huge windows in the back of the little house, I was blinded to the broken down backyard fence and kitchen cabinets, the oversized low-hanging bedroom fan threatening decapitation, an aged dirty carpet covering a plywood floor, and a multitude of smaller sins.

Love, after all, is the ability to look past the warts and treasure the good. I told myself I would fix what I could, when I could.

The windows were old, no longer fit, and couldn’t be locked. I saw them as my year-round access to the outdoors and whatever wildlife I could nurture in my tiny backyard.

Butterflies, bees, tiny green tree frogs, and garter snakes live in my new little yard,
Hummingbirds found the feeder the day I first put it up. A scrub jay and a pair of house wrens frequent the yard and drink from the bird bath. Skunks and squirrels and chipmunks live nearby. I only need to pay attention to enjoy their presence.
The house is close to the wildlife refuge and the autumn skies are often filled
with large flocks of noisy gossiping geese.
Yesterday morning, as I was looking out my back window I saw a tremendous flurry of activity in a neighbor’s large tree. Hundreds of Cedar Waxwings were filling up on the bright orange berries covering that tree. Cedar Waxwings are the most nattily dressed of birds. I was so delighted to see them that I forgot to take a picture.
It’s already beginning to feel like home.
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Tiny Yard/Big Dreams

My new yard in Tigard is small, but large windows  that look out on the back garden are one of the biggest reasons I settled on the little house. When I’m not walking in a refuge or a local park, I still hope to enjoy backyard wildlife.
In a year or two, with new plants replacing the old arbor vitae, my back yard will be a pleasant place for local wildlife – and for me.
Birds haven’t discovered the new bath yet. It can take a while for  them to trust a new source of food and water.  I happy to say that Hummingbirds  have found the feeder by my bedroom window.
I dream of putting in a very small standing pond with a bubbler in the future, and I’m still wondering if feeding sunflower seed will be possible in this tiny yard.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have another relationship with a tree like the bond I felt with a large old oak at my old home, but I hope to be on friendly terms with the baby Crepe Myrtle I put in and perhaps with a small Dogwood I may plant.
It’s a good sign that my brand new garden is already welcoming tiny frogs, honey bees, big fat bumblebees, and butterflies.
On the day I spot a wren or a robin in the bird bath I’ll have a quiet celebration and tell you all about it.

Baby Steps, Missteps, Next Steps

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”               Robert Swan, OBE, FRGS – First person to walk both poles.

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It’s easy to believe that we are helpless to make a difference; but we are only helpless if we surrender to apathy.

Recycling is even more complicated and less feasible now that China is not accepting our plastic waste. The New York Times reports that more than 300 cities and towns across the country have given up on recycling programs that were started in the 1970’s. Since recycling was never a good solution for plastics anyway, this is a great time to do our best to quit them.

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In early November, when I decided to begin drastically reducing my personal contribution to the glut of plastic trash, I promised to share my progress, failures and setbacks (Kicking the Habit).  Every change I’ve made has been a small step and every change has been challenging.

Challenging, but not impossible. Plastic is everywhere and I’m learning to question everything I buy; groceries and fast food as well as household and personal products.

Here are the baby steps I took in December:

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Bathroom paper – Retail outlets sell TP wrapped in plastic, though it is available on Amazon in large boxes of 48. I am excited about a young company called Who Gives a Crap (https://us.whogivesacrap.org).  Your choice of TP from this company is recycled or bamboo. Rolls are wrapped in attractive, recyclable paper and delivered to your doorstep in boxes of 48. This Australian organization uses half of their profits to help provide clean toilet facilities in areas of the world without them. As if all that weren’t enough, the company has a friendly and humorous approach to everything they do, and the product is gentle enough for the most tender tush.

Razor – I tossed a pretty pink plastic disposable razor in December. Hundreds of my old razors sit-in in land fills somewhere, refusing to ever go away, waiting for a future archaeologist who will seriously question the wastefulness of generations born during The Age of Plastic.

The greenest choice for my shaving implement would have been a used stainless-steel razor. They aren’t hard to find, but I’m only human, so I compromised and bought a pretty and feminine stainless steel razor on Etsy. It should last for a lifetime.

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Tea Bags – Yes, cutting down on plastic really is a matter of baby steps.  Millions of us use several tea bags every day and have for years. My favorite tea, Stash Double Spice Chai, comes in a plastic-wrapped box. Individual tea bags are wrapped in paper coated with aluminum on the inside and plasticized on the outside. The wrapping cannot be recycled.

I bought a stainless-steel tea infuser and loose chai tea at the grocery store. It was an easy, no-waste solution.

New Stainless Steel Mug with Stainless Steel Straw – Once or twice a month I enjoy a Diet Pepsi or Coke. I’m not ready to cure myself of that small vice, but haven’t had one since my November vow to reduce waste. Part of my January goal will be researching which restaurants will let me fill my mug with cola without using a disposable cup.

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Misstep: I should have bought this item when I was at the grocery store. It came from Amazon wrapped in plastic. My Amazon habit will be difficult to overcome

Next  Steps

January will mean more baby steps, replacing plastic items and containers as they run out. Saving glass jars for refrigerator storage in lieu of plastic containers and finding new products to replace old favorites sold in plastic.

If you are thinking about cutting down on plastics, or are in the process of making it happen, please share your valuable knowledge and experience with the rest of us.

Books

Plastic Free, How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, by Beth Terry.

Plastic, a Toxic Love Story, by Susan Freinkel

Cedar Creek Trail

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The lazy, drone of bullfrogs follows Teddy and I up and down the Cedar Creek Trail during our early morning walks. Bullfrogs, merciless hunters of our native wildlife, are with us to stay, so I allow myself to enjoy their tuneless call.unnamed-6

Several weeks ago, my dog Teddy and I stumbled upon the Cedar Creek Trail behind the YMCA in Sherwood. Stepping into such a peaceful world so near the busy highway was a delightful surprise.

The paved trail is surrounded by lush greenery; lovely suburban homes sit on one side and natural wetlands and wildlife haven stretch the length of the other side. In quiet places along the creek, red wing blackbirds sing from the top of old snags, and impressive stands of tall fir trees create a forest habitat where chipmunks play amidst fallen logs on the forest floor.

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In the busy days since recently moving from Milwaukie to Newberg, I’ve missed the small daily adventure of immersing myself in the sight and smell of the outdoors and quietly observing the ordinary lives of suburban wildlife. Fortunately, I’m learning that this area has many opportunities for outdoor exploration.

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Our first morning on the Cedar Creek trail I kept expecting the path to end around the next corner, but it continued through several neighborhoods with side trails giving access to the main trail. I followed the path as it snaked alongside the natural habitat, stopping to listen to birdsong, smell the fresh air, and pay attention to occasional rustling in the brush.

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Along the trail I heard the buzz-trill of busy Towhees calling and flitting about in the low branches. I’ve never seen so many Towhees in such close proximity, though it is the busy nesting season. The songs of many birds fill the air and every few feet a robin hops about carrying a worm or grub. We would marvel at the beauty of the robin if we didn’t see them so often.

The creek flows evenly and gently in some places then stalls for a while, flattening out and providing quiet habitat for water birds and other creatures before turning into a gurgling, free-flowing body of water.

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Three tiny bunnies hopped about on the trail ahead of me one morning, then they dashed toward the brush when they saw me. One bunny allowed me to stand only a few feet from him while he held still and silent, hoping he had become invisible. In silhouette he looked like a little piece of yard art. As soon as I tried to get his picture he made a dash for the underbrush.

Two weeks ago, I watched a pair of quail moving in and out of the bushes and, a week later, saw the older birds with several recently hatched babies.

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Towhee 

I have yet to see a dog loose in the protected habitat, though there are plenty of dog walkers on the trail in the morning. Joggers, and dog walkers, birdwatchers, and day dreamers all seem to understand the importance of leaving the habitat to the wild creatures.

I’m just beginning to learn about the Cedar Creek Trail and other remarkable ways that the community has integrated wetland and natural habitat in the middle of human habitation. It’s a unique and extraordinary sign of a healthy community.

 

Serenade

 

 

A few weeks ago, a new frog made the pond his home. He wasn’t a bullfrog; Jeremiah had a very distinctive sound. He didn’t sound like one of the lovely little Pacific Tree Frogs that are the size of my thumbnail but sound as though they’re the size of my dog, Teddy. I was hearing something different, a frog I’ve never heard before, but definitely a frog. Continue reading “Serenade”