Without further ado, Maple Rock Gardens opens Saturday, May 13th.  

Wow!  What a crazy winter. I wondered if we were ever going to be able to open Maple Rock again. But we are. We are working hard to prepare the garden. It’s kind of a funny process and, for me, it’s about recalibrating my emotions. A garden is a personal, living, breathing space. With all the rain we’ve had this year, and the fact that we have not opened the gardens for a year and a half, I will tell you I am nervous. I’m less nervous now that the rain has subsided and I can get out and get gardening. My nervousness is being replaced with a childlike giddiness. I hope you will be able to join us at Maple Rock Gardens this year.  

The train is being tested and put through its paces. The cafe is preparing fresh food for lunch and mimosas to enjoy during your stroll.  

The garden will be open from 9am to 3pm for a self-guided walking tour. Tickets can be purchased at www.highhand.com.  They are $10. Parking is free. And boy, are they selling fast. 

I hope to see you at Maple Rock Gardens May 13th.  Leave your cell phone and your watch at home. Stroll the garden and breathe.

 The evidence is in and the results are refreshing. Last week I got to go to Seattle and bring my daughter home. Yay! Tara’s home. She’ll be with me for the summer before she goes off to study for her Master’s degree in Glasgow. So exciting.

 But, here’s a couple of pictures and observations.  On my way home in our rented SUV, chock full of her college dorm furnishings and belongings, we noticed a lot of snow in places I have not noticed it before.  I’ve seen snow on Mt. Shasta, but in recent years I’ve never seen it like this. “Good for you, Mt. Shasta”.  


As we crossed the bridge over Lake Shasta, it was good to see that the sky and the land and the water met as one.  Lake Shasta was empty a year and a half ago. What a difference a year makes in the world of Mother Nature.


So, this is a true story. The day before yesterday I was walking to the Post Office in downtown Loomis. As I was strolling along, soaking in some rays, I felt a moist splat on my left forearm. Looking overhead with clear skies and nothing around, I was afraid to look down on my arm.  Was I just pooped on by a bird?  That has never happened to me before.  I was afraid to look down as I had no way of cleaning my arm off in the middle of downtown if that was the case. With trembling fear and bracing for the worst, I looked down at the possible poop that was laying on my arm. To my surprise it was not poop from a bird. It was half of an earthworm. I looked around again.  How did a worm fall on me from the sky? Must have been a bird flying along going back to its nest to feed its babies and dropped a worm. I double checked and yes, it was a half of an earthworm.

Now understand, as I thought about it I was not surprised this happened to me. I have been in a forest when a tree fell. Twice, actually. And then now, as I had then, I thought of the numerical possibilities and timing of the decision to go to the Post Office.  Probably mathematically impossible to put an equation to starting your day out and keeping on pace to meet up with a worm falling from the sky.  

Furthermore, as I thought about the bird’s loss, having worked so hard to secure food, it made me think of the services of nature and what they provide. We take for granted nature and the services it provides to humans. I hear all the time, “I hate bees”, “I hate snakes”, “I hate rodents”, “I hate snails”. 

Yes, those are humans in the apple trees hand pollinating the flowers. So, check this out.  In China there is a region where apples are grown and for years bees pollinated the trees. The government in their infinite wisdom started spraying chemicals in the area for reasons I don’t know. Well, guess what the results were?  No more bees. No more pollination.  No more apples. No more apple juice. No more apple pie. And no teachers getting an apple from their students.

No problem. The solution?  Hand pollination. Now hand pollination went on for seasons and the results were something they did not predict. It turns out that putting humans in fruit trees with little tiny brushes is more efficient than the bees. Yay for humans! We solved another problem.  Who needs bees?  The results were astounding. The apple trees produced 30% more apples with human pollination. Let’s face it.  Bees are lazy, kind of laissez faire as they jaunt from flower to flower.  There’s no real rhythm to the pollination.  They just prance around. They don’t fly when it’s windy. They don’t fly when it’s cold. They don’t fly when it’s foggy or rainy.  Not very dependable when you think about it, huh? But paid workers hand pollinating trees? Very dependable and efficient, as crazy as that may sound.

Here’s the rub. As the Chinese economy improved, wages increased. Now, all of a sudden the farmers could not afford to hand pollinate their flowers. That 30% gain in apple production was swallowed up by an improving economy and increased wages. So, the bees’ economic benefits were greatly undervalued. What was the financial value of the service of the bees? Considering there are no more apples in that region, priceless.


Still not convinced about the value of the services of nature? So, I did a little further digging. Let’s get into the math. In Texas there is a cotton farmer. He farms about 500 acres of cotton. Cotton is a crop that is susceptible to a lot of pests. Also, in Texas there are a lot of bats. A bat eats 2/3 of its body weight per night in insects. So, here’s the question to ask. How much would it cost the farmer to spray and maintain his crop if the bats disappeared? Well, there’s an answer. A university approached him and asked if they could do a survey of the bats flying above his cotton fields. So, for many nights students counted, correlated, and came up with mathematical best guesses as to the value of the bats’ services to the farmer. They actually came up with a value of $708,000.00 in services the bats provided in pest management. 

The farmer made approximately 4-5 million dollars a year on his cotton farm. Now, once you put a value to the bats’ services, all of a sudden bats aren’t that scary.

 So, ask yourself:

 How much would it cost you to rid your garden of aphids if you did not have ladybugs helping you? 

 How much would it cost you to clean up all the debris that snails eat in your garden?

 How much money and time would it cost you to self-pollinate your orchard with no bees?

 How much would it cost you to manually hunt down harmful rodents if there were no snakes?

 Imagine life without mosquitoes. Besides the fact they can be damaging by spreading diseases, a positive impact on our ecosystem is that the larvae of the mosquito provides food for fish and other wildlife, including dragonflies, birds and bats. They also help pollinate flowers when they consume nectar. But, who cares? Kill them all because I think their value to nature is costing and causing more damage than its worth. I’m going to feed my fish by hand and not rely on mosquitoes to do it for me.

 Thanks for allowing me to be a busy bee, bouncing around from topic to topic. 

 Come to High Hand Nursery’s greenhouse and look around for the values of nature within it and remember before you go “Euww’, “Yuck”, “Gross”, or freak out about a garden critter, pause and do the math and think about the value of services those critters create and learn to work with them.

 See you at Maple Rock Gardens on May 13th. Tickets are selling fast.

 See you at High Hand Nursery and Cafe.

 Give a slug a break.


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