Last week I recommended Noah’s garden, by Sara Stein. This week I’m recommending the sequel, Planting Noah’s garden. Actually, there are three members of the series, a kind of gardener’s memoir. The first of the series is My weeds, which I haven’t read. But the latter two members of the series are fantastic. Read them, please.
Noah’s garden is Ms. Stein’s account of converting her property from an unusually large version of a standard suburban yard (six acres) to something more like…recovering wildness. The book is a brilliant introduction to ecology by way of explaining why she did what she did to her yard. The sequel, Planting Noah’s garden, explains how she did it—and how you can do it. There’s garden planning and how to order bare-root stock and where to buy seeds. There’s how to rescue plants from development and how to organize a plant buying club. Most inspiring, the memoir continues and we get to hear what happened after the previous book was published. What happened was a gardener who happened to be a writer became an in-demand speaker and teacher and then—one day at the end of one of her classes the students refused to leave. Within a few minutes they had become a different kind of gardening club, a group people working together to rehabilitate their yards and, by the way, have a blast.
The take home message here is if you set out to do something—fix your yard, say—and keep going with it, you can become someone making a real difference. There’s quite obviously nothing Ms. Stein did that the rest of us can’t do (except she was an uncommonly good writer). And yet David Mizejewski—the simple thing for you to do is Google his name, he’s kind of a big deal in wildlife-friendly landscaping--credited Sara Stein as a major influence.
See, I love practical dreamers. They’re my favorite kind. You think of something you want to do and you find some small part to start working on, and you keep going. Do you know, everything that’s ever been done has been done by people doing stuff?
And Ms. Steins dream is one dear to my heart; it’s also mine, or one of them (I have lots of dreams). See, the issue is that the non-human part of the world is running out of room. That’s an issue, first for the obvious reason, and second because we need the rest of them for our own survival. It’s true; you can look it up. Anyway, eventually humanity is just going to have to shrink some to get more in proportion to our resources, but since I’d rather it be by attrition, that’ll take a while. In the meantime, the more of the land we can get to do double-duty the better. Suburban yards that also work as wildlife habitat is one of the tools we have—and if you have a backyard, you don’t need to ask anyone’s permission to do it.
And the memoir continued, and ended with a tribute to Ms. Stein’s husband, Marty. It’s a quiet little tribute, involving a large rock that this evidently marvelous man wanted, an extravagant and simple tenderness particular to him. I love that story. And oh, how I wish this story had not ended. Everyone, plant a little wilderness in memory of this woman.
Stein, S. (1997). Planting Noah's garden: Further adventures in backyard ecology.