May 2, 2021

265 days A.D. (After Derecho)

You might have come here because you think I know what I’m doing. You’d be wrong.

Monarch caterpillar munching on common milkweed
Monarch caterpillar munching on a milkweed plant

I am not a gardener. In fact, I never had any strong urge to become one. My neighbors will testify to my general apathy on the subject of dandelions, and how I once let wild raspberries have their way with a full third of my front lawn.

But something happened last year. It was called the derecho.

Most of us here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa had never even heard the term ‘derecho’ when one bore down on our city one summer day last year. The storm brought rain and winds up to 140 miles per hour, and when the citizens of our fair city crept out of their shelters forty minutes later, we found a landscape perpetually altered.

Two thirds of our tree canopy was gone. Apartment buildings had walls sheared off, homes were destroyed, and the street grid became a maze of downed power lines and uprooted trees.

Over where I live, we didn’t have power for ten days. But many of the other changes were permanent, or at least so long lasting to seem so.

The 200-year-old bur oak that had shaded most of my front yard, and brought forth the most delightful moss garden on my indifferently maintained slope was gone–and me–plus the 100-odd species of birds, insects, butterflies, and small mammals that lived here were left to figure out what to do next.

This is how I became a gardener. Or rather, a gardener-in-training. Join me on this journey as I try to bring nature back to one plot of land, somewhere in Iowa.

Woodland field of Virginia Bluebells
Field of Virginia Bluebells

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