Thursday, February 19, 2009

Here, Between City and Suburbs

Winter seems to hold sway here in Michigan again after after a brief thaw. The fire burning out of control in Austrailia has settled.

I am reading Cadillac Desert about, among other things, how the western US used up ground water that took thousands of years to collect, in 70 years. Intermixed was a tale noir about how our political system.

Apparently there is a film, though PBS has retired the content from it’s archives. I will see if netflix can get it.

Meantime my search continues for a Hazelnut tree to plant.

In my seach for Cadillac Desert footage, I found a PBS clip The clip quoted 50% of runoff (the kind that runs off our impervious surfaces) goes into rivers through sewers. The clip was about new construction, how some folks are making healthier landscapes. Landscapes that will absorb run off.

A much higher percentage of our runoff goes into our Rouge River. Our watershed is urban, for the most part. Oh yes, there are wonderful exceptions, parks and wooded places that I will tell you about sometime. We have a lot of grass here. I mow a lot of grass with my push mower.

You can date the rings of suburbs around Detroit by the architecture. Our ranch was built in the 1960’s. We have questions, what is the best way to rerofit the building?

The most interesting question to me is “How do you retrofit the landscape? Twenty years ago, we stopped mowing a portion, thinking it would “go back to nature”. Then invasive plants grew where the grass had been in the back, by the river. It was time to learn about invasive plants. It turns out that we made an ideal enviroment for them, by disturbing the native landscape and making a farm. In the 60’s the topsoil was scraped off and all the trees removed after the house was built, grass was sodded. By the time we stopped mowing the hill, nature didn’t know if it was coming or going. We have a lot of buckthorn and garlic mustard that we remove every year down there now.

Many of our neighbors labor long hours and spend lots of money looking after the grass. Grass is still king here. I did get a common milkweed in the driveway crack in 2000. Monarchs like that and they stop here. I let milkweed grow in many places in the back now. I do not know how they find my place, as the ring of suburbs where grass is king extends out for ten miles and the city for another ten miles the other way, but they do. In August, they will lay eggs and a brood of young monarchs will flit around the milkweed every year.


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