Nearby Nature Project: 2023 August

I started the Nearby Nature Project with the goal of persuading people that spending time with Nature doesn’t require an epic adventure, breathtaking scenery or a close-up encounter with wildlife.

Experiences like that are definitely amazing! But everyday activities also offer opportunities to tap into the physical and mental health benefits of time spent with Nature. Things like like gardening, birdwatching, walking in a park, taking Nature photographs, star-gazing, sketching flowers or butterflies and picnicking.


Head out to your backyard, your balcony with a few potted plants, or to neighbourhood park a few blocks away. Spend 10 or 15 minutes with Nearby Nature. Pay attention — to the colours, textures, sounds, smells, sunlight, shadows movement, etc. Breathe deeply. And (hopefully) you’ll feel less stressed out, less anxious, more relaxed.

Over time, the good vibes you feel after spending time with Nature may foster a deeper appreciation of Nature. And ultimately, a desire to care for Nature.

Reality Check

Over the weekend I read The Problem of Nature Writing by Jonathan Franzen. It was a bit of a reality check. To paraphrase, sharing my own love of Nature with readers who are exhausted from making it through each day, struggling to make ends meet and caught up in apps and games, is unlikely to break through any long-established indifference to the natural world.

Perhaps sharing aspects of my own relationship with Nature is enough to encourage a deeper sense of caring in those with some pre-existing sense of connectedness to Nature. But for those who’ve yet to discover the benefits of a daily dose of Vitamin N(ature), Franzen advises to focus on telling engaging stories. Game on! πŸ˜‰

News Feed

Have a garden? If yes, have you considered “making peace” with the pests?

A recent gardening column in The Guardian lays out a pretty good case for making peace with garden “pests.” Why? To foster biodiversity. I follow some of the recommendations: selective pruning of diseased branches or leaves laden with aphid eggs, and planning for lettuces and other greens to bolt.

The one time I installed protective netting, I vowed never to use it again after a songbird became caught and perished. πŸ™ Instead, I’m trying companion planting.

So far, I’ve found that it really works well to plant cilantro in my kale, chard, bok choy and broccoli rows. There are far fewer holes in the leaves of my salad greens than in past years.

Our backyard “pests” range from aphids and ants to jackrabbits and deer. 30 years on, I’m still figuring out which flowering plants the deer and rabbits don’t like. And giving up on those they do. My neighbour sprays diluted coyote urine around his yard to discourage the deer and swears it works.

I have yet to make peace with the ants. They occasionally make it into the house and I wish I knew how. When I’m sitting at my desk and an ant starts crawling up my leg, I freak out a little. So I sprinkle cornmeal around any ant holes I find in the yard. And once or twice a year, I take a jug of “Bug b gon ECO” and spray along the line where the house foundation goes into the ground. It’s not that I want to eradicate them. After all, ants help aerate soil, decompose wood, eat other pests and are a food source for other insects and birds. It’s that I really don’t want them in the house. Writing this, I realized I’ve never tried sprinkling cornmeal along the foundation. I’ll try that next time I see an ant crawling across my desk.

Nature is more than a resource to be used and controlled

In the August 2023 special issue of sustainability journal, there’s a great research paper on policy-making as a means to help transform humanity’s relationship with Nature. At 29 pages, it’s definitely a long read. For a more condensed version, read this Finding Nature blog post, co-written by one of the paper’s co-authors.

For me, the overarching point is that policy-making should consider strengthening peoples’ sense of connection to Nature, to encourage deeper caring for Nature. It’s a win-win –> better psychological health for humans and stopping/reversing the deterioration of our planet. Nature is more than a resource to be used and controlled – it’s our (only) home.


this report summarizes a recent study published by Charles Darwin University in Australia. A key finding? That Australia’s biodiversity losses (more dramatic than other parts of the world) are symptomatic of shortcomings in resourcing, law, policy, and management…

…and this story also makes a strong case for a new approach to policy-making, arguing that the transformative change necessary to halt/reverse biodiversity loss is not solely an environmental issue. “It is also a social, economic and justice issue. Creating an equitable world that recognizes the fundamental interdependence of human well-being and the health of the natural world is simultaneously about creating a world that is sustainable, resilient and prosperous for all people and all nature.”

Cultivating My Nature Connection

I’m waiting for two books to become available at the Calgary Public Library, and will read/review them in turn:

  1. A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future by Benjamin Vogt; and
  2. Reconnection: Fixing our Broken Relationship with Nature by Miles Richardson.

Meanwhile, I have a YouTube channel recommendation. It’s Reconnecting You to Nature Through the Art of Photography presented by Kim Grant. She’s a Scottish nature photographer who connects with the world around her through her camera. Thanks to Mr GeoK for sending me a link to her “most abstract nature photographs ever” video, along with the comment that she reminds him of me!

She also has a podcast, Photographic Connections, available on YouTube, Apple podcasts, Spotify, etc. I’m choosing Episode 5, the Joys of Creative Photography, to audition this potential subscription. I have a short list of podcast subscriptions. Every time I add one, I have to trim one. That way I don’t end up feeling overwhelmed when I fall behind in listening. πŸ˜‰

Finally, if you’re in the Banff area between now and September 30, 2023, consider exploring the Art in Nature Trail. The gallery for this annual exhibition is nature! Start at the Banff Park Museum, travel along the Bow River Trail, across the pedestrian bridge, towards Bow Falls, and then return back to Central Park via the new Nancy Pauw Bridge. The event is free, and runs from early July to September 30th each year. Here are just a few of the 65+ displays from Bow Valley artists in several different mediums.

Nearby Nature Project

Birding Update

Birding highlights over the past month include watching a Merlin chase an Osprey that was hassling a Bald Eagle. And a Common Nighthawk settled on our deck railing from early one morning to dusk. We also spotted both an immature Bald Eagle and a fully mature Bald Eagle on the same kayak outing on Vermilion Lakes in Banff National Park.

Gardening Update

Our vegetable garden is still going strong, despite the Level 1 watering restrictions in Calgary (unlimited hand watering is still permitted, sprinklers just once/week). It’s going to be interesting to see whether our carrots size up before the end of September and whether the beets, broccoli and bok choy I planted early in August have time to mature before everything freezes.

My greatest vegetable gardening delight this year is the success I’ve had growing broccoli for the first time.

On the flower gardening front — something I do to support pollinators — we completely revamped our four flower gardens in early August. It was all prompted by taking down a 30 year-old spruce tree to improve the solar profile for our new solar array. That one thing led to redoing the front flower bed, and then we decided to mix top-quality soil into the other three flower beds and move things around while we were at it.

That project started with 8 cubic yards of soil being delivered. Two days later, all four beds had been dug up, new soil added and rototilled in, and replanted. We bought one new tree and three new shrubs, but everything else was thinned / replanted / transplanted. And despite the watering restrictions, almost everything is doing pretty well. I’ve given up on some delphiniums that were out of the ground for too long. And I’m concerned that the three new shrubs may not make it. But otherwise, so far, so good. And I’m really looking forward to getting some native flower seeds into the ground this fall, as they require overwintering before they’ll sprout and fill in some of the blank spaces.

Something Strange

I spotted something strange while walking Riverside Trail in Canmore this month.

Not sure if this was accidentally left behind by a squirrel gathering winter provisions. Or by another person who wanted a more interesting photograph. But it wasn’t placed by Mother Nature, because there’s no stem under the mushroom cap.

Backyard Visitors

We had repeat backyard visitors this month. A flock of about a dozen grey partridges keep returning. But the cutest visitors are a pair of mule deer fawns. They bring a smile to my face every time

Coming Up

Fall is coming. I know, I know…that makes some people kind of sad. In which case I am sorry. But if, like me, your favourite season is fall, you’re probably getting excited for fall bird migration, the big harvest season, cooler nights and the show of fall colours. We have a larch season hike or two planned and I’ve found a Calgary cider maker that will accept some of our apple crop, which looks to be particularly bountiful this year.

yellow grass along a stream

One thought on “Nearby Nature Project: 2023 August

  1. I love everything about this post. You are so correct about experiencing nature in both great and small areas. Anywhere you can is therapeutic. I try and make peace with my garden pests, but sometimes it’s a struggle. I don’t use pesticides on our veggie garden. I like to rely on my birds to keep pests under control so I try and attract them to my yard. Deer, coons and squirrels are met with an electric fence because they are relentless with my sweet corn. I rarely freak out about wasps and other bugs but refuse to make peace with ants. I did try some cornmeal under my hummingbird feeders to see if it works. I love my skinks, toads and turtles! Deer don’t eat daffodils. I have lots of daffs in the spring. Autumn is coming and I’m so excited!! πŸ’œ

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