For all our interest in and ambitions for regenerative building and growing, neither Tom nor I can claim deep knowledge of our natural surroundings. Our thirty acres are filled with plants, insects, birds and animals with whom we have only a passing acquaintance.

Our 2-1/2-year-old granddaughter Surya, here at the farm two days each week, has this summer been uncompromisingly curious about insects and birds. She spends hours paging through our bird and butterfly guidebooks, insisting on knowing the name and sound of every bird. She hounds us to play and replay birdsongs on our phone apps.

As a result, I now find myself standing for long stretches on our terrace, listening to and recording birdsongs, learning so much and realizing how much more there is to learn.

Similarly, our phone apps – indispensable for untangling the mix of curated native plants and other native plants (otherwise known as weeds) in our “tamed” areas – have led us to discover the names of flowers, shrubs and trees in the untamed areas. What an astounding universe we find right at our doorstep!

A Sustainababble podcast episode I recently listened to brought focus to a current question for Tom and me. The podcasters contrasted rewilding with conservation, using Knepp Estate in England as an example. Knepp has undertaken rewilding – giving nature free reign to develop and change – with the surprising arrival and thriving of the rare purple emperor butterfly. Had Knepp deliberately tried to create purple emperor habitat, the results might have been less effective or sustainable. That approach, of creating an ecosystem and then maintaining it as created, is conservation.

Having established good growing conditions for our 150 or so fruit and nut trees and bushes, we’re now considering what’s next. As we become familiar with some of our resident (and migrant) wildlife, we are more and more drawn to discover what the land itself has to say. Even if no rare or unusual species show up, we’ll be happy to get acquainted with who’s already out there.

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