Originally Posted on Writers Who Kill on 12 August 2012
When we built our Michigan house in 2005 we had to decide what to plant over the septic field. Grass is the traditional answer; its roots pull some of the moisture from the leach field to let it evaporate, while the rest of the water percolates through the soil. We chose wildflowers. We liberated plants from the surrounding woods and trails and transplanted them.
Lesson 1: Invasive species grow best. Well duh! Since I am not a wildflower cognoscenti we went for pretty—and some of the invasives are gorgeous. Fortunately, soon after I transplanted purple loostrife and spotted knapweed I discovered my error and ripped them up. It took three years to get rid of the spotted knapweed because some had gone to seed before my weeding.
Lesson 2: I didn’t want to mow a lawn. It seemed antithetical to living in the midst of the Northwoods. What I didn’t count on was that the maples, birches, aspens, pines, hemlocks, cedars and spruce thought the meadow belonged to them. Of course they were right; the territory had been theirs since the melting of the last glacier. I traded a periodic lawn mowing for pulling weeds—in this case thousands of treelets every year.
Lesson 3: Not all transplants live. The columbine I found has struggled to survive and I’ve had zero luck with jack-in-the-pulpit.
Lesson 4: Nature has her own ideas. I didn’t plant everything now growing in the meadow. Volunteers showed up, brought in by the wind and bird poop and animal fur.
Lesson 5: It takes time to transform bare dirt into something presentable, but given time it will happen.
Lesson 6: I’m not the only one to enjoy the wildflowers.
Lesson 7: If you’d like, this blog could be an allegory for writing, or you can simply enjoy the pictures.