A Conservation@Home Story

By Mark Luthin, NLI Trustee and Vice President

Letting nature take care of itself is often the prevailing attitude of many landowners. Andrew and Renee Mealey of rural Roscoe shared that philosophy for quite a while. Then, according to Renee, they realized that they wanted to “leave their land better off than they received it.”

How to manage an eight acre parcel of thick woods, full of honeysuckle and buckthorn became a concern, as both Andrew and Renee work full time. Ultimately, they decided to hire out the clearing of their woodland, offering room and board to the workers. The hired hands, or “the boys”, as Renee fondly calls them, are goats. The boys ate what would have taken many hours of brush clearing by the Mealeys. What once was an overgrown woodland is now wide open, with a number of early blooming wildflowers such as mayapple and blue bells already showing up. As Renee and Andrew work to open up the canopy by clearing some of the less desirable trees, they hope that even more native plants will appear.

Around their house, Renee’s gardening experience is evident. As the founding member of the Roscoe Gardening Club, Renee has a unique mixture of shrubs and forbs, many in bloom and attracting a large number of bees, butterflies and other insects. The bee balm had a variety of bumble bees feeding on the nectar, as did the spiderwort. Soon, purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, bergamot and at least two types of milkweed will be attracting even more.

Many plants serve dual purposes in the Mealey gardens. Fennel, marsh mallow, Valeria, mint, comfrey, nettles and St. John’s wort all benefit our pollinator friends, as well as serving a medicinal purpose for humans. In particular, the comfrey, a member of the borage family, seems to be a bee magnet. Dragonflies were seen flitting about, and the 17 year cicadas were mostly heard and not seen.

A number of bird feeders are visible from the yard and likely a keen viewing spot in the house. Hummingbirds have a variety of foods available, as do the woodpeckers, although their activity has been muffled by the afore-mentioned cicadas.

A little bubbling water garden provides a water source for thirsty animals. Using two rain barrels, one for their garden plants and one for their chickens, allows the Mealeys to conserve water as well. The vegetable gardens look hearty and healthy, no doubt aided by the compost that is generated and added to the soil.

Through their persistence, perseverance, hard work, and with a little help from the boys, Renee and Andrew can safely say that their land is better now than when they received it.


All photos by Mark Luthin



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