As we welcome the return of light and a new year begins, I like to take a moment to reflect on the year that was. What lessons did I learn? What can I improve to create more welcoming habitat for wildlife in my garden? What can I do better?

And this year I thought I’d share this reflection with you as well as my anticipation of the possibilities offered by a new beginning. It was a fun year, I got to travel around the country for some really cool speaking gigs. It was also a hard year when I spent several months caring for my mom. And it was a sad year when she passed away. But as I look back over the year, I am left with the feeling that it was a good year. I had lessons to learn and tasks to accomplish, and I fulfilled (most of) those tasks, with the addition of some that I hadn’t planned on.

January: Give a Little Back to Wildlife

I began the year thinking of giving back. As a species, we are very good at taking: taking habitat, taking mountaintops, taking trees, taking water. We take and we take until a resource is gone and we go in search of something else to take. We need to start thinking about giving back: to our environment, to the birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife who depend on the ecosystems we’ve destroyed. We can start this process of giving back right outside our own back doors by creating welcoming habitat for wildlife in our gardens.

February: The Importance of Native Plants to Wildlife

The great native plant debate continued with many folks weighing in about the importance of native plants in our landscapes. And I was invited to speak at the Wildflower Propagation and Preservation Committee (WPPC) of McHenry County, near Chicago about native plants and creating welcoming habitats for wildlife in our gardens.

March: The Native Plants of Texas

I was honored to speak about Ecosystem Gardening and creating wildlife habitat in our gardens at the Pinelands Short Course in NJ, and then I traveled to Austin, TX for a conference, met some amazing friends who I had only known online, and got a private tour of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Next time you’re in Texas make sure to visit this beautiful garden devoted to the native plants of the area, which I have described at my team blog Beautiful Wildlife Garden.

April: Let’s Start Another Native Plant Project

I was interviewing Doug Tallamy, we were talking about the fact that so many people remain unaware of the value of native plants for wildlife in our gardens. Doug said that we needed to have a bigger voice to get the message out. So I brought together an amazing team of writers and started a new project, Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. Not like I didn’t have anything else to do

May: Heading to Maine

When the opportunity arose to check out the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden, I was very excited. Who could possibly turn down a visit to Maine to discover the birds, wildlife, and native plants of a new area?

June: My Wildlife Garden is Full of Butterflies

Tis the time of year when a wildlife garden becomes full of swirling butterflies, which to me are always a delight to watch. I got two very interesting questions from readers of Ecosystem Gardening. What Black and White Caterpillar Eats Carrots? Did you know that carrots are members of the dill family? And Do Monarch Caterpillars Eat Anything Besides Milkweed? What’s your best answer to this question?

July: Return to Maine

Due to a very the Puffin colony, and spent our time birding and exploring.

August: More Butterflies

When we think of butterflies in the wildlife garden, we often focus on the big beauties: the Monarchs and the Swallowtails, but there are many stunning smaller butterflies that also deserve our attention, like the Pearl Crescent.

September: Sadness, a Hurricane, and More Sadness

My friend and fellow wildlife gardener, Irma McVey, sadly passed away suddenly from a brain tumor. We had a hurricane, and I went to Cape May to see the “hurricane birds,” had a lovely time walking the beach, and took a boat trip out to see the Brown Booby. And then I got the phone call that my mom had been taken to the ER due to a bad fall. So off I headed to Florida.

October: Finding Free Moments

Taking care of mom was a round the clock job, and I had very little time to myself. I began taking whatever free minutes I could find in a day to have my “15 minutes of wildlife garden zen,” my time to be mindful and present and delight in the beauty and wonder of the natural world around me.

November: Grief

My mom wanted to come home, so we left the hospital and flew home to my brother’s in NJ. He and his wife were away with their daughter, celebrating the birth of their first grandchild. We had a hospice team who came in once a day, but I became mom’s full time caretaker. While it was exhausting, scary, and quite difficult, I am so grateful that I got to spend that time with her before she passed. But the sun still rises, and the birds still sing.

December: Solstice and the Return of the Light

I mark the start of a new year at solstice, when we celebrate the return of the light. This year especially, I am so ready to welcome the light’s return!

Although still sad, I’m filled with anticipation for the coming year. I’ve been offered some exciting opportunities, which I’m looking forward to sharing with you as the time comes. I’m going to be stretching my wings a bit, going outside of my comfort zone, and expanding my possibilites.

And the wheel turns again…….

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