|A bumblebee enjoying the thyme in my front yard|
My back and front yards measure about 300 square feet combined. This is not untypical in cities, of course, but I actually live in a section of the city that is often mistaken for the greener suburbs due to its lower-density development, tree-lined streets, and ubiquitous strip of grass between the sidewalk and street in front of each house. This strip of grass, I've come to think, is somewhat a matter of pride to the residents here, much in the same way a well-groomed, expansive lawn signals wealth in the country. There can be no other swatch of greenery beyond the sidewalk to the front door, but most houses have, at the very least, this patch of grass. I watch my old-timey neighbor laboriously care for his patch, especially the small, ugly blotch of brown that refuses to grow seed. When he came out one morning last year and saw that my stretch of grass had been torn out and replaced by flowers and shrubs (and later a tree), he was outright flabbergasted. Not only had I callously tossed out what he tended to for 20 years, but it was an uppity act of indifference to the working class roots of the neighborhood.
But forgoing the weekly act of lugging a weedwacker or a manual lawnmower to maintain a two by 20 foot strip of grass in favor of tending a flower bed has proven much more rewarding, if not for me than for the bees that now take unbridled pleasure in flying from flower to flower, their black and yellow stripes almost completely disguised in white pollen. This new development in my small corner of the world seems all the more important given the recent reports that bumblebees are going the way of their honeybee cousins. According to a recent article in Grist, these important pollinators have declined by 96% over the past two decades, posing a threat to native plants as well as the food supply.