March 8th, 2021
How it Started
I feel I must start this post with a confession- I have always been an “indoor cat”. As a child camping made me cry, I had no interest in touching the farm animals on field trips, and caterpillars filled me with terror. If you had told 9-year-old me that one day I would be hunting down the appropriate native plants to actually increase the number of caterpillars living in my yard- I wouldn’t have believed you (and I would have included a very large eyeroll for good measure).
Children Change You
When people ask me about my oldest daughter, I typically say she is a “nature girl”. She prefers to walk through muddy puddles- instead of around them, has never met a bug she did not want to bring home as a pet, and enjoys being outside no matter the temperature. Her little sister is much the same- except she pokes the muddy puddles with a stick instead of climbing into them.
Children change you – whether you are their parent, teacher, Aunt/Uncle – or honorary Aunt/Uncle. In my case my daughters’ enthusiasm taught me to appreciate nature, and my work with the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council (CCLC) has given me the ability to teach them how to be good stewards to their environment. I still struggle with things like “practical footwear” and picking weather appropriate – over stylish- clothing, but I no longer wish to separate nature and the outdoors from my everyday life.
How it’s Going
When my oldest was small, nature walks consisted of picking every dandelion we saw and looking under rocks for bugs. Since my introduction to conservation landscaping things are a little different. We still look under rocks for bugs, but we also go on “BMP dates” (which is what the CBLP instructors call it when you drag your loved ones to check out stormwater practices). We use native plant safari cards or a plant id app (Picture This, Seek It, or Plant Snap are all great) to identify the plants in the practice.
The girls (and I) are becoming familiar with permeable pavers, rain gardens, bioretention, meadow restoration projects, etc. and why we need them. We watch the bees and butterflies visit native plants as they ignore non-natives- we talk about why.
And my oldest- who is nine- now gives me exceptionally large eyerolls when I ask her to identify all the surfaces draining to the practice.
The Outdoors During Lockdown
During this intensely difficult year nature saved us. We took daily walks, we hunted for colors in nature, we told stories about the personalities of plants, we tried to skip rocks. When the parks were closed, the creeks were still open. When our days seemed hard, the watershed reminded us of it’s beauty.
Spending so much time with our feet in the creeks and streams that feed the Chesapeake Bay cemented in me the realization that we cannot live separately from nature. This “indoor cat” has understands now that nature needs us to show up and be active in the pursuit of a healthy and resilient watershed. For my family, this means starting with replacing our entirely non-native garden with native plants- and letting the girls teach me how to love caterpillars. How will your family be showing up for the watershed this year?
Katie Pinkham is the program assistant for the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council (CCLC). She manages daily operations of the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Certification Program, and participates in CCLC outreach, fundraising, and conference planning. Katie resides in Silver Spring, MD with her husband, their two daughters, oversized puppy, and clowder of cats.