Are you feeling exasperated because you are stuck at home during this time of social distancing and stay at home orders? Do you feel trapped because of all the responsibilities you have including homeschooling your kids, your job, and running your household? Are you looking for down time, a calmer and simpler life, and ways to re-connect with who you really are?
You might not be able to go to the gym, out to restaurants or clothes shopping, but you can allow yourself to take a deserved break from your day-to-day commitments and experience valuable time to re-charge and take care of you.
The weather in Maine is warming up, there’s more daylight, the nesting songbirds have returned in abundance and nature is bursting with the brilliantly beautiful colors of newly emerged leaves and flowers.
This is a perfect time to be immersed in nature, to experience the benefits of living simply, of being in the present moment by observing the thriving rhythm of the plants, animals and birds, all of which can help you reconnect to your true self.
Letting go, being one with nature and allowing your mind to quiet down, daydream or wander can lead to some of your most creative moments.
As the world changes and new opportunities unfold, consider what role you want to have as we move forward. Who do you want to be in this next phase of enlightenment on planet Earth? What do you want to let go of? What do you want to create?
Taking time in nature to release daily stress lets you connect with your creative spirit. One simple activity to engage in is journaling. Journaling while embraced by nature allows you to slow down and see the natural world and your true self from a different perspective
I’ve experienced a variety of very stressful times throughout my life, both personally and professionally. Being immersed in nature, even for a few minutes each day, has shown me how enriching a simpler life is, expanded my creativity, and has greatly improved my overall wellbeing.
Earth Walkers can help you start your journey to experiencing a more relaxed and simpler life with our 6 Simple Nature Connection Practices to Declutter Your Mind + Restore Your Spirit. Get your free guide here and begin the journey of re-connecting with yourself.
A garden consultation is a great gift for all gardeners booking for fresh ideas.
Whether they are a new to gardening, a gardener with a landscape that needs a makeover, a gardener who wants to attract birds + pollinators by incorporating native plants, or a gardener who wants to learn about ecological practices, Earth Walkers will help problem-solve with the perfect recommendations.
On-site consultations are available for properties within 30 miles of Portland, Maine.
During this time of great change on our planet, it is more important than ever to be out in nature. Did you know if you spend just 20 minutes in nature each day, your emotional and physical health and well-being will be improved? To help you get through this period of increased challenges, Earth Walkers has created a free publication: 6 Simple Nature Connection Practices to Declutter Your Mind + Restore Your Spirit . This guide offers 6 simple practices that can help you rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit. It is our hope that these exercises will assist you in reconnecting to yourself and to nature. Take care and enjoy your time in nature!
This is the first post in a 6-part Healing Benefits of Nature series.
Gardening and mindfulness forge a connection to the world around us (nature, wildlife and people), which can bring us pleasure and peace. The exercise of tending to plants and the earth release endorphins (happy chemicals) in our brain. The United Kingdom’s National Health Service has defined five steps you can take to improve your mental health and well-being: connection with others, being more active, on-going learning; giving to others and paying attention to the present moment. Gardening fulfills all five of these criteria.
Like creating a garden, mindfulness takes time and persistence. One ideal way to incorporate mindfulness practice into everyday life is through gardening. The focus on the breath is replaced with the task at hand and the experience of the senses. Every time your attention wanders, there is a sight, smell, sound, touch or taste in the garden to bring your mind back to the present.
It is important to center yourself before you start gardening, because rushing into a task will not enhance a mindful state. How we look at our garden creates our garden, and our state of mind affects our gardening.
Attempting to force change on the natural order of things is possible (i.e. forcing bulbs, season extension), but is it desirable? Nature will do things in its own time. Nature is a universal language showing how suitable gardening is for mindfulness:
First and foremost we must care for ourselves as we do our plants (providingspace, light, food and water)
We must look after the soil (our surroundings) so we can flourish
We need time to rest (as do plants)
If we tended our bodies and minds like we do our gardens, we would be in great shape!
Did you know
that an average garden could hold 2000 insect species, most of which are
beneficial? Unfortunately, the numbers
of insects are declining primarily due to habitat loss and pesticides.
Insets have very important roles:
They eat pests.
They are pollinators (beetles pollinate 88% of all flowering plants, more than any other animal).
They contribute to the ecosystem.
They are a critical food source for birds. According to a recent study done at the University of Basel in Switzerland, the world’s birds eat 450 to 550 million tons of insects each year.
One way to
help protect insects and preserve their habitat is to create insect
hotels. Insect hotels provide safe areas
for insects to hibernate during the winter.
They are created with found or upcycled materials and consist of rooms
designed to meet a variety of insect habitats. Rooms are filled with natural,
non-toxic and stable recycled items (pieces
of clay plant pots, large pine cones, wood, bricks, straw, bamboo stakes, etc.). Many materials can be found in your own backyard,
gardening shed, and local transfer or recycling centers.
Benefits of insect hotels:
Encourage beneficial insects to help control pests.
Stimulate biodiversity and ecological balance in the landscape.
Structures replicate natural habitats, provide space to create nests over the summer (including beetles, May flies, hover flies, spiders, and green lacewings) and hibernate in winter (including bees, moths, butterflies, and ladybugs). Some insects will live 9 months in a hotel.
Creating an Insect Hotel
Container needs to be open at one end closed on the other in order to hold filler (baskets, wooden boxes, small galvanized buckets, clay pots all work great).
Pre-roll leaves and paper, glue one tube in place as cornerstone, add glue to other materials as needed.
Put smaller containers inside large ones.
Create curves, circles and layers.
Pack materials in tight enough to stay in place, but not too tight that insects can’t get in.
Sand the front as splinters can catch on bodies and injure insects.
Bamboo, hollow plant stems, rolled newspaper (different diameters attract different species). Keep in mind that narrow tubes are more popular than wide ones.
Cardboard – use to make or hold small tubes, corrugated cardboard has the extra advantage of small holes. (Lacewings are huge consumers of aphids and like rolled up cardboard.)
Pine cones attract ladybugs.
Bark and dry leaves are used by many insects.
Straw/hay is a great insulator for hibernating insects; hollow with different lengths & widths bundled together is best. Straw can also be used as filler.
Ornamental grass creates tunnels, provides texture, and different sizes can accommodate many insects.
Hang the structure 5’ off ground and secure it so doesn’t shake in wind.
Place in a sheltered, warm space, with dappled shade, surrounded by variety of flowering plants.
Protect from birds. Some birds, like woodpeckers, attack blocked up holes looking for larvae to eat. Cover the front with chicken wire/hardware cloth if birds are around the hotel.
Hotels for Native Bees
There are over 270 native bees in Maine.
30% of native bees make nests in old beetle tunnels in tree snags or similar locations.
Most native bees need a hollow tube to a make nest.
Need different hole sizes for different bees (leafcutter bees – ¼” wide and 2 ½ to 4” deep; mason bees – 6” deep 5/16” wide)
Use pieces of branches or lumber to make hotels.
Mix diameters, drill in on a slightly upwards angle so holes don’t fill with rain water, being careful not to drill all the way through (will create a wind tunnel). Be creative and drill holes in patterns.
Vary hole sizes from ¼ – ½” in diameter, space holes at least ¾” apart.
Holes less than ¼” diameter should be 3-4” deep; holes larger than ¼” should be 5-6” deep.
Bee hotels need to be placed high enough (3-6’)
off the ground to keep away larvae eating ants.
Hang in sheltered, sunny spot (not direct sun), and make sure it is
Umbels – umbrella-like clusters (Dill, Queen Anne’s Lace, Angelica, Fennel, Yarrow) Composites – tiny center flowers, surrounded by rays (Sunflowers, Daisies, Coneflowers, Cosmos) Spikes – group of flowers arising from main stem (Lavender, Goldenrod, Hyssop) Cups – (Evening Primrose, Buttercup)
Plants Below is a list of some of the best plants for beneficial insects. Include as many of these plants as possible in your garden to attract, encourage, and support a broad diversity of beneficial insects. In addition to planting these plants, always allow your garden to stand through the winter months so beneficial insects have a place to overwinter.
Black-eyed Susan – Rudbeckia species Boltonia – Boltonia asteroides Common Boneset – Eupatorium perfoliatum Cosmos – Cosmos bipinnatus Culver’s root – Veronicastrum virginicum Dill – Anethum graveolens Goldenrod – Solidago species Hardy Aster – Symphyotrichum species Meadowsweet – Spirea alba Mountain Mint – Pycnanthemum species Shasta Daisy – Leucanthemum x superbum Sunflower – Helianthus annuus Sweet Alyssum – Labularia maritima Tickseed – Coreopsis species Yarrow – Achillea millefolium