Monday, August 27, 2012

Life in the Garden

Life in the Garden

No garden truly blooms until butterflies have danced upon it
~K. D’Angelo

As the daylight grows shorter, and the temperatures finally fall below 90, I am starting to feel that fall is definitely in the air. Although the temperatures still rise by late afternoon, I’ve noticed an incredible decline in blooms here in my southern garden. I’ve also sensed what appears to be a decline in butterflies for what I can remember for this time of year. Some contribute this to the climate change and to habitat loss. I’m still very patiently waiting for the butterflies to make their journey south and I’m holding on to the hope of seeing more soon. There’s a good probability that I will not see as many, but then again I do have one of the few pollinator enticing yards with more than just greenery in the neighborhood. I can only hope.

"For most butterfly species, climate change seems to be a stronger change-agent than habitat loss," Breed said. "Protecting habitat remains a key management strategy, and that may help some butterfly species. However, for many others, habitat protection will not mitigate the impacts of warming."

I went out yesterday with my camera in hand and I had a blast chasing the few butterflies that were there, trying ever so desperately to get that perfect photograph. I’m stalking the hummingbird feeder and hummingbird plant as well, just hoping that the one hummingbird that I’ve seen buzzing over my head will become comfortable enough with me out there to come within focal distance.

I know I must be quite the spectacle wheeling around my yard and staring at my plants waiting for these creatures to appear. My neighbors must think that I’ve lost it, but then again they probably have already felt this way for some time now. Being a slightly eccentric individual has never bothered me, and I certainly have never worried about appearances. I’m comfortable with who I am. My disability has somehow given me more confidence and, admittedly, a feeling of being somewhat invincible at times. I know my maturity contributes to this too and sometimes I have to remind myself that others may be taken aback by my forwardness. I don’t consider this attribute to be a flaw, and, personally, I’d rather deal with those more upfront with their feelings.

I don’t usually say what I think impulsively, I think about what I’m going to say and how I’m going to say it first. Sometimes I don’t really need to say anything; my face tends to say it all for me. (I would never have a good ‘poker face’.) Imagine if everyone had the guts to speak up or take the necessary action every time an injustice occurred? I certainly would have a lot less work to do as a disability advocate! I’m not trying to encourage anyone to take on an unnecessary confrontation, but rather to take the time to educate whenever possible. If an activity is illegal or potentially dangerous, obviously one should call 9-1-1. If you see someone leave a cart in the striped off area to an accessible parking space, try to tell them nicely that they’re blocking the entire space for someone who drives a van with a wheelchair lift. If they get ugly, keep on moving, unfortunately sometimes people do become confrontational.

We can all individually make an impact. We can enlighten one human being, even within our own family or within our own circle of friends. We can improve our own habitats too to entice more butterflies. I grow butterfly weed for the monarchs and I have a passion vine for the fritillaries. I keep parsley and have had fennel for the swallowtails. Sunflowers and zinnias seem to attract many beneficial pollinators into the garden too. We can only hope that our individual efforts will have a significant impact on the lives of others.

This week I was honored by a beautifully written article on Access to the Garden written by Christopher Di Virgilio with PVA Magazine, PN Online. Chris did a really outstanding job. “On her blog site she not only describes what she’s doing as a gardener but also as a gardener with a disability. Many people see her as just a gardener, but what she’s doing and how she’s doing it is important information for those who believe they can’t garden; that’s all the motivation she needs to help encourage others to pursue their passions.”

I also had the privilege of being asked to review a farm that is in the planning process of becoming an educational/community farm. This kind of cooperativeness between the disability community and any kind of enterprise can help assure better involvement with those people within the community with disabilities, even within a community garden or farm. I am thrilled to provide technical information to them regarding accessibility.

It will be an educational opportunity for me as well. There is a rural transportation company with an integrated accessibility policy (I wrote it) that rides by the dirt road to the farm at least 3 times a day. At this point, I’m not certain how far off the paved road the bus will actually travel if at all. The proposed future bathroom and parking area are located away from the farm (roughly 500 feet) and on the other side of this very narrow dirt road thus necessitating the need for possible parking in both areas. There is no pedestrian access way or route other than the dirt road. This whole scenario presents many unique challenges. Complete consideration from all involved will be given to every aspect of the project. Any recommendation or technical specification that I make will be run by the US Access Board. They too only provide technical information. I will also be consulting with the National AgrAbility Project (, although there is not one in this state to support our farmers with disabilities.

Any determination will obviously be made by the entity proposing the project. Determining location and number of raised beds will also give consideration to the needs of people with disabilities for utmost inclusion. Most entities make at least 5% of their garden accessible with the use of raised beds of varying heights, but I’ve yet to come up with who/how this number was ever derived. The ADA only requires equal participation and doesn’t specify the number. I have a lot of research ahead of me, and I genuinely look forward to it.

It’s refreshing to work with any entity that strives to do everything possible to guarantee participation of people with disabilities. I was seriously considering the possibility of moving elsewhere. This, in addition to the recent efforts of a city north of me, has made me reconsider, at least for now anyway.


  1. Thanks, Brenda, for this straight-talking and inspiring piece! Kathy Parrent, Green Thumb to the Rescue

    1. Thanks for following Access to the Garden here and on facebook Kathy!

  2. Great meditation once again on the importance of both human and natural presence in the garden. Too sad to think of denying garden access to anyone...but when the butterflies and other beneficials start to decline in numbers, it won't be long before gardens disappear completely...Great words and message, Brenda.