The Summer Solstice is here, appropriately in the midst of a terrible heatwave (although it’s now Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere). In the Northern Hemisphere the earth in its orbit tilts on its axis, facing the sun for the longest period of the year. The above website will live-stream extraordinary telescope views of the sun from around the globe! With worldwide celebrations from places like England, Ireland, Finland, to Spain, Greece, Russia, from Yakutia to Santa Barbara, California, in traditions such as jumping over bonfires, watching the sun rise, and ritual bathing, we honor the burgeoning new life in the ground, and anxiously await the fall harvest.
In keeping with this theme (and in honor of Pollinator Week), I recently attended a lecture at the Laguna de Santa Rosa Environmental Center on cultivating habitat gardens for pollinators such as bees, butterflies, bats and birds. Humans traditionally have a harmonious, symbiotic relationship with some of these: bees provide us with a third of all the food we eat – from fruit to vegetables to nuts! In fact, some crops are over 90% dependent on bees for pollination. All these creatures are threatened by pesticide/herbicide use, disease, predators such as cats (my favorites!), and habitat loss due to climate change and development.
We can help by planting largely native plants – which are also more weed- and disease-/pest-resistant, as well as more drought-tolerant. By eliminating pesticides (substitute a mix of 1 gal. vinegar, 2 cups epsom salts, and 1/4 cup blue Dawn dish soap), adding water sources for all (in locations protected from predators), diversifying plants for year-round blooms and letting them go to flower and seed, and avoiding pruning and clearing away brush and leaves during nesting season, we can encourage these amazing animals to be part of the small ecosystems in our yards. And, we get to enjoy interacting with them and observing their beauty every day! Happy Midsummer!