Going wild at Huss School

Categories:Projects, Space
Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

One of our projects for this spring and summer has been figuring out how to convert a portion of the four-acre property around Huss back to wild space. We’ve tried to delineate the area with clear boundaries so that our neighbors won’t just think we’re neglecting the land, but even then, we’re still getting some quizzical looks: so you’re not going to mow it?
Well, we are mowing a portion of it. We have a path that goes around the entire back property for walking, an area carved out for a fire pit and a large lawn in the back corner for softball, soccer and other activities. We’re also mowing the front yard and around the community garden.
But there are many advantages to letting a portion of the property go wild, including…

  • Creating a habitat that’s friendly to small animals, birds and insects (including butterflies!).
  • Using less fossil fuel and time to maintain an area that wouldn’t get adequate use as a lawn.
  • Cultivating a beautiful space with visual diversity full of wild flowers, grasses and trees.
  • Reducing erosion and runoff from the property with plants that have adequate root systems to absorb rain water, improving water and soil quality.
  • Improving our link to the past at an historic property that would have been oak and hickory prairie centuries ago.
  • Establishing an outdoor classroom where people can learn about native plants, including edible species.
  • Accessing grant programs that support native plant projects and education.

We realize we’ll need to be intentional about communicating our intentions in a culture where trimmed lawns are the norm, but we look forward to building relationships around innovative possibilities for a neighborhood that straddles rural and urban environments. We also look forward to the unique teaching space such a landscape will create, helping us all learn how to better care for and appreciate our native environment in an area so rich with beautiful plants and waterways.

Resources for Michigan native plants:

Author:
Kirstin is a member of the *culture is not optional core community and is the Head Caretaker at GilChrist Retreat Center.