Even a front law provides city dwellers nature lessons

Duane Dailey

A back-to-nature trek takes me no further than the front lawn. Wildlife abounds in urban Columbia.

My stroll Saturday let me sense the impact of an August-like day. I felt heat and humidity. That was nature, not at best.

What followed was spectacular. Four almost grown owls came, one by one, back to a grove of trees in a neighbor’s yard across the street.

We have two homes for owls in our neighborhood. I rarely see them, but hear them often. From across the street comes frequent queries: WHO, Who, who? From a block beyond the backyard comes a counter query: WHO, Who, who?

The nest across the street became neighborhood entertainment this spring as nestlings peered from a crude nest high up in a tree.

Now, the youngsters are out and about.

After that sighting I looked down to find the workings of moles. They make small mountains out of black prairie dirt under the lawn. The mole mounds rise eight inches or more from the lawn.

Often homeowners trap or poison the unseen intruders. I hope these remain undisturbed. Their ancestors were probably here before the ancient town of Smithton sprang up here back about 1820. That town withered, as people moved a mile or so east to be near what were then flowing springs at Flat Branch creek.

The pioneers moved closer to water, thus was born Columbia.

In my lawn, nature drew my present-day attention with many small dead twigs from the old maple tree. Twigs littered the lawn.

Earlier this spring live twigs with leaves fell on the lawn. Some insect pest laid their eggs and chewed off the tips of branches. I don’t know that life cycle. But, it comes every year. Nature at work baffles homeowners.

This dry twig fall must be part of the heat of summer. Dead twigs detach and fall.

I pick them up. Snap them easily into one-inch chunks and throw them back on the sod. They become mulch. Their nutrients should decompose and return to the soil from which they came. Many homeowners feel compelled to bundle twigs for city garbage collectors to take to the landfill north of town. What a waste of nutrients and energy.

I believe that autumn shedding of leaves should be composted and returned to soil from whence they came.

Some city dwellers believe even their grass clippings should be sent to the landfill. How out of touch can we get?

This land that was once the Smithton Prairie now gets clipped and trimmed to look like a golf course. Power mowers spewing global-warming gases roar round and round lawns, clipping them to look smooth as golf greens.

Can no one see beauty in tall prairie grasses here?

A drive through rural Boone County shows more large lawns where former pasture lands once held cow herds. City folks move to the country to make city lawns.

I see that all across the state. On the road to MU Thompson Farm pastures become closely mown estates. City folks moving to former farms want city lawns.

I once asked a rural homeowner why he mowed so much. “I can’t hear her nagging when I am on the mower,” he explained.

Back to this town front lawn which is tended by a hired lawn-mowing and trimming couple. I ask that they raise the mower blade to leave taller grass leaves. But, the request remains unremembered on the next mowing. Close mowing stresses and weakens grass. That allows intruding white clover and weeds to flourish from the bared ground.

Big green leaves are needed to convert carbon dioxide back into carbon and oxygen. Carbon becomes soil. We breathe oxygen.

A short walk raises questions of our relationship with nature. Pretty tall grass becomes ugly. Columbia has a city ordinance against tall grass. What rot.

Send your thoughts to duanedailey7@gmail.com or 511 W. Worley, Columbia, Mo., 65203.