By G. Michael Dobbs
For the first time since our house was built in 1864, the backyard is naked. Not a bit of vegetation. No weeds, no trees, no shrubs, no plants.
The cats believe they have encountered the world's largest litter box.
The reason is simple. We had to scrape everything clean and start again due to the damage of the 2011 tornado. Although five broken trees were removed immediately after the storm, there were several more that needed to be removed but were not, because we were reserving funds for the repair of the house.
Now the house is repaired so it is time to do something with the yard. We had the radical thought of simply clearing everything away and starting from scratch.
I readily admit that my idea of a backyard theater is still something I'd like to do, but it's a tad unreasonable. We now have the room and the sunlight for some sort of pool, which considering how our summers are now, might actually be a huge hot tub.
Come the fall, our landscapers will be bringing in loam and planting grass, so we have some time to make plans.
I'm definitely thinking of a garden area. Just how large is another question, but I was raised much of my childhood on a farm and I actually enjoy growing vegetables. I didn't care much for gardening as a kid – I would rather muck out the goats' pen as opposed to picking strawberries – but I enjoy raising things now.
Still, I won't be planting any strawberries.
This would go hand-in-hand with another thought: perhaps I should keep bees. Now don't worry, I'd check with city regulations before such a plan and my better half has veto power, naturally.
I took beekeeping at the University of Massachusetts, where one decisive year I hovered between majoring in journalism or entomology. The love of writing won over my love of bugs, for better or worse.
I've followed the bee crisis and the story makes me cringe every time I hear an update. Domesticated honeybee hives have bees suffering from 2006 from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and a new study was recently released with findings from years of research.
According to the report, "Despite a remarkably intensive level of research effort towards understanding causes of managed honeybee colony losses in the United States, overall losses continue to be high and pose a serious threat to meeting the pollination service demands for several commercial crops. Best Management Practice guides have been developed for multiple stakeholders, but there are numerous obstacles to widespread adoption of these practices. In addition, the needs of growers and other stakeholders must be taken into consideration before many practices can be implemented."
The study continues, "It is a complex phenomenon, because several factors seem to be interacting to cause CCD. The suspected factors include pests, pathogens, pesticides, nutritional deficiencies and bee hive management practices."
You want to talk about internal security issues? Without adequate numbers of healthy honeybees pollinating crops, the production of entire groups of vegetables, fruits and nuts could face disaster. Would we be able to feed ourselves, at least in the manner that we have become accustomed?
Yet, this isn't a story that has received as much attention as Kim Kardashian's baby. One might think many American would be up in arms about the safety of their food supplies and the health of a variety of farmers and food businesses. Nope.
As I've written before, I would like to see more community gardens in our cities and a curriculum in our area schools that actually teaches kids how food is produced. The more we can regionalize agriculture, the better for our food supply, our economy and us.
Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.