When it comes to the location of our living quarters, Mary and I have always preferred homes that are in an urban setting where we are within walking or biking distance of everything. The tradeoff for this that I have to forgo a backyard that offers anything close to natural.
In Sequim, our back yard was very nice, we had a grape arbor that provided shade for our slate patio, grass for the kids to run around on, and room to plant things. It even had room for me to park my bikes (left). For me, my need for nature was met because Sequim was located at the north end of the largest unbroken wilderness area in the lower 48 states. I considered the Olympic Peninsula my "effective backyard" (above). By the same principle our front yard would have overlooked the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where one could see seal, sea lions, whales, and orcas on a regular basis. Not bad by any measure.
In moving to West Chester we liked the fact that Mary's family home was situated only a few blocks from downtown putting us within walking distance from most things that we need. Our back yard is less than half the size of our yard in Sequim, but fairly typical for a city lot here. It does, however, have all the required elements; shade, brick patio for the grill, grass, and a place to plant things (right).
Now we come to my need for things natural. Let us just leave it that southeastern Pennsylvania ain't anything like the north Olympic Peninsula. When we arrived in Western Washington back in 1992 and I saw Mount Rainier for the first time I said to Mary "you don't see shit like that in Philadelphia." This became my mantra every time I saw anything in the Pacific Northwest of overwhelming natural beauty. It is clear, now that I am back here, that I will have to redefine my idea of what is "natural" if I am to retain any level of sanity. So, I have come to accept that Chester County simply will not have landscapes that approach the idea of "natural" in the way that Washington State did.
To that end I have adopted the Stroud Reserve as my adopted backyard (left). Sure, it is not the Olympic Mountains, but at only 2.9 miles away from our home it will more than do. The reserve is 571 acres of mixed agricultural lands, upland hardwoods and riparian wetlands that mirror much of western Chester County is today. It also has a couple of acres of serpentine outcrop that makes for a very interesting native plant community.
Since the beginning of April, I have diverted much of my cycling energies into long walks around the reserve reacquainting myself with eastern flora and birdlife. For now, I'll let these photographs serve as a brief introduction to the reserve. Over the next weeks and months I'll post more about my observations at the reserve and thoughts about its ecology.