To me, homesteading isn’t primarily about farming. Homesteading is about making use out of the many resources your environment offers. So, grow your vegetables, chop firewood and raise chickens. You are human and you know you feel better in a natural environment. Helping life go on, regenerating the soil, and stewarding the spot where God put you, using your big brain and healing hands to help nature restore and produce more bountiful life is a rewarding part of homesteading, gardening, farming, anything else you might be doing on a bit of land. Conservation efforts of endangered native species are almost a natural part of homesteading. The ideas I’m putting forward aren’t meant to become the sole focus of your activities or take up massive amounts of space. Everyone who has a big garden knows there are corners that seem to just get left behind all the time. Perhaps you can use one of those spots to implement something to help an animal.
I’ll introduce you to just three species we hope to get on our property, by creating habitat for them and hoping they’ll like it.
Most animals I selected aren’t rare in other parts of the world. But these do show how pollution and disturbance can impoverish an ecosystem. Consider these examples to be warnings; even if they are common in your area now (they used to be common here too) they can disappear if the habitat suffers.
European tree frog
The European tree frog (hyla arborea) is a native to Belgium and much of Europe. Contamination of water sources, pesticide use, and the removal of traditional wild hedges have all contributed to the species becoming rare and even endangered.
Tree frogs like to live around wet (unfertilized!) grassland areas with good hiding spots in bramble bushes or stinging nettles. They require a pond, but they usually hang out on the branches of bramble bushes.
Old World swallowtail
The old-world swallowtail (papilio machaon) is another species that occurs naturally in most of Europe, but it has become rare in Flanders and some parts of the Netherlands. This is again due to widespread pesticide use and the removal of hedgerows.
Swallowtails lay eggs on fennel, carrot greens and chervil. Sowing a spot of these herbs and allowing them to go wild and ‘ugly’, can help the swallowtail. I’ve often seen swallowtails gravitating towards my verbena bonariensis to feed from. A mixed patch of a herb like chervil and verbena tops, or verbena tops poking out above tall fennel plants, might be an aesthetically pleasing way to give some habitat to these butterflies.
Birds of prey
The most common predator birds here are Buzzards and Common Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus). Besides those two there aren’t many others that occur as often, even though not everything else is rare. Owls, falcons, hawks and kites have dwindled in numbers because of, again, pollution of their habitat, having their nesting areas disturbed, being hunted and nests being raided by collectors of predator birds or eggs.
We love nesting boxes. My father makes the big ones meant for owls, hawks and falcons himself. We make sure to hang them in places where the birds will like them, but where they aren’t likely to get spotted by collectors.