I am a self-taught naturalist and native plant enthusiast. I serve as the education committee chair on the board of directors at Ruffner Mountain Nature Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

I have spent the last two years spearheading the native plant restoration and rain garden projects at the newly constructed LEED built Center. These projects are part of the larger Integrated Environmental Education Garden plan to enhance Ruffner Mountain Nature Center's campus and its programming. I lead garden programs at the Center, Audubon Mountain Workshop, Birmingham area botanical gardens, and local garden clubs.

When I am not talking, working or thinking about gardening, I am designing and making slipcovers in a studio behind my house. Lately, my business (Coverings) has been taking a back seat to my more naturalist leanings. Writing a blog is a new adventure for me.



A Lazy Winter
by Michelle Reynolds - posted 01/19/12


I am a lazy gardener, especially in the winter. I haven't clipped or cleaned up any of the dead foliage or stems. I don't mind the look either. For me, it comes pretty natural to take the easy way out and do nothing. Come to think of it, it is easy for me to take the "do nothing" approach indoors as well. During this time of year, I feel like hibernating. I have work to do, clients to meet, bills to pay, but I don't want to do any of it. I just want to curl up on the sofa (or on the floor chasing the sun around like my dog), read, watch movies, look at magazines, draw and write in my idea journal. I want to live in my imagination and become a hermit. What is wrong with being reclusive? Well, a lot is wrong with it, unless I was Emily Dickinson. If I had the writing talent to go along with the tendency for nature loving and imagination dwelling, my reclusiveness would be acceptable. 




The positive and the negative aspect of working from home is the lack of structure a conventional job provides. Sometimes I work for many bosses and for more hours than I care too. Other times work is slow, allowing me to pursue my own projects. When the laziness sets in, I rationalize and say to myself that I need the rest because of how hard I worked in the previous month. I get sidelined with this thought. The garden gets neglected as well as other household chores. I am so easily distracted when I decide to get back to work. 


There are three times during a workday when I am most distracted: 


1) I get up in the morning to get my coffee and I look up through the skylight. 


Birds! Cedar waxwings are here! Bob, come quick and bring your camera! I love how those birds look like ancient Egyptians with their kohl eyeliner.


 2) Then there is my commute to the studio behind the house. 


Oh, it is so warm out here on this January day. I love the look of dead plants almost as much as live ones. And look how cute that bird is landing on the grass. And funny how the grass topples over from the weight of the bird and then springs back up when the bird flies away. Aw, the Sedums are so cute in their dormant form. Do I hear a hawk?


3) I come back in the house to pay some bills and do other paperwork in my husband's home office with its wall of windows overlooking the hill we live on. 


Oh, look at that woodpecker. Isn't that a cute little brown-headed nuthatch? The bluebird is eating the hackberries! I think I need to go refill the bird feeder and make some more suet.




With few flying insects around in January, birds turn to berries and seeds for their food source. The hackberry tree's limbs are alive with fruit eating cedar waxwings, Eastern bluebirds, tufted titmice, and robins, while the trunk keeps the woodpeckers and the nuthatches busy hunting insects in retreat. The ground is crawling with dark-eyed juncos, rufous-sided towhees, and brown thrashers. In the grasses and dead or dormant winter bones of the garden are seed eating sparrows, finches, and warblers. Up in the sky circling and ascending thermals are red-tailed, Cooper's, and sharp-shinned hawks. I like to imagine what it must feel like to soar high above the open winter landscape. 


So, go ahead, be lazy this winter. The birds will love you for it. Well, they might not love you, but they will love your garden or what is still standing in your garden... if you are lazy.












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Jean McWeeney - 01/19/2012

Love your photos and your attitude! What's that bird that's flying away in the last photo?
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Michelle Reynolds - 01/19/2012

Thanks, Jean. The photos are Bob Farley's. The attitude is all mine. Flying away is a brown-headed nuthatch. I love those little guys!
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Ellen Honeycutt (Atlanta, GA) - 01/22/2012

Gorgeous pictures - the bluebird with winds outspread is amazing (good job, Bob!). And what a beautiful message. Thank you.
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Michelle Reynolds - 01/22/2012

Thanks, Ellen. I enjoyed reading your blog too. It is almost scary to see things budding already. Your photos are gorgeous as well... Bob said so too!
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