Where Am I?

by Maureen Nitkowski

If I were to tell you that I was enjoying the very green expanse at latitude 53.35 and longitude (-) 6.26 you should not be surprised- this is the location of Dublin, Ireland.  In contrast, my location in Ellis County is latitude 32.35 and longitude (-) 96.79; why ever would I expect a green expanse here?

As you can tell from the difference in latitude, Ellis County is much closer to the equator than Dublin, Ireland.  This means that the average July high temperature here is 96F, while in Dublin it is 59F.  The January low temperature is 34F and 39F respectively.  The temperature range is 62F in Ellis County and 20F in Dublin.  The difference is even more apparent when you factor in the duration of high summer temperatures here in Ellis County.  There must be a wide diversity of plants and animals which are adapted to these temperature ranges.

Surprisingly, Dublin and Ellis County each receive an average of about 37 inches of rain annually.  Dublin receives its rain in three to four-inch increments per month while Ellis County can go months without any precipitation, particularly from July through September.  With these facts available to us, why do we continue to expect to have green lawns and meadows here throughout our summers as happens in Ireland?

I will confess that I am not an anthropologist, but I do recall a theory about humankind in the distant past wanting to remove trees and bushes near their habitation in order to eliminate hiding places for predators and enemies.  This seems like a reasonable idea to me.  Moving forward in time, actual land ownership was in the hands of a few powerful people while the majority of folks worked for them without owning any land.  If ownership of the largest parcel of land indicated status and power, having a labor force at your disposal to manicure it would be even more prestigious.

In our enthusiasm as landowners in the U.S.A. where almost everyone has a piece of real estate (even if only 0.1 acre), are we mimicking the prestige model by trying to maintain green turf/meadows all year long and in opposition to the climate and available resources?  Would it not be more enjoyable and cost –effective to use plants that are native?  As for displaying wealth, I prefer to follow the idea put forth by Henry David Thoreau so many years ago which is “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”

Do you think nature should be part of our everyday life, not just somewhere to go on the weekends? You are invited to attend our free, open-to-the-public, monthly program on the fourth Monday of the month at 7 pm at the First United Methodist Church, Waxahachie, TX. For more information on the Indian Trail Master Naturalist Chapter, contact the Texas A & M AgriLife Extension Service at 972-825-5175 or visit our website: https://txmn.org/indiantrail/.

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