Off a gravel road in South Lambton, on a 58-acre parcel of land, a blooming slice of environmental heaven is thriving.
It’s a giant garden of sorts — planted and maintained by its owners Gary and Marilyn Eagleson.
Gary, a retired high school science teacher who lives with his wife in Ridgetown, calls their ‘Mulberry Meadows’ project a “labour of love, not a love of labour.”
It is a lot of hard work, he says smiling, while giving members of the Sydenham Field Naturalists a glimpse of what’s been created.
The pair purchased the land 14 years ago and they’ve been getting their hands dirty ever since.
A former hayfield has become a well-tended oak plantation and native grasses and indigenous flowers show their beauty in large swaths of tall pollinators.
It's a haven for migratory birds and wildlife.
There’s also a good-sized black current patch, small plots of apple and hazelnut trees, beehives, several ponds bursting with bull rushes, and a patch of Carolinian forest that’s home to many trees including a giant sugar maple.
Called the ‘grandmother’ of the bush, she’s well over 200 years old, Gary explains.
A tiny cabin, a solar-powered workshop and numerous trails round out the landscape.
When asked why the two would so much effort into naturalizing the land — when they could be growing corn and soybeans — Gary says the couple grew up on farms during a time when almost every farmer was a “conscientious steward of the land.
And, he adds, even though farmers didn’t have tax breaks back in the day like now, the majority adhered to best management practices, such as maintaining a woodlot, and retaining buffer strips along drains and property lines.
Instead, he says, many modern farmers raze as many trees as possbile to plant crops, instead of respecting nature and taking a balanced approach.
“It only takes an hour for a high-hoe to wipe out an acre of forest that’s been growing for hundreds of years, Gary says.
“At Mulberry Meadows we are just continuing the responsible land management that was demonstrated by our rural parents, and at the same time leaving a legacy for our children and grandchildren,” he adds.
“We’re demonstrating tangible support for our community, now and into the future.”
Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Herald