This is our back yard in Sicily, Italy. It is a small, rectangular space surrounded by identical fenced-in boxes. It is the smallest yard we have ever had. It's the first yard we have ever had without any trees. It is a space that depressed me during our first month here. I missed our previous yards...the shady oaks of our Florida yard, the big banyan trees perfect for climbing when we lived in Japan, the Puget Sound that was literally at the back door of our house in Washington State. And yet, it didn't seem to bother my kids.
They quickly set to work overturning rocks to discover beetles and pill bugs. They filled up our bird baths with water, found some resident toads, and happily helped us shovel dirt into the new garden beds. They showed me that even small, tree-less yards can have redeeming qualities and that they can be a surprising source for nature. Free from shade, we had zinnias blooming until December and our winter garden was very productive (more purple, Sicilian broccoli than we could eat!). We learned that our backyard is the summer home for hundreds of migrating martins who nest in the eaves of our house and our neighbors. And we have some very cool looking lizards.
This little yard of ours also really makes us appreciate the wild diversity of this Mediterranean island that is still so new to us. When you have a small yard, there is even more motivation to get out and explore. We spend most of our weekends visiting nature preserves, feeling invigorated by the wide open spaces, savoring the beauty of the beaches and being awed by Mt. Etna, the active volcano that looms above us. And then we return home to our little yard, which really isn't so bad after all. I promise to wow you with some of the amazing things we are seeing/doing, but I wanted to start by showing you the space where we spend most of our time during the week experiencing nature. It isn't exotic, it isn't very attractive, it isn't large, but it is ours (at least for the next couple of years). This little yard of ours is a good reminder that being a part of the natural world is as easy as opening the door and stepping out.