Benefits of Moles in the Backyard Habitat Garden

Friday, October 02, 2020

I love my backyard moles!  They are important members of our backyard habitat, tilling and aerating the soil, eating many insects, and leaving fertile soil in mounds for the gardener to put to good use.  Even if you have a lawn, the moles will help your lawn by aerating it.  Simply smooth out the mounds when they appear—once smoothed out, the cosmetic nuisance will be gone.


As you can see from these photos, I have two mole hills amongst my native Western wallflowers (Erysimum capitatum) that grow along this birch log terrace.  This rich soil is just what my garden needs!  I appreciate the mounds, and actually look forward to finding them, as it helps improve the soil for my native plants.  What do I do?  Simply smooth out the mounds around the plants.  Occasionally, a perennial is slightly lifted, and I simply settle it back down, spreading the mounds around it.


Please help spread awareness about our moles—they are often viewed as a pest, but what homeowners don’t realize is how beneficial they really are.  As a gardener for wildlife, the native plants attract insects, which then attract moles.  As insectivores, moles keep insect populations down, while benefiting the soil at the same time.


Cultivating appreciation and a sense of wonder for wildlife fosters protectiveness within us for them.  Wildlife needs more people like this!  When you plant natives, using your property as a conservation site, wildlife will come—this land stewardship will benefit wildlife greatly,  and in turn wildlife will benefit YOU as you connect with Nature in your own yard.  Moles are valuable and fascinating—next time you see a molehill, thank the mole who left this fertile soil for your garden—he’s probably not far away snacking on a worm or beetle.

P.S.  You can order Rob Atkinson's book on moles on Amazon by clicking here.

Off On the Right Foot

Sunday, June 07, 2020
Fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium) looking mighty fine this June.  Important native land restoration plant with many ethnobotanical uses.  I’ve started going for short meanders through the garden before I leave home in the morning for my nursing shifts.  Those meanders, coupled with coffee, start my day off on the right foot! 

PS:  If you haven’t seen 13th yet, I highly recommend watching on Netflix.  I learned a lot about how the law and order decades have translated into another form of slavery.  In fact, I am next going to be reading Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon.  Thank you to Lettie Shumate for recommending—I also highly recommend checking out her podcasts and Instagram feed.

In Solidarity

Saturday, June 06, 2020
First year my Western mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii) is blooming! Blooms on last year’s branches. Mine is growing near Pacific Ninebark (Physokarpus capitatus)

Working on the unit this weekend, and reading as much as I can in my spare time on anti-racism. Malcolm X said in 1964, “We don’t see any American dream, we’ve only experienced the American nightmare.” Anti-racism is an active process, and an individual responsibility. No one can do the work for you. Standing with my fellow black Americans in solidarity.

Personal Growth

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Just getting started. 

In Humility

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

In all humility and with deep sorrow, I am acknowledging that I have been unknowingly complicit with my silence and lack of awareness and understanding.  As I learn more about what it means to be anti-racist, I am taking personal responsibility for educating myself further on black history, the US prison system, political and social oppression, slavery, white privilege, and the active role of an ally.  I am not looking away.  I have had the luxury of being shielded from the hatred and racism my brothers and sisters of color have always endured, but the shield has been lifted.  How could have been so blind?  I don’t know, but I’m moving forward.  

I happen to live in one of the whitest cities in America, d/t Oregon’s history of racism and bigotry. Not even 100 years ago, Oregon had the largest population of KKK members per capita than any other state in the country.  As a native Oregonian, I have felt disgusted by this history, yet I fooled myself into thinking it was in the past.  I know better now.  I am acknowledging this history, the role I may have unknowingly played in perpetuating racist constructs, and am open to learning, changing, and being uncomfortable with the process.  

Watching 13th by Ava DuVernay on Netflix tonight with my family, and currently reading The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. This is just a start, a launching platform for deep personal growth and learning so I can be a true and present ally in ending racism.

Ending Racism: Change Starts With Education

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

How To Be a Good White Ally struck me as a good starting place today. In all humility and with deep sorrow at the part I may have unknowingly played in a system that has brutalized our brothers and sisters of color for decades, it is time to educate myself. The time is NOW for education, activation, and finding our voices. We must do our own personal work and dig deep to remove any mindsets, beliefs, or behaviors that may be contributing to white supremacy and racial intolerance. The time is now. We cannot go back. For George Floyd, today is the day we move forward.  EDUCATE!  ACTIVATE!  CHANGE!  BLACK LIVES MATTER!

Racism, Injustice, and Inequality: The Time is Now to Take Hold of a Generational Opportunity

Monday, June 01, 2020
Was another sobering morning in America, so I went for a drive in the country to think and listen.

Graceful cinquefoil (Pontentilla gracilis) with native pollinator
My radio was playing Here and Now on OPB, the program was titled, “From the 1960s to 2020: Civil Unrest in the Face of Systemic Injustice”, with Peniel Joseph, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the University of Texas at Austin.  Joseph said, “We have a generational opportunity to squarely confront this history and to move in a new and more progressive direction.”  A "generational opportunity" filled me with hope when I heard that.  I spent my life reading about how others made history, but this time has been given to us, and as sickening as it is to take a hard look at the time in which we have been given, we can rise together, work hard, and come out on the other side a greater nation.  I have to believe that.

Seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus) with native pollinator.
We all grew up reading about the American civil rights movement of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.  I encourage you to reread the history.  Read about Emmett Till’s brutal murder and the two white men that were acquitted by an all-white jury.  He was 14 and accused of offending a white woman in a grocery store.  I cry every time I think about Emmett's mother, Mamie Bradley, who wanted people to see what hatred had been unleashed on her only son.  Open casket.  Public funeral service.  Before cell phones, she wanted the world to see what had happened to her son.  How he was unrecognizable.  How our democracy had failed by acquitting his known killers.

Sword fern, oak fern, and oxalis mix
I don't know that too much has changed in the past 50-80 years.  The pain of the injustice and perpetuation of racism, generation after generation, feels more than I can bear at times, though my pain doesn't light a candle to the pain of my black brothers and sisters.  For what it's worth, I, Karli Del Biondo, stand with you, no matter what.  I will always believe that love is greater than hatred, fear, and oppression.

Art by Nikkolas Smith
 From Emmett Till to George Floyd.  Their LIVES MATTER.  BLACK LIVES MATTER!

Black Lives Matter: I Stand With You

Sunday, May 31, 2020
Native Cornus canadensis (Bunchberry) looking pretty after the nighttime rain.

Got up early for coffee and to sit in the stillness of dawn.  I used to think racism and intolerance were the result of sheer ignorance, but I am now beginning to understand that there are many layers of ignorance.  Those layers of ignorance perpetuate racism.  Ignorance of HOW and WHY the cycle of racial prejudice is perpetuated must first be understood.  Through self-examination, I will be giving thoughtful consideration to what actions or inactions I am unconsciously guilty of that are fostering intolerance, prejudice, or bias.  Am I silent when I should speak up?  Am I talking when I should be listening?  We must first seek to understand.  Through understanding, our ignorance will give rise to activism, fighting against intolerance in ALL forms.  We must become anti-racist by waking up--becoming CONSCIOUS--because all of us have a role to play in ending racism.  With that, I will start on my journey of self-reflection and learning, because I refuse to be a player in any form in this pandemic of racism.  


George Floyd
Breonna Taylor
Dominique Clayton
Mike Brown
Eric Reason
Ahmaud Arbery
Atatiana Jefferson
Botham Jean

Justice for every other name I cannot list here whose lives have been taken because of racism, and for every other name who has suffered in any way because of racism. 

 I stand with you.

Justice for George Floyd

Saturday, May 30, 2020
George Floyd mattered. Black lives matter. Justice. Change. Peace.

Artwork:  Nikkolas Smith
 “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy Birthday, Adam (and Robby, Neville, and Susan)!

Adam on his 36th Birthday
Happy birthday to my loving husband, Adam, who has survived stroke and stage-4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and has never let his disability define him. I met him in New Orleans when he was traveling through the US to celebrate five years in remission. Now we can celebrate ten! Every year is a gift, and everyone who knows Adam knows what an incredible human being he is. Adam gives more to those he loves than he ever takes in return. Happy birthday, Adam! 

Karli with her little brother, Robby, pre-COVID-19 (summer of 2019)
Also want to say a big happy birthday to Adam’s granddad, Neville, and my little brother Robby, who all share birthdays on May 30th. 

Adam's Grandad, Neville, celebrating his 90th birthday in Australia
Want to also wish a special happy birthday to my Aussie mother-in-law Susan, whose birthday is the 31st. Today is the 30th here in the US, but the 31st in AUS, so since we are on opposite sides of the planet, we all celebrate on the same day. ✨

Adam's Mum, Susan, January, 2020, at Jake's in Portland during a holiday visit.

Black Lives Matter: The Murder of George Floyd

Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge
Went to a quiet place today.  Watched the video last night after work of the brutal murder of George Floyd.  I watched the murder without looking away, while everything in my being wanted to leap through the phone screen and rescue him from his hateful, racist perpetrators.  All I could do was watch in horror and cry, my heart heavy with pain.  George Floyd’s life mattered.  Black lives matter.

Red-winged blackbird at Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge
It’s time I start actively listening.  Silence is unacceptable.  Knowledge is power.

Happy Birthday, Andy!

Friday, May 29, 2020
Happy Friday morning! And a big happy birthday to one of the best human beings on the planet, my friend and fellow nurse colleague, Andy!

Bumblebee on Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) blossoms. 

Baby Chickadees Might Fledge Next Week

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Chickadees are too cute for words! I was working on the unit today, and missed watching my chickadee family, but Adam took this pic, which made my day! Eileen Stark, author of Real Gardens Grow Natives told me today that usually the babies are a week or so old by the time you hear their cheeps. If this is true, these babies might fledge next week!

My Family of Backyard Chickadees

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The baby chickadees hatched this afternoon!  I have been watching this chickadee pair for quite some time, so when Adam bought me this beautiful birdhouse for Christmas this year, I hoped they might choose it.  Little did I know that a global pandemic was right around the corner.  Little did I know shortly after I hung it up facing southeasterly in early April that they would choose it.  Little did I know how happy I would be just to sit in the garden and watch this pair, called Sunny and Moe, build their nest.

There were many days I wondered if they found a better spot and moved on, but every day or so, I would see them enter the nest.  It soon became apparent that Moe was sitting on the eggs, because Sunny would come regularly and call to her, or Moe would call to him, and he would feed her, sometimes inside the nest, sometimes outside the nest.  Earlier today, Sunny was sounding his usual call, but Moe didn't leave the nest.  A few hours later, I was walking by and heard babies.  Since that moment, the two have flitted back and forth all day, bringing back caterpillars and insects to feed their babies.

It will take 6,000-9,000 caterpillars to feed this clutch.  If they can't find enough, the babies won't make it, or only half may survive.  How do they get that many caterpillars?  From our native plants.  Our native white oaks host the most caterpillars than any other species in the Northern hemisphere.  What we plant in our yards is essential to the survival of our local wildlife.  Even a small percentage is enough to support our local populations.  To find out what plants are native to your area, plug in your zip code on the Native Plant Finder on the National Wildlife Federation website.  Birds just like Sunny and Moe depend on us!

Thimbleberry: Rubus parviflorus

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The beautiful, fuzzy leaves of our native Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus). This is one that always makes me think of the PNW when I see it. No filter used here—check out the beautiful contrasting lines of the thimbleberry leaf and it’s beautiful, warm shade of green. You will often see it growing beneath our native evergreens, like Douglas firs or Western hemlocks—look for it next time you’re hiking, the berries are a tasty treat!

Potentilla gracilis: A Beautiful PNW Native Garden Addition

Monday, May 25, 2020

My newest native species: meet Potentilla gracilis (Graceful cinquefoil), planted with associates Douglas Spirea, Oregon Iris, and lupine (think purple, yellow, and pink!).  Host for two-banded checkered skipper.  Likes moist soil.  Layer lots of leaf litter around its hardy, woody stems each fall, leaving the foliage and attractive seed heads for wildlife during the winter months. You can read more about this wonderful PNW native and its ethnobotanical uses on the US Dept of Agriculture site.

Spring Native Community: Oxalis oregana, Tolmiea menziesii, and Athyrium filix-femina

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Keep loving people, no matter what. ✨ Oxalis (Oxalis oregana), Piggyback plant (Tolmiea menziesii), and Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina) in afternoon Spring rain. ✨ Back to work tomorrow—goodnight! ✨

World Bee Day

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Happy World Bee Day!

Bumblebee with visible pollen sac on Large-leaf lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) in Clackamas County.

No matter where you live, consider supporting our native pollinators by:

1) planting a variety of native plants to your area with a variety of bloom times February through November
2) leaving the leaves (providing a brush pile if you are able)
3) refraining from pesticide use

I highly recommend checking out valuable information located at Beesponsible--their website and Instagram feed contains many beautiful pollinator photos and a robust collection of information. Their movement and advocacy for our native pollinators inspires me every day! On World Bee Day, I want to not only recognize the important work they do, but encourage you to sign up for their newsletter and choose one thing YOU can do to support our bees.

First Nootka Rose Blooms

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

First Nootka rose bloom (Rosa Nutkana).  It’s crazy how quickly more weeds popped up with all the rain we’ve been having!  I have a little catching up to do.  I also brought home more natives last weekend, which I’m slowly getting into the ground.  These will be the last ones to go into the ground until fall.  On my way now to drop off my ballot!  It’s Election Day! ✨

Vancouveria Hexandria and Comfort Zones

First Inside-out flower bloom (Vancouveria hexandra) of the year.

Do you ever step outside your comfort zone when opportunity meets preparation?  Someone once said that outside your comfort zone is where change happens.  This little inside-out bloom is a little how I feel when I’m outside my comfort zone.  I feel like I’ve been turned inside-out.  It can be difficult sometimes to be patient with an uncomfortable process.  I’ve often heard “trust the process”, but I’ve found that trusting the process takes effort and intention—it is not a passive act to trust in something that feels inside-out.  To me, the inside-out place can be a vulnerable one, however, if you don’t take a chance, venture into uncharted waters, you might never know what you were capable of doing or experiencing.

My daughter taught me this recently.  I asked her how she would feel going to a school next year where she didn’t know anyone.  Her reply? “Mommy, I’ve already experienced that once, so I know I could do it again.” Inside-out is supposed to feel a little scary, but with the process comes a sense of accomplishment.  To be able to stand in a place with confidence and know deep down that if you did it once, you could do it again . . . that you embraced risk . . . took a step towards your fears . . . this is where we expand our spirit and mind, moving towards our truest selves.

Eileen Stark describes Inside-out flowers in her book, “Real Gardens Grow Natives” as “white blossoms that resemble shooting stars” (p. 297). In actuality, as well as metaphorically, I think she’s right.

Fringecup (Tellima grandiflora) in the Rain

Monday, May 18, 2020

Rainy Monday evening.  Fringecup (Tellima grandiflora) just starting to bloom. ✨

The Light is Always There

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Aristotle Onassis once said, "It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” During these times, I have come to realize how true this is.  The light is always there, and sometimes in the darkest moments, it is able to shine brighter.  Western yarrow (Achillea millefolium), first blooms of the year. ✨

First Nootka Rosebud: Rosa nutkana

Saturday, May 16, 2020

My first Nootka rosebud (Rosa nutkana). Once this pandemic is over, I plan to travel to the west coast of Vancouver Island, where this plant was first described at the Nootka Sound. I have planted it in a place where it can spread (vigorously spreads via rhizomes to form a thicket), providing nesting material for birds and native bees. It is also a host for mourning cloak and grey hairstreak butterflies. I hope these beautiful native butterflies find my Nootka rose! Happy weekend, friends! ✨

Right Where I'm Supposed To Be

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
I was registered for two native plant webinars today—one with a focus on design, and the other on native pairings for queen bees.  The whole day was planned, and I was going to cook up fish tacos with Chunky Mango Pico from Rachael DeVaux for the fam, but, at about 9pm last night, I looked online at my nursing unit work schedule and was like 😳 what?  Yep, I was on the schedule. 🤷‍♀️  I never work Wednesdays, but I was on the schedule for today.  One of my biggest fears would be to get a call at 0700 from my unit as I’m sound asleep in bed—“Karli, where are you?”  So, somehow I got lucky this time.  

Can’t wait to get back into the garden this weekend, but in the meantime, I’m right where I’m supposed to be.  All around shaping up to be a great week!  Hope your week is good, too! (Woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca) with ceramic pod by Denise Krueger.
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