Keeping a Wildside – Oregon Style

I’ve wanted to share a little bit about the process we’ve gone through as we have designed the landscaping on our half acre plot here in Central Oregon. When we moved here 3 years ago, there was a large expanse of lawn and not much else. My husband loves green grass in the summertime but even he admitted there was way too much to mow and water.

After experiencing the process of removing lawn in our previous yard in California, he was very open to not expanding the lawn, and eventually removing quite a bit to make way for more native plants and shrubs.  (You can read about our California wildside here: Keeping it on the Wildside – Part 1 and Nature Study on the Wildside – Part 2)


It really takes a change in thinking to adjust to the idea of less lawn to make room for more native plants. He still pushes back on my desire to keep the dandelions around the edges of the lawn. We have many, many dandelions here, so the compromise is to keep them to one side of the yard, in my Oregon “wildside”.

oregon wildside

What is my “wildside”?

I define my “wildside” as a place to allow the natives to grow until we can identify them. Then we decide on a case by case basis whether to pull them out by the roots or to nurture them into beautiful plants that add such variety to our yard. This means a shift from calling a plant a “weed” to viewing them as a valued plant in our garden plan.

dead nettle wildside

Restoring a wildside where we remove lawn and transplant native grasses and other flowering plants is also a part of the broad plan to create more natural habitat in our new place.

mullein wildside

Short List of My Wildside Plants


Purple dead nettle


Tansy Mustard


There are still some plants I have yet to figure out if they’re on the “pull them out” list or the “to keep” list. It’s truly a learning process as I gain knowledge and understanding of the new habitat I live in.

I have one main wildside area in the yard and then several smaller pockets of plants that I’m also allowing to grow and make decisions about as we go through another summer season.


One area of wild things is alongside the driveway and I’ve had so many friends comment on how I’m letting the “weeds” grow and I should pull them out. (They are trying to be helpful.)

strawberry blite

Isn’t this an interesting and pretty native plant? It is called strawberry blite or strawberry spinach. I have quite a bit of it growing in our front yard.

Secondary List of Wildside Plants

Strawberry blite

False dandelion


Silver phacelia

The past three years have been a season of observation. We take daily walks around the yard and as each new plant matures, we identify it and then decide if it’s a good fit for our garden. It involves a lot of careful weeding, but in the end I think we’ll have a variety of plants that will be beneficial to the habitat in some way.

mammal hole wildside

This is one of the holes that something, probably a ground squirrel, has dug in my wildside garden. I need to put up the critter cam to see who is digging here.

What do I mean?  We think about whether a particular plant is attractive to pollinators, provides food and shelter to birds or other animals, or is a showy plant that provides color for us to enjoy.

Where we are pulling out the lawn, we’re replacing it with native shrubs that will grow and thrive in Central Oregon. I’m hoping to support the birds and insects that have started to visit and reproduce here. It is so joyful to look out and see the nests being built right within sight of our back widow.

We daily see bees, moths, butterflies, and other insects visiting the flowers.

The birds are using the native grasses as nesting materials, eating the seeds and berries from the plants, and taking sips of water from the puddles left in the dirt and on the rock walls we built.

So there you have a brief overview of how we’re creating a new wildside in our Central Oregon space. There is so much more to share, so I will save that for a future post. It’s a hobby and a passion that I could work on during the time isolated at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. It doesn’t look like the “staying safe at home” time is ending very soon, so I will probably update you dear readers later this fall with any changes or outstanding observations we’ve made.

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Code expires: 8/1/2020





Outdoor Hour Challenge:Leech Nature Study

Did you know?

Leeches are flattened, segmented worms found in a variety of freshwater aquatic environments, including lakes, ponds, marshes, springs and slow streams.

Please Note: In North America, there are probably more freshwater leeches that don’t feed on blood than there are blood-feeders.


Outdoor Hour Challenge Leech nature study graphic

Use these links to learn a little about the leech:

  • If you have an invertebrate field guide, look up leeches. Read the information to know where to look and what to look for during your Outdoor Hour Time.
  • Use this link to learn more about the leech: Biokids

Alternate study this week

Seasonal Pond Study: This is a great start to a pond study and it includes a printable notebook page.

See the Creepy things ebook for more leech nature study ideas, videos, and printables!

Please note that I will not be posting the complete challenge here on the blog. You’ll find the detailed challenge in the Creepy Things ebook that’s available both in the Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level memberships. Sign into your account and download the ebook for the details, more links, and notebook pages.

Creepy Thing Ebook Cover image

If you don’t have a membership yet, click the graphic above and join today for immediate access to the 26 ebooks and so much more! Remember that all levels, even the Discovery level membership, include access to all of the archived newsletters!

Topics in this ebook include:

  • Banana slug
  • Tarantula
  • Black widow
  • Scorpion
  • Leech
  • Muskrat
  • Sphinx moth
  • Cicada
  • Millipede
  • Poison oak

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Using Sample Lessons to Learn More About the Outdoor Hour Challenge

Have you downloaded any of the sample Outdoor Hour Challenges yet?

There are many nature study lessons you can try before purchasing any of the memberships here on the Handbook of Nature Study.  On the website, click the “Join Us” button. Once there, you should be able to scroll down and see all the samples for the various ebooks. (For the older ebooks you’ll need to click the ebook cover graphic and then scroll down on the ebook’s page to find the sample download link.)

Here’s one to get you started!

Salvia Nature Study @handbookofnaturestudy

Download the Salvia Nature Study Challenge using the Outdoor Hour Challenge.

Here’s a link to the original challenge: Salvia Nature Study

The sample linked above will give you the lesson, a choice of notebook pages, images, and a coloring page to use for your family’s study.

OHC Autumn Nature Study Continues Cover ButtonThis challenge is from the Autumn Nature Study Continues ebook.

I developed the Outdoor Hour Challenges to use with my sons many years ago and then started sharing our results here on the blog to inspire families who read my blog. Now that the boys are all grown up, they still remember the times we spent outdoors together looking for adventure and learning about the natural world using the Handbook of Nature Study. I know their love of nature was enhanced by learning to take time to slow down and look at things as they are out on the trail, in the garden, or traveling to new places.

Your family can experience those same benefits by getting started with the Outdoor Hour Challenge.

Getting Started Outdoor Hour Challenge ebook

Sample from the Getting Started ebook

If you’re interested in starting with a more basic nature study idea, click the link above to download the very first Outdoor Hour Challenge. This is where it all started with our family and you may wish to work your way through the Getting Started ebook with your family. The challenges found in the Getting Started ebook are more general in nature and you can adapt them to fit your family’s habitat and interests.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020If you’re ready to purchase your own family membership, please use the discount code SAMPLE for $10 off an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership. Code will expire on 7/31/2020.