We’re not the only ones facing a challenging winter

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The squirrel in your back garden really can benefit from where you choose to spend your weekly shop, says North Dorset Green Party’s Ken Huggins

Two years ago we enjoyed our best hazelnut harvest ever, with hundreds of nuts to enjoy through Christmas. Last year was very different, with just a handful left. The culprit appeared this summer; a squirrel digging furiously in the garden and every now and then emerging triumphantly with a hazelnut. I was a bit miffed.
But we need to share our harvest with other creatures and I appreciated the hazelnut saplings that sprang up where the squirrel had missed some of its buried treasure.
This summer’s harvest is looking very different, though. In the heat and drought our hazelnut tree lost half its leaves mid summer, and then the nuts began to drop. They were empty. Nothing for us, or the squirrel.
On the nearby Alners Gorse butterfly reserve the wild blackberries are small and dry, the sloes are tiny, and the elderberries are almost non existent. Slim pickings for those who like to forage treats from nature’s bounty, but we can buy food elsewhere. Some wildlife will undoubtedly fail to survive this winter for lack of food.
The UK is rated as one of the most nature-deprived countries in the world, largely due to intensive industrialised farming. Since 1950 we have lost 118,000 miles of hedgerow habitat, and 97% of wildflower meadows. Unsustainable use of artificial fertilizers & pesticides is destroying our soils, polluting our waters, and crashing the insect populations that pollinate our crops. Of course, these devastating environmental costs are never included in the price of the supermarket’s cheap food.
We as consumers are not powerless. What we choose to buy – and not to buy – makes a real difference. We can choose to eat more seasonal and less highly processed food. And, those who can, to support organic producers whenever possible.
Do spare a thought for the wildlife that will inevitably struggle during this post-drought winter. Put food out for the birds, and perhaps let some of your garden grow wild to provide a habitat for the insects and other creatures that life depends on. Perhaps join the River of Flowers project and grow pollinator friendly wildflowers, or join groups working to restore our wildlife. You have the power!

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