You really want the outside in?

I love that so much talk in garden design is about bringing the outside in.

And that gardeners (mostly) have a deep longing to be more intimate with, and more familiar with, nature.

But when it comes right down to it, most of us simply expect that the walls of our house will be impenetrable to nature herself. That is, after all, what walls are supposed to be – barriers against the hostilities (wind/cold/heat/rain) that nature dishes up.

And, it would seem, barriers against biodiversity.

A very young huntsman, doing no harm on our living room wall. Should it be allowed to stay?

I put to you a different viewpoint – of a celebration of interior, or domestic, biodiversity. The most useful outcome of adoption of the concept would be the assuaging of my conscience, and a silencing of family complaints, that both have me feeling like the stuff climbing our walls is a failure of my responsibilities as husband and father.

I really don’t mind a few spiders about the place. Their numbers don’t seem to accumulate. Flys annoy me, but they’re not out of hand either.

I absolutely loved that, when I lived for a summer at Great Dixter, a medieval hall house in East Sussex, a bat would occasionally perform moves of acrobatic virtuosity amongst the posts of my four poster bed.

Bats would go zooming down the ancient halls of Great Dixter, and perform incredible acrobatic feats between the posts of my bed

But this morning, for the first time in at least six months, I heard a rat in the roof. That’s a bridge too far. And it’s probably best not to even begin to think of what your interior world would look like at the microscopic level.

But what do you reckon? Is there a more enlightened angle on welcoming nature, and the outdoors, in?

Releasing a stick insect that found its way indoors.

Discussion

  1. Last night I had trouble sleeping, so I got up and made a cup of tea and sat in half light in the lounge room. I saw something wizzing by, continually and very quickly. It took a while to realise that it was a bat. Go figure. We have no idea how it got in. I went back to bed, leaving a big sliding door open for it to escape, but I went and closed it about an hour later, as I was worried a tiger or brown snake would get in in the morning. This is not my idea of living outside in.

    1. Yeah, we’ve had bats here too, and it has freaked us out. But I’m determined to get over it. Admittedly they don’t have the charm of context that they have in a five hundred year old hall house, but I’m working on my tolerance levels. Perhaps the biggest factor against it is that when they get stuck in a modern, low-ceiling house, they appear freaked out themselves, which just feeds the general alarm of anyone present. At Dixter, they looked like they felt more at home that I did

  2. I for one welcome this concept 100%.

    For all the talk of biodiversity being an important thing over the last decade, which I think we’ve all grasp to a large enough extent, the barrier continues to be drawn at our own front doors far too often.

    I continually find myself asking why??? The biggest problem humans ever created for ourselves was thinking we were ever seperate from the wider planetary ecosystem. There’s simply no separation of or escaping from it, to my mind.

    The concept of ecosystem services applies here in a big way. We love beneficial insects in our gardens but we seem to have this aversion as a species to applying the same thing to our dwellings. In that regard, spiders in the house are an undeniable plus – who needs Mortein when you have a healthy population of arachnids?

    I say this as an avowed arachnophobe for huntsmans in particular. I tolerate them well enough, but if they’re over a certain size I’d prefer they were not in the house on the wall, or worse, appear next to the kettle with a wizard-like ability to apparate suddenly, where they definitely weren’t milliseconds before.

    Over lockdown we painted our house interior and I was worried our disturbance in the bathroom in particular would force our house spiders elsewhere. Thankfully they just hid away over the process and remerged in the same spots they’d inhabited before the painting began. I find them a comforting presence, but I know some visitors get a bit on edge at their status of cohabiter in our household.

    I would dearly love a bat to be careening about my bedroom in the night. If it was a microbat, it’d certainly sort the mozzies out.

    1. It’s weird, isn’t it. I’m always a little amused, and a fair bit more frustrated, when watching shows like Grand Designs, in which the very people who go to great lengths to locate homes with huge sheets of glass in order to bring the outdoors ‘in’ look like they’d never bother to go out into it, to visit it, or immerse themselves in it. They want to be able to look on to nature from within their temperature controlled and sterilised bubble.
      And I know people hugely committed to nature, but who are still in the mindset that, as they cross their threshold, they just assume ‘nature stops here’.
      I guess we’re all like both of these characters, more or less.

      As for your huntsman phobia, my wife is convinced that they’re capable of launching themselves off a wall, with perfect calculation of their trajectory such that they. can spin in mid air, and land flat and full on your face. And that they’d love nothing more than to do so – that they literally live to do so.
      As for me, I can happily cohabit with them, and have no fear response whatsoever until they’re moving – fast. It’s that multi legged scuttle that sends irrational shivers, even as I write.

  3. I have grown up being told to accept and welcome daddy long legs in the house so we have a few of those in about every room in a corner of the ceiling and my daughter would be the first one to react if we by mistake kill one.
    We have so far managed to keep most of the other arachnids outside with the exception of the odd huntsman and that freaky encounter with a redback on my home office desk !
    Flies quite often make it in, but they are a rather minor inconvenience and they always end up on a window where you can just let them get out.
    Where I draw the line though is mozzies, not just for the bites but the psychological warfare they exert on us when buzzing around the bedroom at night ! Despite being careful not leaving any standing water outside and having nets on windows they always manage to make their way in…

    1. Psychological warfare is exactly it. What is it about that sound? My brother-in-law used to be a stock agent, and could totally control the movement of cattle my making this fly noise. It completely freaked the cows out. (Having written that, I remember a story in the James Herriot books along similar lines, and wonder if I’ve adopted it in my memory…).

      I can lie in bed thinking that the chance of me being bitten is slim indeed – they don’t really like me – but I just can’t rest until that sound is eliminated. There’s clearly some long and painful evolutionary history between the mozzies and us

    2. I like the hard boundaries as it makes you appreciate outside even more. We live outside Canberra – plenty of snakes around and of course I’m much happier with them outside than in. I don’t mind the odd beetle or lizard making it’s way in but that’s about it…when I’m outside I’m alert to all the different animals and wildlife there are around me. It’s part of the outdoor experience but when I’m inside I don’t want to be alert.

  4. Ahh the joy of living with the hinged doors wide open and the sliding doors retracted all sans fly screens. Such freedom and fluidity of living that offers easy access to exit the garden into the house, or was that exit the house into the garden? Either way I love it!

    In my location I can be thankful that no snakes will enter my house which is a reassuring thing. Although to my delight this past year I did experience the perfect timing of looking at my open dining room doorway at the moment my shy blue tongue lizard attempted to enter the house. While I wasn’t concerned about it being inside, my immediate quandary was more about thinking how easily I’d be able to catch it once it was inside amongst the furniture! A quick response by me to let it know not to come inside thankfully eliminated that quandary.

    On reflection I now think that I may have a prejudiced hierarchy towards which insects I’m happy to be inside and also let live! Perhaps it’s based on which ones I can catch and release outside easily, because there are some bugs that I can catch. These are usually the ones smacking their heads against the glass windows in their attempt to get through the glass force field that I’m sure they can’t fathom. If only they knew to move 50cm to the side and they could then easily exit the open door! I seem to have sympathy for them and their short lives and don’t wish for them to be wasting precious time trapped behind a glass force field when they could be living their best lives outside. But why don’t I think like that about others, like the flies and mosquitos.

    Perhaps for me its about the noise that they make that is more the issue. If they make noise I notice them but if they’re quiet then I don’t notice them and they don’t bother me. The few spiders, the quiet insects, that do enter my house are usually the Daddy Long Legs which are like Charlotte for me so they can have a home inside so that they can catch and devour the flies and the mosquitos. As for the flies and the mosquitos, the noisy insects, well they’re the downside of the inside/outside nirvana, especially at bed time. I haven’t yet fully made peace with their pitch in the still of the night as I lay down in bed wishing to drift off to a peaceful sleep. So that’s when I’m likely to be either wildly dancing around the bedroom and over the bed clapping sporadically in a vain attempt to time the clap with their flight path to kill them. And if by chance there’s a Charlotte nearby I may even be trying to direct them towards her!

    Other than that I’m a believer in the inside/outside nirvana.

    1. I so love this. Insects living their best lives.

      We do have really clear prejudices in all this, which are hard to explain. As you’ve pointed out, night noise, or noise of any kind, is a big source. But I also think we like our critters visible. I’d reckon that nearly everyone, given the chance, would eliminate all the microscopic wildlife – dust mites etc – from their homes, without a second thought. If there was a ‘bomb’ you could set off, like you can for fleas, that would eliminate everything and keep them away, it’d take a huge amount of community education to stop people doing it.

      And what is it about mozzies that makes the human clap such a useless tool of elimination. They can be moving on a slow, straight trajectory, and everything about the clap should bring them to an end, but you’ll see them just continue steadily, unharmed, but leaving your hands smarting. My wife thinks it’s hilarious, how irrational I can become about a single mozzie in our room after lights out

  5. How funny, when I first saw your topic I thought you were shifting gear to discuss indoor plants…or as they really should be called, ‘plants indoors’?
    Coincidentally I was watering one of my indoor Rhipsalis plants yesterday and startled when a resident skink flew out from its hiding place! I wonder if I have skink to thank for the disappearance of all fungal gnats? I’m not sure what it’s surviving on, unless it has a fabulous nocturnal spider/moth/ant diet when we’re sleeping?
    Speaking of which, I draw the line at ants. They are never welcome and they attack our house with military precision. A single crumb can be enough.
    Like Steven we have taken to calling all our huntsmen spiders ‘Charlotte’ and the kids are much calmer with this anthropomorphisation. Don’t tell Karen though that our Charlotte did find things a bit slippery on a steamy bathroom ceiling recently and indeed dropped with precision onto a waiting towel.
    Oh and cockroaches. Again, I draw the line – out of site out of mind – but last year one turned up in the leg of my jeans when I pulled them on and well, you can imagine how that ended…

    1. OK. I won’t tell Karen. Though it may, like the huntsman, fall flat anyway. She’s convinced that they love, and target, human faces.

      And isn’t that weird, the anthropomorphising we do, as part of our prejudice development? It no doubt feeds into our zoochauvinism, and therefore our plant blindness. Apparently there’s something about a face that’s important to our connection with, and therefore our value of, other organisms. Having said that, have you ever looked closely at the ‘face’ of a huntsman? It doesn’t help my connection issues.

      As for the trouser leg, I’ve had a huntsman run out of the bottom of one of mine. Even though the danger is over by the time you realise, the adrenalin rush is irreversible and long lasting.

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