BENNINGTON, NY - The allure of nature can be a funny thing sometimes. Interest in one aspect of the wild often can lead to a wealth of knowledge you might never have expected.
That's what happened to Mike Barabasz. An avid nature lover, he bought 32 acres of land just east of Buffalo with the intent of turning the former farm land into a nature preserve.
He began by planting trees in an effort to attract wildlife. 20 years later, the wildlife has shown up, and in the process, Barabasz now has his own personal arboretum." I walk around every day and look at my trees and think of what I can put in next, admire how they look, but they all do attract wildlife,it's just a great thing really."
He started out by planting more common trees, but Barabasz says he quickly realized he needed to branch out. " I started out with the simple things like Oaks, I knew Oaks attract a lot of wildlife. So I started with Oaks, but what happened was I realized that I need things to be attracted in winter, when I'm sitting in the house, I want to see birds and you know,wildlife coming around."
Mike's answer to his dilemma was to plant crabapple trees, a species he was never too fond of before, but soon found a new appreciation for. " They're beautiful, they're amazing, and they attract wildlife in the winter. Winter and early spring when there's nothing else around,then birds and all this wildlife will come and eat the crabapples. So, crabapples, Hawthorne, Mountain Ash, the more I knew, the more I wanted to plant."
He has now planted over 4,500 trees of over a hundred different species, and he sees himself continuing for a long time.
" The road goes on forever, however that song goes, I can see myself planting trees when I'm 80, easily, if I'm lucky enough to live that long...and enjoying it, maybe I'll enjoy more and plant less, but I'll still be planting until the end of it."
As much as he has learned from the wildlife that visits his land , the trees have have taught him much as well, and engendered a new found love for a life that is often taken for granted, one that we cannot live without." They're an amazing thing," Says Barabasz"They provide so much. They're the ones sucking in the CO2 and giving us oxygen,and providing food for wildlife."
Barabasz says the chance to observe his land, unspoiled for over two decades, has givenhim a deeper understanding of the environment. " You realize how amazing life is, and how everything is interconnected, you can't separate one thing from the next, everything influences everything else, and if you just look, everything is really quite beautiful."