A woman called the other day about some “wild land” she and her husband hadbought. They would be moving there from their house on a microscopic lot in Athens.I could sense her uneasiness. “Should we just take it all out, all at once?”she asked. (“It” meant the wild vegetation, I concluded.)She had another worry: a spring. “We don’t let our daughter go near it,” sheassured me. She talked at length about this spring.Gradually I got her drift. They had bought a one-acre wooded lot in a subdivision. Howshould one go about building a house in the woods? And more important, how should one goabout living in such a place?These are reasonable questions. More and more people are “going natural” intheir landscaping.What not to do — if you want to preserve your piece of the wild — is the ordinarything.The ordinary house has a view of the road — as if the road were the premium view. Thenlandowners declare war on all vegetation except large trees. They cut, hack, scrape, rakeand till until naked earth shows everywhere.They plant grass in some places. The rest they bury under pine straw or other importedmulch. They bring in store-bought plants to restore what nature once provided. Then theystart watering: regular watering, sprinkle watering, drip irrigation, watering duringdroughts.What was wrong with the native vegetation? Nobody ever watered that. It was perfectlyadapted.Why do people do “landscaping” in this way? Because that’s the way it’s always been done. We absorb taste and artistic sense — orthe lack of it — from our childhood neighborhood. Pictures in magazines, too, tell uswhat our aspirations should be.Break the mold and think creatively when it comes to landscaping in harmony withnature. Here are some saving-a-wild-garden ideas that cost little or nothing.First, a spring or a swampy place is not a hazard. Unless you abhor the risk ofstepping in ooze or water, leave a little swampy place as it is.Such places are magnets for frogs, birds, salamanders, dragonflies and, of course,little humans. Mud can beat most items at “Toys-R-Us” when it comes toentertaining small people.How about snakes? They’re a very small risk to humans, well below lightning strikes anddog attacks. There are bees, wasps, a couple of spiders with nasty bites and a fewirritating caterpillars. But these creatures can also exist in many manicured gardens. Youmight want to spray out poison ivy, however.Where to put your house is a key decision.Some people want a house on a hill with a detached view of nature from a safe distance.I prefer a house with a close-up view of undisturbed nature.Consider nestling the house near a beauty spot with a window view of your natural area.Focus on getting your house in place with the least damage to the natural vegetation. Ropeoff favorite places to protect them from heavy equipment.If you can get a house in the woods, you’re well ahead of the average aspiring naturelover. Now maybe you want to make some strategic modifications. Add a patch of lawn or abutterfly bush. Perhaps put in some trilliums or mayapples under the oaks.Bit by bit you can also make strategic removals. Remove an eleagnus here, or prune abranch there. Careful, though! When you take out plants and branches from under a fullforest canopy, they may never grow back.The Southeast produces lovely forests without any help from man. The woods aren’t theenemy but a friend to live with in joy and harmony.