Another Day in the Country
Mother Nature’s ways
Another Day in the Country
I try to stay out of the way of Mother Nature and let life take its course, even though I’m often tempted to interfere.
Take last night, for instance. It’s been hot, and my laying hens in the big house yearn for cooler breezes and freedom in the yard. Because I can’t trust that a dog will not be roaming free, I need to stand guard. I call it, “chicken watching.”
Chicken watching is a rather interesting pastime because chickens are curious creatures.
They talk to each other as they explore and settle differences and are endlessly inquisitive. When I’m sitting in a lawn chair, they stay close. They eat clover around my feet and like my company.
This past evening, they were gathered in a little huddle at the edge of what I call the forest, which is an unkempt overgrown yard next door. Several hens were gathered in a semicircle peering down at something.
“What’s so interesting?” I asked them.
“We don’t know what this is!” they answered with alternating expressions of danger and curiosity.
I walked over, and there was a fledgling baby bird — a young robin, I think — opening its beak, fluttering its feathers in supplication, pleading for these larger-than-life mother figures to give it supper.
Where had it come from?
The wind was blowing fiercely in the tops of the trees, but there was no nest in sight. And there were no bird parents in sight either.
So what was I going to do with a baby bird? Could I honestly keep it alive?
My instinct was to leave Mother Nature alone!
“But perhaps you could do something!” my inner voice said.
The chickens already had lost interest in this tiny blob of feathers with a very big mouth and had gone deeper into the dark woods.
Now I’ve had experience trying to keep baby birds alive and I know it is an almost impossible task.
What do I have that it could eat, I wondered.
In lieu of bugs, could it eat oatmeal? Meatloaf? How old is this little tyke? How long would I need to feed it? Maybe the parents would come back after I’d put the hens to bed and collect their baby?
I sat very still for a few moments, lost in thought, pondering the appropriate action. When I decided to check on the fledgling again, it was gone.
I have no idea where it went. Maybe it fluttered deeper into the brush. Maybe a sneaking cat carried it off. Whatever, it was gone. And I was saved from my moral dilemma.
However, another one loomed.
A pair of cardinals were fluttering and fussing around an evergreen that I call “the Charlie Brown tree” because I think it’s unattractive. (It’s straggly and “loppy” and slow-growing. And, to make matters worse, it has been attacked by bagworms.) The cardinals, I discovered, were building a nest about two feet from the top of this ill-fated tree.
“Don’t do it!” I said to them fluttering around below. “You’ll be sorry! There’s no shade up there, and this is summer and you’re in Kansas, where it gets to be 100 degrees. You’ll bake!”
“And what about your children? You’re visible up there from above. The blue jays will eat your eggs!”
Mrs. Cardinal wouldn’t listen.
Her heart was set on this neighborhood and this particular view, in this very spindly, weeping Norway spruce.
She built her nest, laid her eggs, and sat in the 95-degree weather and panted.
Her husband was nowhere in sight. At this point, I presumed she was a single mother.
“What on earth are you going to do?” I mumbled to her as I lay in the hammock and watched her.
In my opinion, she had zero chance of raising baby birds to maturity in that nest. If they didn’t bake, they would become lunch for predators while she hunted for bugs.
So, here was my dilemma: Should I interfere?
I gathered some pinecones and tried to figure out whether I could fashion an “awning” that I could glue-gun, to give her some shade.
The top of the tree was not sturdy enough to hold anything that heavy. It would just bend over farther than it already had — in the wrong direction to offer shade.
“Give it up, Pat,” my instincts said. But I persevered.
“LeeRoy,” I said, when he came to visit, “What do you think about my dilemma?”
I explained the mother bird’s need for shade.
“I think I’ve got it figured out,” I said. “I’ll take a limb from my fake Christmas tree (we’ll just turn that side toward the wall come December) and I think we could bend the metal into a hook to fasten to the west side…” on another day in the country!