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05/14/2010

On Baby Birds, Grubs, and Weeds

IMG_0291 The backyard season has begun.  We are outside planting, mowing, and lounging almost every afternoon and weekend.  With the advent of so much time in our own corner of nature, we are witness to the wonders of birds, plants, and more everyday.

Peas climb trellises seemingly overnight.  Strawberries ripen too.  Juncos give way to robins and swarms of sparrows.  Bees return, pollinating herbs, vegetables, and flowers alike.  Life begins and thrives.

Yet at the same time, It is impossible not to notice the other side of life.

Adjusting the hose on the rain barrel last week, my husband found a baby bird.  Just hatched and not even feathered, the baby had fallen from the nest and died.  We showed the bird to our daughter, Lil.  After noting it was not moving or breathing anymore, she was sad for the bird's mama, "She'll miss it!"  "True," I say, "but there is no way to bring the baby back to life now.  Should we bury it?"  We do, talking about how its body will become nutrients for the plants to grow.

Two days ago, we were working in 'the other garden', a community garden plot we rent.  I was pulling purple flowering weeds from the potato rows while my husband hand tilled the rest of the plot in preparation for planting corn and squash.  Lillian began to get sad.  "Where will the purple flowers grow?  Why can't they grow there?"  I shared that weeds pull water and nutrients away from the potatoes that we want to grow.  There's a give and take for everything we eat.

Meanwhile, my husband was finding grubs.  Grubs are bad news for garden plants as they are voracious eaters.  Fortunately we have some other voracious eaters around, our four backyard chickens.  We collected the grubs in a bag to bring home as chicken food.  While Lil was a little bit excited about feeding the chickens (they go wild for squirmy wormy things), she questioned again, "Why can't they just live in the garden?"  We explain again that we must choose between creature habitat and garden production.

It is tough stuff, this contemplation of the circle of life.  My daughter has thought more than many adults about the sacrifices necessary to put food on the table.  She understands the physical properties of death without fear attached.  We are establishing rituals about burial that may serve her well when beloved pets and people die in the future.  I'm glad we have our daily backyard gardening habit to observe, witness, and react to the nature of which we are a part. 

This is an original Ohio Moms Blog post.

Rachel share more about gardening, cooking, and living on her Columbus Ohio urban homestead at Hounds In The Kitchen.

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