This unkempt looking picture is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
I want a garden. I have been in Florida three years now. I think I am ready to sweat it out in my mostly private yard that is backed by a miniature forest. If I start now, I might just be ok this summer with the heat. I had this same idea last year but that proved to be incorrect. I am mostly stuck in the house anyway (not complaining) and it will give me something creative to aspire to until I get back on the road. I desire a pollinator’s garden featuring native plants.
I checked the weather to see when I could anticipate rain. I decided to mow the front one day, the side another day, and tackle the unruly backyard over the weekend. I have several plants that I want to repot, including ghost and Carolina Reaper peppers. For the plants that are outdoors, I keep them all on a table where they can receive adequate nourishment. I wanted to move them from the shifting sandy area to the concrete. So I did.
To compensate for the seclusion and beauty afforded by large, old trees, I pay in the currency of leaves unnumbered, allergy-inducing pollen from a giant live oak, and sharp pods from a gum tree. From the pots, I removed leaves and branches and fallen epiphytes. In the ghost pepper pot, some of the old Spanish Moss was really matted down in there, so I plucked it out and tossed it. Nature knows how to recycle what is needed, and I prefer to go over everything with my mulching lawn mower to speed along the process. Once I sat all the plants to the side, I checked under the table for frogs and lizards (and anything else) before moving the table to the concrete. I then moved each plant to the table where they could now receive the first rays of sunlight each morning.
In my three years here, lawn company after lawn company after lawn company has let me down. I live on a hill. I get that it is not the easiest, even if it does make my backside look good after walking up the incline. But their riding lawn mowers are easier to maneuver than my push mower. I have given up chasing other people who do not want to do the work. I really thought I found someone last fall, but he’s been MIA this season. Oh well.
I have never regularly had to do yard work. 40 is a good time to start. I guess…
I saw a wasp hovering around my water hose, and there was a lizard on the actual hose. This is common and I am used to all sorts of critters now. When I peeked down I noticed the beginning of a nest. Tsk tsk, this would not do. I had just bought four cans of wasp and yellow jacket spray. I am not a fan of poisons but I am even less a fan of stings or the fear of being stung. So I did what I had to do with the spray and a small twig. I will keep an eye out to see if she or any others return.
I grabbed my mower, gassed up, and went to work. So. Many. Leaves. My mower did the job and I sweat during the 73 degree temperature that morning and got so filthy. All the pollen surrounded and clung to me like an auric field. Thankfully I had the foresight to wear a heavy duty mask. My neighbor told me he wanted to help me but he had been so sick with allergies after working on his yard. I told him no worries at all. I got a new chargeable weed whacker he will show me how to use later. Groovy.
I am an “ain’t nothing to it but to do it” kind of person. Sure I go over tough spots that may shut off the mower, but I will not know unless I try. It is much easier when it is dry versus the horrendous rainy season coming up in the next few months. I went over some piles and branches that were clogging, having to flip the mower and clear the debris. Ok, maybe I read somewhere I am supposed to take out the spark plug or something before I do that so I do not accidentally harm myself.
I do not have a technical bone in my body. Poetic and creative, yes. Technical, nope. I caused myself zero injuries so no need for suspense in that regard.
I went around the perimeter as Gossamer laid in the sun. Must have been nice.
Each time my mower cut off and I needed to clear a clog, I just wanted to enjoy the moment and the birds chirping and the non-suffocating, non-humid air. After removing a branch, I sat for a bit, enjoying the shade. A bird perched on the power line, dangling food in her beak. I watched and listened as all the birds sang and danced the symphony of spring, hoping for more gifts of feathers soon.
I do not know why I pay attention to some details that end up serving a purpose later. Maybe because they make for a groovy story that is playing out before my unknowing eyes.
Back to work…
I continued to mow in an L shape, down the side, across the back, turning and maneuvering, struggling not to disturb the branches of the Camellia tree that had finished flowering for the season. Leaves and branches and old vegetation, along with pollen and sand and dirt all blew easily out of the side of my mower. I admired my progress, feeling proud at how much better my yard looked. Yay me!
My mower stopped as I was close to completion. I knew I did not run over anything that time. I checked the gas and it was a bit low, so I started to head to the garage for the gas can. I looked at the leaves in the area I was going to mow over next. The sun, my nemesis, was shining brightly in that spot. I saw the clump of old moss I had tossed earlier, near a tree stump. I saw some movement that at first glance I thought was a lizard. No, I have not seen any lizards move like that. Despite my sunglasses, the brightness of the sun made it difficult initially for me to determine what I was looking at.
Small, uncertain, jerky, bobbing movements.
It was not old moss. It was a bird’s nest. By then it had been nearly two hours since I had carelessly hand tossed a nest full of baby birds upside down to the ground. Because that is where they were, four of them.
On top of the tree stump near where I had tossed the nest, snakes sun there often, just a few feet from where the table originally sat. Thankfully none were out as I was mowing. Birds of prey with keen eyes also frequent my yard. I rewound in my mind. The nest could not have fallen from the branches above. It was really down in the pot when I pulled it out. The parents must have put it there intentionally.
The bird that was on the power line earlier with the food. She had landed and looked at me, head cocked, and had been asking me, “What the heck happened here?”
To make amends, I needed to place everything back to where it had originally been. I went in the house to wash my hands and grabbed some paper towel. My first duty was to get them back in their nest.
How could I have been so unobservant?! I pride myself on being aware and connected. With the appreciation I have for life, especially new life, my ignorance felt so unforgivable.
Nature makes no mistakes.
As gently as I could, I placed the featherless babies back in their nest, looking around for ma and pa. I looked at my unfinished yard. If I put the table back I would not be able to mow the remaining area. I had to phone a friend. I messaged my gal pal / adventure buddy who has more experience with this kind of stuff. After texting her the details, she called, and I immediately pleaded:
“Please say you’re in town, please say you’re in town, please say you’re in town!”
Negative. She was already on her way to the panhandle. She gave me the advice she could and I hoped she had an enjoyable trip.
The babies were so tiny. How long could they survive without food? It had been hours.
I actually did finish mowing, careful not to blow the nest that I sat in a chair for the moment. I checked as carefully as I could on the ground first to make sure there were no other youngins outside of the nest. Gossamer became curious so I sent him back in the house.
After I completed mowing, I sat next to the nest, watching the chicks with their beaks open, contemplating through my headache:
-Do I bring them in the house? No, I have cats. Despite my best intentions, if I cannot keep the cats off the stove in the middle of the night, I would not be able to keep Kano and Octopussy away from the chicks.
-Do I try feeding them? Sometimes I do find worms in my yard, but it is dry season and I have not seen any for months. I would have to walk to the pet store, less than ½ mile away, to see if they had anything.
-Do I put them in the Camellia tree, several yards away where they might be safer from snakes or other predators? No, it would be more sensible to put them back where I found them. That would at least give the parents an opportunity to come back.
Rat snakes and black racers are often in my yard. I resigned myself to the sadness of them being consumed. But I still wanted to try.
Nature makes no mistakes.
I noticed an adult bird would get unusually close to me as I sat and pondered. “Ok mom, I’m sorry!” I hurriedly put the table back where it had been. I placed the nest back into the pot, and tried to put it and the other plants in the random arrangement they had been in. This time though, I put one of the leaves of one of the other potted plants above the nest to shelter the babies and hopefully shield them from curious predators.
My friend had suggested doing an online search for a plan of care, but I already knew what to do: Nothing.
Nature makes no mistakes.
I recalled a funny-not-funny video of a veterinarian ranting about people bringing him wild baby animals frequently. He indicated just like (many) human parents or guardians have to go to work to provide for their young, animals need to do the same thing.
My dilemma here was hoping I did not take too long in my invasion of their home and the parents felt safe enough to come back. Sunday turned to Monday and to Tuesday. I would hear cheep, cheeps, but there are so many birds in my yard that enjoy the branches. Temperatures got as low as the 30’s overnight last week. I feared the worst.
Wednesday when I let Gossamer outside, I immediately noticed a bird, food in beak, sitting on the privacy fence.
Could it be?
Gossamer was already outside but I was still in the doorway.
I backed away slowly, quietly closing the door, and went to the window that looks directly out to the table with the plants. Before the bird on the fence approached, another one from the rear of my yard flew to the table. Gossamer was already under the table, oblivious and heeding Nature’s call. The smaller bird landed, hopped around, and went to the nest, food in her beak as well, and fed the babies. Then the bird that was on the fence flew in, startling the other bird, also feeding the babies.
After they left, I waited a few moments. I could not resist a peek and was able to see three little yellow beaks, wide open, waiting for some grub of grubs.
Joy and relief washed over me, especially after a series of sad human news on the days prior.
Nature makes no mistakes.
Kim, however, makes all sorts of mistakes. I was “forgiven” for my transgression. This time. It was a major lesson learned in increasing my awareness no matter my original plans. When it is time for yardwork, it is a focused race against time and sunlight. If it was not impolite to do so, I would mow my lawn at 5 am. Seriously. When summer arrives and the sun and humidity are oppressive by 8 am or earlier, I mow at 7. That’s the best I can do for my neighbors to avoid a waterlogged jungle, sunburn, or heat exhaustion.
Thursday morning I was gifted a crow’s feather on my walk. I see these birds the most but their feathers the least. I took this as a sign I did something alright despite the near fiasco. Yesterday I just had to peek again. I am awful! 4 beaks on 4 babies, snuggled in and after just one week they are at least double in size. They all have soft looking feathers.
Happiness, along with fear, can be found in trust. I am comforted in knowing Mother Nature knows best and animals have the innate wisdom to survive, provide, and flourish.
Now if I could only find someone to trust as reliable enough to mow my front lawn…