Winter garden yields food for the soul

February 5th, 2014 Comments Off on Winter garden yields food for the soul


photo courtesy Jonathan Keelty

Sparrows are bickering outside my window and I feel sure it is about the winter’s weather and which bird is getting the best perch for the night. Towhees hunt below the suet feeder for snips of scraps dropped by the oh-so-sloppy jaybirds.  Two towhees work the area, leaving not a trace of that warmth-serving suet.  I look up to see an overwintering song sparrow jumping along the top of the fence line…  hip, hip, hop.  He, too, is looking around for a meal.

The towhees move off through the silver lace vine’s tangled arms, undressed for the season.  Sparrows pay them no mind.  The vine is a bird fortress, so thick I cannot see the street through it, only 20 feet away. A charcoal and grey junco, in his winter tuxedo, warms himself in the sunshine, nestled in the safe embrace of silver lace. Feeding and caring for the wild birds somehow helps to bring my own life into focus.  In the daily push for sustenance, it is intelligence that gets our feathered friends through the winter long.  All the neighborhood birds will visit today for a meal.

The birds will have special accommodations for this winter including a new feeding station for bread crusts, apple cores and other scraps that the bigger jay and magpies will love.

Mid-winter I don’t worry about common mammalian invaders, like skunks or coons.  I believe they are sleeping on a winter’s day. Squirrels can eat what they want, too.  I don’t dislike squirrels; I just try not to feed them outside of winter weather conditions.  As long as they leave the seed trays alone, they are welcome.

Chickens love getting out on a warm winter day, if the ground is free of snow.  Normally I let them out for a few hours midday.  They search the duff and mulch for tidbits of various origins.  I don’t think they care much what it is – if it looks like food – it’s food!  If it moves, all the better!  They scratch around the forest garden stirring up the floor and fertilizing the trees.

One event I want to welcome – the ermine’s winter visit.  I keep watch for the local weasel, the snow-white ermine.  I figure any day now, one will return to the AnnaMaranna Gardens to hunt mice.  With chickens and rabbits, we have wild mouse luxury accommodations for surviving the winter.  But they won’t survive an ermine’s visit.  I check out the windows looking for the white blur of electrified fur.  A lone ranger in the wild, even bears avoid them.  They are so quick one can come and go before anyone notices.  But I keep looking.  I love how nature helps me keep a balance of the wild animals, from little birds to little mice; it is a food chain and an ecosystem here.  The weasel plays a most important role!

Outside in the forest garden, it is quite still and peaceful. The chickens are humming to themselves over their finds.  Dressed in their down coats they don’t need supplemental heat unless temperatures drop into the low teens.

I embrace this day, this place and this time in my life’s path.  I turn to the door, the welcoming woodstove and Blue Planet Earthscapes. Peace.  Becky the gardener.

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