Thursday, June 2, 2011

Empty Nest

From the nature-loving bean of Green Bean.

I've been in a hurry this year.  We moved into a new yard, ahem, house, (but you can tell what was important to me!) late last summer.  In March, I was finally ready to address the yard in earnest.  That meant putting in paths to avoid slopping around in the mud, adding raised beds, edging out garden beds and trying to convince my gardener to install irrigation without crushing all of my coddled plants.

I knew from experience that that most important thing to building a back yard food forest is to first attract the bugs.  Then the birds.  Then you build an ecosystem with them at your base.  The bugs and birds help keep pests off of your precious peas and other vegetables.

The most important step in attracting insects - beyond avoiding pesticides - is to sheet mulch it.  I slapped down some sheet mulch under the plum tree but I really really needed to get at least one season's worth of gardening in before resorting to the piles of leaves, compost and cardboard for the rest of the yard.

In any event, I put up some birdhouses, a birdfeeder and a birdbath and hoped for the best.  My hopes were rewarded when, one day, I noticed a bit of grey fuzz along the hole of one of the birdhouses.  I watched and waited until I finally saw two small birds appear and one pop inside.

In the meantime, we had some unexpected but very needed work done on our house.  As loud as it was, I assumed that it wouldn't affect the birds.  Their birdhouse was at the very back of our long lot, shaded under a tree with my neighbor's gurgling fountain hopefully drowning out the noise.

Two weeks went by and I never saw my little bird family.  I peeked inside the birdhouse to discover a nest full of eggs.  Another week of waiting and watching and I've given up or they have.  Perhaps it was the noise.  Maybe one of them was injured or worse.  Or maybe . . .

The nest sits up at the top of the hill in a now quiet birdhouse with too quiet eggs, destined to never hatch.  Down the fence from it is a blue birdhouse also filled with an empty nest from two years ago (yes I know I should clean it out).  Those birds abandoned their nest when a windy day knocked their birdhouse out of the tree.

What luck have you had attracting wildlife in suburbia?  Have you watched eggs hatch and baby birds grow up and leave the nest?  What is your favorite method for providing shelter?  Or have you had a similar sad result as my empty nest?


Jenn the Greenmom said...

Excellent luck. Whatever I plant, an entire extended family of bunnies comes to eat down to the ground. I even left them a sacrificial lettuce plant that wouldn't fit into my container, and we have clover everywhere, but...they have to gnaw my tomatoes?

I never thought I would be wishing for bunny predators to come and complete the Happy Cycle of Life in my backyard, because they are seriously adorable, but...sigh.

But I don't think that's what you meant. :-)

(I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you get that insects are something we WANT in our gardens, not something to chase away or kill!)

SustainaMom said...

Oh, how sad!

I think neglect might be our secret. We haven't had much time for yard work in a couple of years. I'm sure the neighbors hate our weedy yard and overgrown bushes. But we see bunnies nearly every evening right in front of our house. Just yesterday, a tiny baby bunny ventured onto our porch and we watched from the other side of the window for a good 10 minutes.

And two years ago, we heard chirping from the tree just beside our chimney. It was in serious need of pruning at the time, but we managed to peer in and see a nest of baby birds. Just a few days after our discovery, we saw the last of the babies hopping across the yard with its mother encouraging it to fly. We've since pruned the tree :)

However, I am tired of all the snakes. We live in suburbia, not out in the country. I cannot believe all the snakes that I've found within 10 feet of my house. The people who lived here before us put down the black weed cloth and I think they were attracted to the heat. I thought the snakes would disappear after I pulled up all the weed cloth, but I found one again last month :(

Lindsey said...

I have had great luck with bees and beneficial insects, but not much else. I have wanted to make my backyard a wildlife sanctuary, but find there is just not enough time to do everything and some things get pushed off.
I did a small bird feeder and hummingbird feeder up and that had to do it for the time being!

Green Bean said...

@Jenn - If only we could talk bunny! We could say, hey come eat over here but not over there.

@SustainaMom - How exciting with your baby birds! Not so much the snakes. Though my boys are old enough that, as long as they aren't poisonous, they'd probably be just excited over the snakes than over the baby birds.

@Lindsey - Boy, have you said it!! I too wanted to have a wildlife sanctuary but there really is only enough time in the day.


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