Day 52-SIP-Life Goes On

Every Spring I am blessed with a visit from a pair of mallard ducks. This morning, I spotted a rather violent splash of water in my water garden so lovingly referred to as my pond. The sun was shining so I knew it couldn’t be lightening or any storm related violence. I slowly crept up to the window with my camera ready. Low and behold, the splash was from the lady mallard landing in the water. Her faithful partner landed shortly thereafter. I have studied mallards to determine f they mate for life like swans, but they do not. In fact they are very promiscuous in their habits. Nevertheless, they like to sun themselves in my sacred little lake. Later this morning they will disappear until tomorrow at the same time.

Mallards Having Fun

I have dreams of the mallards raising their family in my back yard, but that has not been realized yet. I am hopeful that someday they will do it. The idea of seeing a dozen fuzzy little baby birds swimming around with mom is just too much to not want. I have watched parades of mallard families out for a training swim with their mother in the pond near the town of Frankfort. All I can say is that mom is relentless. She shows no mercy on her young. She swims around the entire pond and they have to keep up or they are lost. She never stops to rest, she just keeps on paddling, and the little ones keep up the struggle to show her they can make it.

At this time, the wetlands behind my house are loaded with Canada geese all nurturing their newly hatched families. There is already too much vegetation blocking my view so I won’t see any of the youngsters until mom and dad begin the flying lessons. Then I see them taking off in formation and circling overhead before landing again. They remind me of the jets doing similar exercises from an air base. When I wintered in Arizona I was ten miles away from Luke Air Base where they trained pilots. The way they fly and the train is so like the geese it is amazing. When I see pairs of geese coming in for a landing I also visualize F 15 fighter jets coming home.

Spring is also a great time to bird watch because so many birds are migrating and stop in the yard to feed and rest. My yard is loaded with warblers that are not yearlong residents They will disappear until some time in fall when they reverse migrate. The slate grey junco and the black juncos are now gone, or very rare. They migrate to the north into Canada to have their families. Meanwhile the flock of Canada geese that call Illinois their home is growing by leaps and bounds. Most likely because there are so many acres of fields planted in corn and soy beans that their food supply is plentiful, even in winter. One can see a thousand geese gleaming a newly harvested field. The next week, the same flock will be in another field doing the same. All I can say is that the farmers lose a lot of grain during their harvest.

A few years ago, we had a bout of mosquito borne bird flu called West Nle Virus which took out huge populations of popular wild birds. There was a day when I thought for sure I would never see another chickadee. Yet, many years later the chickadee and all the other birds damaged by the West Nile Virus have come back strong. We will also come back strong after COVID-19, but now we must suffer until we develop immunity. At this point, the only way I know of to get immunity is to get the disease and live through it.

How the Garden Has Taught Me Conservatism

One of my passions is bird watching. I love to see and identify birds in my yard. I do not go to the woods, or to exotic places to watch, I watch from my kitchen table. The trick is to attract a large variety of birds. There are several ways to do this. One way is to create an environment that is conducive to birds. Plantings of trees, shrubs, flowers, and a water feature all add to the formula. The biggest trick of all is bird feeding.  Free easy to get food does it every time.

The problem with providing free, easy to get food is that soon, the feeders are empty, that necessitates constant maintenance, and considerable cost. If the free food secret stayed with pretty birds, it would not be too bad. What happens though is that the illegal aliens arrive to take advantage. The less colorful and common bird’s will crowd out the colorful birds. Soon, animals of many species join in the fest. Everyone loves a free meal. Squirrels, raccoons, possum, rabbits, deer, you name it, if it lives around here it comes to the feeder.

Another thing I have observed is that the free food factor attracts a single species of bird more than others do. The English House Sparrow is the most common visitor. It is not one, but many. I see as many as six of them perched on a feeder; gorging themselves. When I take a walk around the house, a flock of sparrows will flee from the feeder as I approach.

So often, I tell myself, “This is just like a welfare program.” If I stop, the birds go away, and find natural food sources. When I feed, they all come to take advantage of the entitlement. Am I wrong to train these creatures to accept the handout? Would I better serve God’s creatures by ignoring them to find food on their own?

Yesterday, I spent considerable time pulling thistle from my flowerbed. The sweat and effort was of my own doing. By providing thistle seed for the goldfinches, I am guilty of spreading the weed all through the yard. It happens two ways. One is by bird droppings, and the other is by spillage from the feeder. Thistle is a nasty weed whose roots spread horizontally, and send shoots up every six inches. Pulling thistle only brings it back with a vengeance. The broken roots sprout new plants almost immediately.

I wonder what damage I do by feeding birds while they raise their young. I often see a mother bird placing seed into the mouth of a fledgling near the feeder. What if the parent never teaches the fledgling to seek natural sources of food? What if the fledge relies entirely on my source? Will he survive, or will he require a feeder for the remainder of his life?

Gardeners are never satisfied with the natural environment of a location. Here in Illinois, we live on a prairie. A prairie habitat is prolific with perennial plants that most gardeners abhor. Yet, when we view a prairie in its natural splendor, it is beautiful. Have you ever seen a field of Queen Anne’s lace in bloom? It is absolutely- gorgeous. The same is true of a field of yellow dandelions. A gardener will attack both of these flowers vigorously. He wants to improve on nature to appease his own sensibilities. He wants color, texture, and order. He wants plant material that will not overtake the plants he has imported, and placed into his canvas. Is not that what we do as socialists? We are never happy with man’s plight in a natural form. We are always looking for a way to improve someone else’s life. In the process, we screw up the natural order of things. We feel sorry for those who cannot provide for themselves, and provide. The result is that others see what we provide, and find the loophole that allows them to ride free too.

Program after program designed to do humankind some good become nightmares. Providing free breakfast and lunch for poor kids at school has led to obesity. Now we need a program to eliminate obesity. Instead of finding the root cause of a kid’s starvation, we provide. It is the socialist way. Promoting abortion, and forms of birth control to keep the population of poor people down, has led to a loss of population. So much so, that we now need to allow unlimited immigration to keep our culture alive. Tampering with nature by inventing an endless intrusion of improvements only makes the world a lousier place to live.

What does this have to do with the garden and conservatism? I have learned that by trying to make my garden a canvas of color, scent, and sound that I am upsetting the natural order. Every plant out of its natural place comes with a cost. Every new species, brings a new predator, be it a bug or animal. Every attempt to make a beautiful environment is at a great expense of time, energy, and cost. If I were content to live in the environment that is natural to my spot on this earth, my life would be much easier, simpler, and less expensive.

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