The last two days, I haven’t seen the robin that made a nest in my planter on the front porch. Since I did a little homework on how long it takes robin eggs to hatch, I knew that the babies should be arriving any day.
With the disappearance of the parents, I suddenly worried that the eggs didn’t hatch and the birds had given up. So, I pulled out my ladder, took a quick look and found …
Three baby hatchlings …
It’s easy to see two of them. They are snuggled in close to the third hatchling that has its head down.
I quickly left the hatchlings alone and retreated back inside. A few hours later, as evening started to draw near, I ventured out on the porch again just in time to see the momma robin return to the nest.
The hatchlings will have a great chance at a strong future under the watchful eye of their mother.
As I have said multiple times before, I have two cats who fly and two cats who don’t.
Now, I can officially count that as one cat who flies high, two cats who fly and one cat who prefers the luxurious feel of my bed beneath her rump.
It would seem that Zoey, my dear, sweet late bloomer, has decided to find new (and heart-stopping) ways to tempt fate. Most recently, she decided to explore the top of my China cabinet.
China cabinet! As in the place that holds my most precious and breakable items.
None of the other cats have ever tried to reach the top of this tempting little place.
Yet, Zoey made the leap.
I’m still trying to figure out how she got up there (and no, it wasn’t from the stairs — the opening between the railings isn’t wide enough for her to fit through).
And, of course, in true Zoey style, she wasn’t disturbed at all by my indignation.
We have had the advantage of early heat in Oregon, but the flowers in my backyard seemed determined to hold back from showing their glory to the world. The flowers in my front yard bloomed early, and those from my neighbors’ yards were exploding with color.
However, the plants behind my fence stubbornly produced multitudes of buds, but seemed to refuse to put on flowers.
Until this week, that is.
What was the difference?
Well, last week, many of the roses were still being eaten by aphids. Despite how many times I sprayed them with soap-based pesticide (try four times in two days) and how many aphids I managed to melt with the toxic mixture, I couldn’t stay ahead of the little buggers.
Over the weekend, I had the exterminator come out.
While I hate having to go to such extreme measures, my house tends to attract hornets and wasps during the summer. The aggressive creatures build their nests on the dark-colored eaves of my house and in any little crack they can find on my porch before they try any other house on the block. The first year I was here, the hornets were so thick on my front porch that I couldn’t walk out my front door without the angry insects dive-bombing me.
While I already had the exterminator out in late March because the mild winter and early spring weather ensured an early return to the stinging beasts, I had to have him return to spray re-emerging insects only six weeks later because they had already returned in droves (yes, it will be a bad year for pests). At the same time, I had him spray the roses for aphids, being careful to steer clear of the front porch, where the robin has nested. The pesticide he uses is supposed to be environmentally friendly and safe for animals, but I still worry about how it could harm my pets.
Regardless, killing the aphids seemed to do the trick. The moment they were gone, the flowers exploded, ready to show their color and beauty.
Anyone who has ever questioned a cat’s sense of smell has never walked into a house with fresh catnip.
Last month, I planted fresh catnip in a couple of planters with other mint plants (catnip, after all, is a form of mint) and set it outside. It has been growing steadily for a few weeks now, through rain and wind and intense sun. Today — on a day when the weather seemed fairly mild (at least in the morning) — I found several stalks broken on the plant. Based on the long, ginger-colored hair, it was clear that one of the neighborhood strays had mauled the plant for its own pleasure.
I snipped off the broken stalks and carried them inside, debating whether I should give them to the cats or put them in the compost pile. I got my answer the moment I stepped into the kitchen.
Three of the cats came running … running to the kitchen island, where I was standing. I grabbed a glass, filled it with water and set it in front of them.
This was the result:
Gus’ reaction was not all that surprising. As I have said before, he does love his catnip (although, he’s never been big on just having a few leaves). Zoey and Lilly, though, really surprised me. They have shown mild interest, at best, in the dried stuff, so I wasn’t expecting much from fresh.
And where was Izzy in all of this? The same place she always is when normal cat excitement abounds — watching the other cats from around the corner. She generally doesn’t join the fray, but will quietly check out the new treat when the others have tired of it and disappeared.
Over the weekend, Oregon was hit by a trying combination of early spring heat and never-ending winds. It wouldn’t have been an issue, but I realized about halfway through Sunday afternoon that I needed to find a new place to walk Cooper. On Saturday, our normal afternoon walk turned into what Cooper clearly deemed as a death march across the overly warm black top.
I decided to head over to Airport Park, where we had hiked before. I knew the majority of the hike would be under the comfortable shelter of trees and the path would be a gentle mix of dirt and bark. Besides, the trail is often a hotbed of smells for a curious little dog like Cooper.
About 100 feet down the trail, though, I started second guessing my decision. The little park is filled with towering maple, oak and fir trees. As Cooper happily sniffed the world around him, I heard only the gusts of wind blowing through the canopy 70 feet above and the groans of massive trunks and limbs grinding against each other. The trail was already littered with smaller twigs that had snapped under the force of nature.
For a moment, my mind filled with what ifs. What if a limb snapped above us? What if we couldn’t get out of its way? What if something happened and Cooper was left to figure out what to do next?
As I tugged Cooper away from one of the swaying trees, I immediately started to wonder where this doubt came from. I spent my childhood traipsing through the woods and never thought twice about a mighty wind moving the treetops. Had I spent too many years in cities, protected from the big, bad world that was nature? Had I been tainted by news stories of horrific, but infrequent accidents that can happen when in the great outdoors? Had I just gotten old and painfully aware of my own mortality? Had I truly become so sensitive to the world I once loved?
As we continued to walk, finding an easy rhythm of hiking and stopping and sniffing, I realized that I am far from the only one with these types of thoughts. Whether ingrained in us from a young age or learned as we’ve grown, we have chosen to fear the monster in the closet, the shark in the water and the wind in the trees rather than believe the reality before us. We are a society full of people who have stuffed our lives with thick emotional and physical padding to protect ourselves against the what ifs of the world. But while the padding may protect us from life’s little bruises, numbing ourselves with what ifs also keeps us from ever really experiencing anything. It keeps us from truly enjoying the world around us.
What ifs keep us from living.
By the end of the little hike, I knew that I had to let go of my what ifs.
It’s not about being stupid. Fear, after all, has a place in our lives. It’s about being rational. Accepting that we can’t control every situation at every moment.
Wind, after all, isn’t to be feared. It is a force that can shape and expand our worlds, just like it twists and turns the trees, ultimately guiding them to find new paths toward the sky.
A couple of days ago, I posted about the surprise I found in one of my front planters: a robin’s nest with an egg in it. Since I had been near the planter — and even had to move it — I wasn’t sure that the momma bird would come back.
I was pleasantly surprised a second time when the bird came back and settled right into the planter as if it had never been touched. Every time I checked on the nest from a safe distance, she was comfortably nestled in the straw bed.
I was content just to watch from a distance until she and her (hopefully-soon-to-be) hatchling leave the nest.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature has had other ideas.
The last few days have been incredibly windy across Oregon. Wind, of course, dries out planters. Especially hanging planters. I have drip line set up to each, but after a couple of days of relentless winds, at least one of the hanging baskets was showing wear.
I finally resolved to go out with my ladder to see if I could get close enough to pour a bit of water in the edge of the planter. I started at the planter on the far end of the porch and could see that the momma bird was in the planter again.
I watered the other planters and slowly moved the ladder closer to her home.
When I decided to move to the top step of the ladder to try to get a better picture of her, she decided I was too close and left the nest. I decided it was the perfect opening to add a little water to the planter. I moved the ladder over and poured in about three cups of water on the very edge, making sure none of it hit the nest. Amazingly — unlike the other planters, which sucked up every drop — some of the water poured out of the bottom of this planter. While the soil was drier than I would have liked it, it clearly wasn’t as thirsty as the other plants. I don’t know if the nest is insulating the soil, so that it’s not losing moisture as fasts, but clearly it is doing better than the others.
The moment I stepped off the ladder and started to fold it up, the momma bird immediately flew back to her nest and settled in again, letting me know that I should not expect her to give up that space too quickly.
We have one more day of high winds ahead of us. I only hope that the planters can make it through without more waterings.
Every year, in the spring, I get planters to hang on my front porch. While they can be a pain to maintain, I love the looks of them. They add a nice pop of color to the world.
This year, because the spring was so warm, I was able to get them a little earlier than usual. I found three beautiful baskets and hung them as soon as I could. I even prepped the drip line into each one, even though I knew I didn’t plan on turning on the watering system anytime soon.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have noticed that one of them, in particular, was looking a little flat on top. It was growing well on all sides, but the top seemed — well — stunted.
Today, I pulled out the ladder so that I could fertilize each of the planters and get a closer look at the one that seemed so stunted.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that …
Hidden in the basket was a little bird’s nest.
I tried not to disturb it, but I had to pull down the planter to see if there was an egg. I didn’t want the nest in there if it had already been abandoned, but I didn’t want to take the nest if there was an egg in there. Besides, since I had already accidentally watered the nest, I wanted to make sure I hadn’t drowned a hatchling.
Thankfully, one little robin’s egg was cradled within the nest. And the nest itself, despite being watered, wasn’t saturated and looked like it would dry fairly quickly. I replaced the planter, hoping that the momma bird would return. She has been hanging around my yard, scrounging for grubs and other food. I decided it was time to set out the bird feeders, so that she would have easy access to food for her and her baby.
This is the second year that I have ended up with a nest in one of my planters. I think this is a sign that I need to get some bird houses. I just have to find a good and safe place for them.