What’s for Dinner?

Mr. Muscle came this morning and whipped my three raised beds into shape in time for planting. You can almost see the food sprouting out of them already–peas, beans, carrots, kale, zucchini (ONE plant only), pumpkins, spinach, lettuce, beets,  and radishes. Three long boxes, each divided in half–it’s like six blank canvases. My fingers are just itching to paint-plant.

Toshiba Digital Camera

Three raised beds crafted by the Potter many years ago.

But I have other diners at my table to consider. Because the rabbits also relish my lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, and peas, those seeds get planted in the one box that has a low fence around it. One year I was able to plant a “spicy lettuce mix” in an unfenced area and they didn’t touch it–but it was too spicy for me, too, so that was a lost effort.

For years the peas mysteriously disappeared every spring–every single seed–and sometimes before they had even sprouted out of the ground. I suspected the rabbits of hopping the fence, but nothing else was touched. Eventually I noticed a Stellar’s Jay methodically working his way down the row of peas. Now I also cover the whole fenced area with a berry net.

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Crocuses nestled up against some hyachinths

I found another mystery last year when I noticed many of my beautiful purple crocuses ever so neatly clipped off. Already this year, the bed is looking like a bridal path of scattered purple petals. The culprit? Rabbits again. Turns out their tastes run beyond veggies. Some of the crocuses are eaten right down to the ground.

Toshiba Digital Camera

No way could I blame the disappearing little green figs on the rabbits. Every fall, after the fig tree drops its leaves, it holds onto a second crop of small, hard green figs that never develop. Later we rake up a lot off the ground, but I’ve noticed squirrels in the tree making off with the rest.

After the peas are up several inches, I can move the netting onto the blueberries. Small birds still figure out intricate, secret routes underneath the netting, but I manage to save some for myself this way.

The August a flock of crows was slashing their way through my beeautiful juicy yellow pears was also the month a crow died in my neighborhood–by sheer coincidence, I swear. When we hung the two wings in the tree, the crows shrieked for a time, and then left. I hange those two wings each summer and I’ve never seen a crow in the tree since.

One summer I saw signs from a bear underneath an old apple tree that had several broken limbs. Every few years a few beautiful deer wander through and sample from the different apple trees. I figure they’re comparison shopping.

The wildlife and I exist side by side. I love seeing them all, even the crows. We enjoy trying to outwit each other, making life entertaining for all of us critters.

The Tree with Wings

One of my most treasured possessions is a musty old pair of crow wings. If a wildfire were to threaten my house and I had to jump in the car and go, I might grab those ugly black wings before gathering my albums of old family photos.

Most of the year the wings rest in a sealed plastic bag with a couple of mothballs keeping them company, but when the pears start to blush, when the first ones fall off the trees, and when I notice a few crows perched on nearby wires, I go for the wings.

There was a time when the crows took whatever they wanted from that pear tree, and the “whatever” was plenty. Beautiful pears would accumulate on the ground under the tree. Each had only a couple of deep gouges out of them. My oldest son was home one fall and we watched the crows as they ate their fill. I complained loud and long. They weren’t afraid of my big plastic owl positioned in the tree, nor my flashy scarf that fluttered from one of the branches. My son, who does not shoot birds, suggested that if I could ever find a dead crow on the road or on the beach, I could salvage the wings to hang in the tree. He thought that might scare off the crows.

Right. Like they’d pay any attention to that.

Like I’d be using a knife on road kill

I love watching the mysteries of life around me. I don’t always need to know all the why’s and how’s. I just savor the watching, the mystery, and the beauty. Last month after the first rains hit, following an unusually long warm fall, I stood at the front window and watched smoky swarms of tiny moth-like insects billowing out of the dirt around the raised beds. Probably hatching, I guessed. After a few minutes the fluttering clouds were gone.

The crow that died in my backyard within not more than a day or two of the conversation with my son was sheer mystery. No crows have ever hung out close to the house, but this obviously sick one did. No crow has ever died in my yard, but this one did. It lingered, moving slowly and not flying, behind the garage, not far from my back door for a day or two and then we found it dead. Wings attached. My son quickly cut them off and left them out to dry.

When I later hung them separately, on two sides of the pear tree, a flock of crows circled and shrieked, but would not land. Soon they were gone. They repeat this chorus of outrage every fall when I hang the two wings in the tree, and then they leave and the pear crop is safe for the rest of the season.

Occasionally there are other shrieks. I warned a number of friends who were coming to pick pears this fall that the wings were in the tree, but Sue had forgotten. She admitted to me later, somewhat embarrassed, that when she first glimpsed one of them just above her head as she circled the tree, she screamed.

So, every fall I hang the crow wings up in the tree as a memorial to that dead bird. Don’t even ask where they’re hidden this winter. You’d never find them.