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The Humble Gardener

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Garden Patch Fliers

I am supposed to be weeding. It is a mystery to me that the weeds are so high when we have had less than two inches of rain all summer. As I halfheartedly tug at the weeds, an avian soap opera unfolds around me.

The sunflowers are fading quickly but there are still a few seeds on them to entice a couple of finches. The yellow of their feathers as they flit between the heads of the sunflowers offers colorful glimpses of their progress. Joining them is a father cardinal, who adds his brilliant crimson to the mix. There is a little guy with Papa C, who obviously is learning the ropes. The finches hang upside down on the seed heads and pluck seeds where I would swear there were none left. The cardinal family moves to another section of the sunflowers and the lesson begins. Mama C arrives to supervise. It's nice to see the two families sharing the food source without fighting. I make a note to fill the sunflower feeder when I am done weeding to supplement the fading sunflowers.

Nearby, we have planters of petunias intermixed with a hummingbird feeder. Life is not as cordial among the hummers, unfortunately. One guy likes to come to the feeder, circles it to make sure no one is lurking, grabs a quick sip, and returns to his sentry duty in a nearby pear tree. Unsure that there really is no one at "his" feeder, he swoops again and finds no interlopers. Soon another hummer visits the petunias, grabbing some nectar from the blooms and meandering towards the feeder of sugar water. Hummer #1, aka "The Bully", swoops into the flight path and chases the second hummer away. The second hummer returns and the drama is repeated. I see a flash of orange and notice a monarch attracted to the petunias but the bully isn't sharing with her, either. I am starting to get irritated; we have nurtured our milkweed all summer and maintained many nectar plants to attract the butterflies. The bully is not perturbed by my irritation. This, apparently, is his garden. I wish he would share the weeding.

A family of geese swims by and stops to see if my husband is around. I know this sounds fanciful, but I think they are some geese who lived with us. A couple of years ago, the lake flooded its bank and the geese who nest here every year were forced to abandon their nest. A neighbor helped us rescue the eggs and Chip put them in an incubator. They hatched and we found ourselves the reluctant parents of three geese. They were too little to go out on their own so we would take them out in the garden with us. One day, a goose family swam by, and the adults were very interested in our amateur gardeners. We were hopeful that the goose family might adopt our three orphans. The visits continued for a couple of weeks, and finally one day one of the adults came ashore and bobbed its head to Chip. He gently herded the three babies towards her and they went off for a swim. We were elated that the birds had returned to the wild, but as the sun began to set, the babies returned to us. This went on for a couple of weeks and then finally, one night, the babies did not return. We would see the blended family swimming nearby and were thankful that the kids had been adopted. But each summer, small goose groups gather near our dock and spend a lot of time looking up at the garden. We like to think the three babies are bringing their families by to see the old home place.

I remember that I am supposed to be weeding and return to that onerous task. I have been watching three caterpillars that are living on the parsley. We plant extra every year and the swallowtail butterflies lay eggs. As I move to check if the cats are still on the plant, I see a beautiful black swallowtail fly by. Its colors are pristine and its wings are perfect. I am sure it is one of the newly hatched butterflies. All the caterpillars are gone from the parsley so hopefully they have all managed to survive.

I am having a grand time in the garden even though I am not getting much weeding done. Another distraction is provided by a kingfisher who has caught a fish and is whacking it against the top board of my neighbor's dock. It is a fierce contest but the fish loses this round.

Happily it is time for a break so I move to the house to tell Chip about the morning's excitement.

Weeds can wait. They aren't going anywhere.

Today's post was written by Sandra DePalma-Odell. Sandra is a Certified Master Gardener serving Henderson, Knox, McDonough & Warren Counties. A former English Teacher of 27 years, she writes about everyday life as a gardener learning as she grows. In addition to gardening, she loves to read, cook, and hang out with her two grandkids.

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