Today, we managed a bike ride in the city forest. In the past month, our schedules have been so busy that we barely have time for bike rides, but we keep managing to sneak to the forest every chance we get. I still love riding my bike. I am getting better at it, too. I don’t feel so scared I’m going to crash and die all of the time. I am definitely the weakest link in our little trio, but Ron and our son stop every time there is a turn and wait for me, so I won’t take a wrong turn. Ron, forever the motivator, tells me what a good job I am doing. Our son, so completely a teenager, sometimes seems annoyed with my slowness–but only sometimes.
Today, he seemed tired, so while Ron did an extra lap around the forest, our son stayed with me until Ron came back around to us. While Ron was making the extra lap, my son went slowly the whole time, so I could keep up. We stopped for a while and talked about the trees. We saw a magnificent rabbit. We met a little porcupine. We had a great time, and because we were traveling more slowly than usual, I stopped quite a few times to take pictures.
It was the best bike ride of my life, and I am thankful for these pictures. I hope my son will remember this day, somewhere down deep–the bike ride with his mama in the beautiful city forest with the fantastic foliage and the little rabbit and porcupine. He’ll remember that, right?
It was just this perfect afternoon being with my family and the trees. One time, we stopped in a clearing for a break, and looked up to see like 50 beautiful birds flying high, right over our heads.
“I wonder that kind of birds they are,” Ron asked.
“I think they are crows, but they are so quiet. I’m not sure.” I responded.
And, then, as soon as I finished that sentence, as if just to let me know, we heard the “caw, caw, caw.”
This morning, I took pictures while Ron and I were out doing our morning chores. I enjoy morning chores most of the time, but I still get busy and forget to admire the beauty around here. These pictures remind me of how lovely it is and how fortunate I am. I hope you enjoy these pictures too.
Yesterday, Ron bought me a bicycle. Ron would correct my grammar on that sentence and say to write “Ron bought a bicycle for me.” And then I would glare and him and say “I teach linguistics.” And then he would say, “I’m just letting you know.” But I have to say it this way because I’m so excited about it, and it feels more personal this way. It’s the best present to me! It’s a beautiful bicycle. A friend was going to give us a bicycle, and we thought we should pass because we never ride bicycles. But it planted a seed in Ron’s mind, and yesterday, he bought me a beautiful blue bicycle.
I hurt so much from riding and riding and riding it that I can barely walk tonight, but I am in love with this bicycle. First of all, I can’t believe I can ride it. I think it’s been 25 years since I rode a bicycle. I was sure I couldn’t remember how to ride, but it’s true what they say, “It’s like riding a bicycle.” How is this possible, by the way? I forget how to do all kinds of things. I surely can’t remember html anymore at all. But I can still ride a bicycle? How is this?
And riding a bicycle is a joy to me, though I have to tell you I nearly ran over a couple of chickens in the driveway because I was a little wobbly at first. They were curious about my bike, but they learned quickly to stay away!
Still, I got better quickly, and have been bike riding all day. We took our new bikes to the coast and road a VERY easy trail. I smiled so much my face hurt. I was planning my life around bicycle rides in nature.
I had to be careful because, a couple of times, I nearly crashed looking at the nature, but I loved looking at the nature! The water was beautiful. I was trying to figure out how to plan our days around bicycle rides until winter. It’s tough. We are very busy with harvesting and back to school (we homeschool) and, this year, we are doing a Farmer-ish booth at the Common Ground Fair. It’s a lot for sure, but I am going to need more bike rides. I hope I don’t fall. I’m pretty careful. I can’t believe how much fun it is to ride a bicycle. It was the best gift ever!
On our ride, I saw and greatly admired this fence. There was a cool old house on the water behind this fence. Ron called it a “witchy fence,” and that made me love it even more. I know a few witches and fancy all things witchy. Isn’t this the most fantastic fence?
It’s so much work to build a fence. Ron built all of the fencing on our property by cutting down old Cedars and then digging the holes and then putting up fencing all by himself. I would help when he really needed a hand, but he did most of it himself because I was doing other work. His work was epic.
I would love to talk to the person who built this fence and ask questions about how they did it. I assume they must be so proud of such a lovely fence. I mean, it couldn’t keep in a chicken, but fences have other purposes, of course.
I think the first time I remember really falling in love with something was when I was about four or five years. My aunt and uncle lived in a beautiful part of southern Florida when I was a little girl. My uncle managed a fancy condominium, and when he and my aunt first moved there, they lived in a tiny apartment on site. This meant they had access to a gorgeous private beach.
The first memory I have of visiting them in Florida was right about the time I was in Kindergarten or about to start Kindergarten. I think it was right before my parents divorced, but I’m not sure. I just remember being very much in love with my aunt and uncle and their apartment on the private beach. It was the most beautiful place in the whole world, as far as I was concerned.
But my aunt did something for me during that visit that very likely changed me as a little human. At the very least, I was so awe inspired that it is one of the most powerful positive memories I have of my whole life. I remember my awe so well, even though it was so long ago.
She got me out of bed and told me to come with her outside. I think she brought my brother too, but I was so little I can’t remember Plus, all of my attention was on her. We walked along a short path to the sea, and it was a full moon. The sky was so bright, and I remember so clearly how the ocean looked lit up and glimmering in the moonlight. I could see so well in the dark night thanks to this brilliant full moon. And, then as we were walking, she suddenly stopped me. She said we couldn’t go down into the sand because the sea turtles were down there.
And, then, I adjusted my eyes and saw it–I could see sea turtles! Some were coming. Some were going. My aunt told me what they were doing and taught me about how the sea turtles would come lay their eggs on the beach and then head back to the ocean. She told me that conservationists would come and put posts around the eggs to protect them, to remind people to stay away from the eggs. I remember being disappointed (with my little selfish self) at first because I wanted to go touch one of the eggs. I guess I was an egg person even then.
But she explained how important it was to protect the sea turtles, that they were endangered. She explained to me what that meant, and I understood and thought it was awesome people were protecting the eggs and the baby turtles. I soaked in the information and the beauty and fell so much in love with the ocean and the sea turtles–and my aunt, of course.
The next morning, she took all of us to the beach and showed me the markers for the sea turtle eggs. I wished I could stay until the baby sea turtles hatched. But I think we stayed only about a week. I would return to Texas, and my life was about to change for the worse. But I held onto that memory–all of these years. It is only now, as I reflect, that I realize this may have been the moment that inspired me toward a life of loving nature.
Last month, we went to the New England Aquarium in Boston, and a sea turtle swam right up to me and seemed to say hi. It was magnificent!
Ron said, “I asked it to do that for you.” I said, “I did too.”
All this week, I have been taking our son to a small town on the coast of Maine for music camp. The little town is beautiful and so very coastal Maine. There are gift shops and little outdoor restaurants and a fantastic bakery. But it’s very busy because, of course, it’s peak tourist season here in Maine, and there’s a lot of traffic.
I decided this morning that, one way or another, I was walking down the road until I found some nature. I couldn’t believe how much I missed nature after just three days away from home.
So I started walking, and I walked and walked and walked. Every time I thought I found a spot on the water, I would see a “private property” sign. Sigh. This is the one thing I think I love least about Maine–the coast is very much owned by the very much wealthy. I lived in Oregon for six years, and I was spoiled by the coast there. It’s all public land. You can just walk up to the water any place you like.
But I learned a long time ago that, if you just keep looking, you can find a little bit of public land here in Maine. I made it about a mile and half when I saw it–a park with loads of beautiful flowers and a view of the water! There were flowers and butterflies everywhere. It was magnificent.
Then, I saw the water. I made my way to a bench overlooking the water, took my shoes off, put my feet in the grass, and just soaked it all in. I love going barefoot in the grass. I have such dirty feet all summer because I just have to walk around and have my feet touching the Earth.
I read that there is something to do this, that there really is some benefit to people, maybe some more than others, to connect directly to the Earth like that. I am definitely an empath and have no doubt that I am one of those people who needs feet on the Earth. I swear, the grass on my feet while I sat and looked out at the water felt like little bit of heaven.
I love Maine in the summer. It makes you work a little bit sometimes, but my goodness, it’s so worth it.
On July 4, 1845, Henry David Thoreau moved to a tiny cabin on Walden Pond in order “to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
On this July 4, at first, I thought about my disillusionment and the mourning I felt for the liberties of clean air, clean water, wholesome food, and bodily autonomy that have been taken from us.
But, then, I remembered that July 4 was the day Thoreau moved to the woods of Walden Pond, and I remembered Thoreau gave me a path to an independence of sorts that is as outside as I can get of a corrupt system with a government that allows big business to poison us, to kill us, and big religion to divide us–ALL in the name of profit and power.
Today, I celebrate Henry David Thoreau and an environmental movement that, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling last week against environmental protections, continues to live–and thrive in many ways.
I celebrate July 4 as a day of environmentalism, as a day to remember that we are a part of Nature and that Nature is a part of us. When we separate ourselves from Nature, we make it easier for those would wish to destroy it in the name of greed to do so. Nature is our home. The birds in the trees are our brothers and our sisters, and clean water, fresh air, and good soil are essential to all of our lives.
Today, I cannot celebrate “freedom” in America because too many of us are not free. But, today, I can celebrate Thoreau for helping to open my eyes and the eyes of so many others who continue to be inspired by a human who was flawed but striving, as we all should be, I think, to treasure and protect Nature because it’s the source of everything for us.
Today, a young man, perhaps an idealist, went to the woods, and he wrote about his experiences and tried to make a difference in the short life he lived.
This morning was a big morning, full of mixed feelings. Our tiny neighbors moved out. By the end, we could see that our Eastern Phoebe couple had raised FOUR beautiful babies, and that little nest was quite crowded.
On Saturday, the parents put on quite the show. It was like they decided that Saturday was the day they were getting those babies out of the nest. All day long, there was flapping and encouraging–and back and forth between the nest and the deck rail, the nest and the fence, the nest and the strawberry fence posts. Those parents were working hard!
The babies were having none of it.
It reminded me of potty training my children. You get geared up for it and decide “this is the day we’re starting.” Then, you work so hard all day, maybe two days, maybe three days, maybe a week, and then, you’re so tired you have to take a break.
That’s what happened with the Eastern Phoebe parents. After all of that work on Saturday, on Sunday, they just rested. The babies seemed content with this plan, except that mama and daddy were feeding them far less. One time, I walked up to the nest and their little mouths opened.
But, after that day of rest, the parents were back to work yesterday, and this time, things were hopeful. There was much wing flapping from the babies. They stood up and flutter, flutter, fluttered.
“They’re close,” I told Ron.
“I wonder if they’ll stick around a bit after they can fly,” he responded.
“I hope so,” I said but worried in my heart they would head out on their own before I was ready.
This morning, Ron was watering the garden because we didn’t get the promised rain, and I was working at the kitchen table on a special quilt for a toddler. As I stitched, I could hear a lot of fluttering outside the kitchen window. When I made it to a spot where I could take a break from my stitching, I went out to check on the nest.
I have checked on that nest at least five but closer to ten times a day every single day since the parents started building. This morning, when I checked, the nest was empty.
My heart sank.
I went to check under the nest, and there were no babies on the ground. “I guess everyone flew away,” said to myself and started looking around the area.
Then, on the strawberry patch fencing, I saw two babies. They looked just like their parents, so grown up, only smaller and with that wide baby mouth still. I walked down to see them but didn’t want to get to close. After as much study as I could give them, I made my way back to our deck, feeling melancholy for myself but proud for our little parents.
As I headed toward the chairs on our deck, a little flutter occurred not five feet from me. And, there, on one of our chairs, one of the babies stopped, rested, and looked right at me. He just stared at me for the longest time, and I, of course, took pictures. That baby sat there forever. He or she sat there with a look like, “thanks for letting us crash here, human.”
Finally, the baby flew away. I didn’t think it was possible for me to love this little family of birds any more than I already did, but I was wrong.
Right now, I don’t know what happens next. I am trying to find research about what happens to the babies. Do they stay close? Do they head right out? Will our little parents raise their next batch in this nest (they raise two broods each summer), or will they move on? Will they be back next year? Can I make it a year without this little joy in my life?
What a gift this experience has been! Our deck is quite bug free; my heart is full of love; and my mind has been expanded by the learning about these wonderful birds. What a fortunate human I am!
I just have to figure out how to cope with the reality of an empty nest.
Well, I broke my promise to keep my distance from my tiny new neighbors’ home. I didn’t get too close, but I got a little closer than I had promised. To be fair, I was worried one of the babies was dead. To be honest, I mostly knew it wasn’t and knew I should mind my own business even if it was. But I am curious. I am also a worrier. I had to take a closer look.
I just kind of looked with my phone though. I stayed about 10 feet away and just held up my phone and zoomed the camera all the way in. I got a picture. I also saw the baby that I thought was dead shake their little head. Not dead, of course. Just very chill babies. This is my first experience having a bird nest so close watching wild babies. I thought the babies would be rowdier, like baby chickens. Not at all. They are so quiet and chill. They only cheep every now and then. Maybe they are really content. They do have two parents working to meet their needs 24/7. Ron said maybe they have to be quiet for danger reasons. That makes sense too.
Either way, I learned today that the babies are not dead. I also learned they are fuzzy and adorable, like ugly adorable, and now I am in love with these babies, just like I am in love with their parents.
I seem to be learning something every day from these tiny neighbors. I looked and could not find a book on Eastern Phoebes. I feel like these amazing birds should have a whole book devoted to them. How can there not be such a thing?
So I am learning everything I can from the internet. The Audubon Guide to North American Birds has been helpful but is not nearly as detailed as I would like. But here are a few tidbits I have learned so far.
Eastern Phoebes mate for life! How magnificent is that? Apparently, sometimes, the male will have two mates though, but he stays with those for life.
Their nests are made of mud, moss, leaves, grass, and animal hair. I am certain the inside of that nest must include Boudica fur. Every nest I have ever found on the ground around here included Great Pyrenees fur.
Both parents feed the babies, and they stay very busy. I have seen so many mouthfuls of bugs headed to that nest. The babies are thankful. I am also thankful. We live in the Maine woods. There are plenty of bugs to spare.
They will often raise two broods each summer. I am hope, hope, hope, hoping they use the same nest. Apparently, they often do. I believe these birds know they are very welcome here. My husband and I have our tea and coffee on the deck every morning and just watch them in action. So far, they seem totally fine with us being there, but I hope they know I love them.
The migrate as far south as Mexico. I have never been to Mexico but would love to go. I wish my neighbors could tell me about Mexico. I wish they could tell me about their amazing journey. Can’t you just imagine?
And, of course, the babies are amazingly chill. I will have to keep reading to see if I can find out more about this. I can’t see for sure how many babies are in the nest, but I definitely caught two little fuzzy heads in my picture.
The babies will start to leave the nest in about 16 days. I think we are at day 3 or 4 right now.
That’s all I have for now. I can’t wait to learn more, and I will keep you posted on the babies. It’s fascinating to me to have these wild birds and babies to observe while Ruby is also raising her baby chicks. It’s a great vibe. We have some children coming to our little farmstead to visit in the coming weeks, and I can’t wait to share all of this with them.
Also, how devastated am I going to be when my tiny neighbors leave? There will be many tears.
A few weeks ago, we noticed that some tiny birds were building a magnificently-messy nest by our back deck. At first, we weren’t sure what kind of birds had moved in right next door (well, above the window and on the drain pipe). They were very busy building the nest–at least I thought there were two birds building the nest. It turns out, our new neighbors are Eastern Phoebes, and I learned that the female builds the nest all by herself. I swear, she was working so hard it surely seemed like there were two of her.
This reminds me of some of my mom friends. Maybe all of my mom friends.
We were worried at first about disturbing the nest. We love our giant deck and always spend a lot of time out there in the summer. We were willing to stay away for the sake of the birds, but I learned that Eastern Phoebes are quite people tolerant. This made me happier than I can say–and not just because we were going to be able to keep using our deck. This meant I was going to get to watch some beautiful birds this summer. I was so excited thinking about what I might learn from our tiny new neighbor.
Though Eastern Phoebes are supposedly very people tolerant, I am still careful not to get too close. I can see that the female is sitting on her eggs, just like Ruby in tiny form. Eastern Phoebes have long tails, so every day, I see her up there and just see her little head and her little tail. Sometimes, when I am busying around on the deck, I see her watching me. This makes my day.
Last weekend was the first time I saw her watching me. I was on the deck a long time planting seeds into flower pots, and I had been looking and looking at the nest but couldn’t see her. I was actually worried she had moved, that maybe we had disturbed her too much. But after a bit, I was sure I felt someone watching me. I looked over my shoulder, and there she was, up in her nest, with her head leaned over, peeking out at me.
I fell in love with her right then.
I told her I would never get too close to bother her. I am assuming she was thinking, “I have concerns about our neighbors.”
But I have been very good. I have kept my distance, but I take peeks at her several times a day. She’s almost always there. I read tonight her eggs will hatch in 16 days. I don’t know for sure when she started, but I think there may be babies very soon. I also read Phoebes will usually hatch two broods. Lucky me!
I also read tonight that the male defends his nesting territory with his singing, especially at dawn. Fantastically, I hear him every morning. He sings “fee-bee, fee-bee, fee-bee” every single morning at dawn. His favorite tree seems to be the one right outside our bedroom window.
This morning, the windows were open, and I first heard the little male Phoebe about 5:30 or so. It was just a little bit of heaven for me. I didn’t have to get up yet and start the day, so I just lay there with the morning light coming in the window and “fee-bee, fee-bee, fee-bee” filling the air. Ron can’t hear the Phoebe. His little call is too high pitched for Ron’s ears, so as I lay there,, I just treasured this little miracle of morning that, in the moment, felt like it was just for me.
Ruby is doing fairly well, but I worry about her color. Her comb is so pale. She’s eating and drinking some, but I am thankful the baby chicks will be hatching fairly soon. I had to pull her off of her nest this morning to make her take a short break. She didn’t stay away very long at all. She’s very serious about this. But I did sneak away a few eggs for a quick candling. The Salmon Faverolle eggs were all developing beautifully. I could see the shapes of the babies coming. Sadly, I am not sure that Juliet’s egg is developing. The shell is dark, and I was hurrying, which means I am not sure. Still, I don’t think it’s hopeful for our little cowbird’s egg. I’ll try to take another peek in a few days to confirm.
I have a story to tell today! But, before I can tell it, I think I have to give a little context.
In 2019, we had our first hawk attack on our chickens. I was in the house and heard a loud scream from the chicken area, but I didn’t run out there right away. We had 8 young chickens, who were about 9 weeks old, and they had just been out with the “grown ups” for a few days. I watched them closely for the first couple of days to make sure they weren’t picked on too much. They weren’t. We have a pretty peaceful flock. But a couple of them just screamed and screamed at the slightest peck on the head. They had some melodramatic leanings for sure. One was a little rooster, and he was as cute as can be–and such a mama’s baby. When his mama said he had to be grown up at 9 weeks, he took it hard.
Given this situation, I took my time getting out to the chicken area when I heard that scream. When I opened the front door and saw the reason for the scream–a hawk on the back of one of my original Rhode Island Reds, Lucy II, I was devastated. I ran upon the hawk, but I was too late. It was truly one of the most devastating experiences because I could have saved her. I felt like the worst chicken mama in the world, and truly, that day, I was.
I vowed that would never happen again.
And it hasn’t. I am now extremely in tune with every sound, every call, every bit of talking. At the slightest potential sound of distress, I drop everything I am doing and go check. Without fail. Every single time. For nearly 4 years. I’m going to be honest, I don’t know if it’s good for my nerves, but it is what it is.
I have become so adept at figuring out bird calls, I feel part bird. This has been helpful in keeping my chickens safe, but we live in the Maine woods, and in the spring and summer, this means I also hear, with far too much detail, the calls of the birds in our woods. It’s mostly wonderful, but being awoken at 4:00 in the morning because a wild bird is upset about something does get old. And the worst is when I hear a baby distress call. The very worst is when I hear a baby distress call that goes on and on and on and on. I know something must have happened.
That happened last night. I was cooking a very late dinner because Ron was working in the garden until dark and I had some final grades due for a class. As I was cooking, it was starting to get dark outside, and I heard the distress call. I kept hearing it and hearing it and hearing it. It’s heartbreaking.
When Ron came in, I told him about it. And then told him about it some more. I knew there was nothing to be done. I could tell it was in a tree very near our house, but I had no idea what tree, and what would I do anyway? Climb a tree?
Ron got up and shut the windows. “There,” he said. “No more outside noise.”
We finished dinner, and then I got the duck’s peas ready for bedtime. I opened the back door and stepped out to greet the ducks and was also ready to listen carefully to see if I still heard the baby bird distress call.
What I heard instead was a scream that sounded just like a human screaming in terror, and it was coming from right above my head.
I just froze in panic. For a few seconds, my brain had no idea what I had heard. I had this instinct to drop the peas and run, but I also had the instinct to run to my ducks to protect them. I couldn’t move a muscle. And then, about 30 seconds later, I heard “who cooks for you?”
Oh my gosh! That’s a barred owl, I thought to myself, and I could breathe again. Of course, then I realized I had better get the ducks into the house, as that owl was right above us. I watched far too much of a video one time about what an owl does to a duck head. Thankfully, the ducks didn’t play their games too much last night and went into the duck house fairly quickly. As I circled the duck house for a few short rounds of the duck game, I realized I also didn’t hear the baby bird in distress anymore…
It could be a coincidence, but the sounds were definitely from the same area. And, as sad as I am for that baby bird, I know an owl has to eat, and it’s better this way than that poor baby starving to death.
When I came inside to tell Ron about it, he didn’t seem to understand the weight of my fear of that first scream. He probably would have known it was an owl immediately. I did not. I hear a lot of owls, but I had never heard that particular scream that close to me before. I’ll bet it was less than 15 feet from me.
My adrenaline must have gotten up so much from the scream that I ended up with a terrible headache, and, of course, felt silly for being so scared. I guess, for about 30 seconds, I thought Stephen King was right and there were terrible things in the Maine woods.
Thankfully, it was just a barred owl, but if you have never heard the scream, you must listen to it here. I found it by Googling “barred owl scream.” And when I searched for it, one result come up “owl that screams like a human.” Here it is below. Listen at 0:07.
If you think it’s terrifying too, please leave a comment because I think Ron thinks I am ridiculous for being so frightened.
And I have to give a quick Ruby update. She took a break from her eggs today and didn’t want to go back again. She flew over into the main chicken area and was just having a party with everyone else. I had to run her down in the chicken run after an hour of her party, which made her stress–and everyone stress. I honestly can’t believe I caught her again. She’s so fast! But she ran under a shrub and thought she was hidden from me, so I scooped her up. When I took her back to the eggs to see if she was going to get back on them (I was starting to think I was maybe going to have to give her eggs to Kate, who has also gone broody now), she went straight to them, wiggled her little self on them, and then screamed at me for getting too close when I checked her water. That chicken.