Bird’s Nests and Bath Water

I am officially terrified. The state of the planet is really frightening me right now. Add the worst drought since whenever (last one I remember was early 80’s) and it’s no wonder I am in a flap. Oh, and there is fracking fiasco too.  So, as much as possible, I lurk in the shade of my garden trying to celebrate the small things and not think too much about the rest. It doesn’t really work. Even in my garden evidence of the great unravelling is everywhere.

Firstly, there are the charming weavers in the pin oak trees, clattering away busily building nests. This should be a lovely thing. I do enjoy watching them strip the leaves from the branches, collect long stands of grass and weave away.

r weaver building nest

The issue is that they have been doing this for a couple of months already and I have never ever found so many nests on the ground. I do know that they destroy all the hard work if it is not deemed suitable, so usually there are fallen nests under the trees.  But there are hundreds now.  First, they built a bunch overhanging my veggie patch, then tore them all down, went off to another tree nearby, did the same and now they are back, trying again.  The discarded ones are perfectly finished (in my view), lined with feathers and soft leaves.

r bird nest feathers

Is this a instinctive mechanism to prevent them breeding in this season with scarce food and so little water? I know for sure that the term ‘bird brain’ is inappropriate for such clever thinking, particularly while humans are reproducing at the rate of knots despite their knowledge of the challenges their children will face.

r bird nest branch

I like nests at the best of times and often collect fallen ones.  So I have been gathering the weaver’s nests and, because there are so many,  using them as mulch around my veggies. They are perfect actually. They also make great little umbrellas atop sticks to protect seedlings from the fierce sun.  Mulch is the only defence I have to the drought and heat and I do still have green food to eat and share.

r bird nest mulch beans

Clearly, watering the garden is out of the question, despite delicious, cold water still pouring out of my taps. No matter if my neighbours put sprinklers on their lawns, I am not.  For nearly 30 years (probably a water saving habit honed in the drought of the early eighties, when we couldn’t even flush the loo very often and I used 2 cups of water to wash my hair), I have syphoned my bathwater out through the window and used it to water my garden. It is such an easy thing to do.

r bath water window

It is a bit annoying that my bath is below my vegetables, so I have two big barrels that I fill up and then dip watering cans into.  One bucket of bathwater lives in the loo to flush with.  I actually use a lot of water, I suppose, having no shower, but I think using the water twice rather than once and straight down the drain, makes sense.  I assume that living on top of a hill means if does soak down through the earth and join a stream in the valley?

r bath water bucket

Without even needing to know about the starving cows stuck in the mud on the edges of dams and baking to death, I can see we are in trouble. While the thought of the helpless cows makes me unspeakably sad, there is not a lot I can do.  Should I help the wildlife in my own garden though?  Well, this hungry Samango monkey helps himself, wandering into my kitchen to find my fruit, if it is not completely hidden. He and his pals ate every single lemon on the lemon tree too.

r samango apple 001

What about feeding the birds?  I know most people do, but this is a conflict for me.  Providing out of season apples and seeds grown using fossil fuel seems to be adding to the problem we face, even as we try to make things better.  I have also heard of the ‘obese’ sunbirds who have learnt to feast on the sugar water people provide.  I puzzle away at these little things, knowing that even bigger things lie in store.  While my garden is a sanctuary from much of the world, one can’t escape completely.  I keep filling the birdbath and take delight in the splashing, enjoy the chorus that wafts in with cool early morning breezes and pack a water bottle for Dizzy and I when we walk in the hills as we can no longer find trickling steams to drink from.

r weaver bathing

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10 thoughts on “Bird’s Nests and Bath Water

  1. Bridget Ringdahl says:

    have wondered about my weavers too, it is so distressing to see this wasted effort.. bird brain indeed, how ironic that we always use other animals to make demeaning comments, yet humans are the epitomy of ignorance and stupidty. I am so glad there are others lugging buckets and piping grey water onto the garden…. I am going to to try your piping method.
    (Last night we used the water 3times, we all bathed in it, then i washed the nappies in it, then it went onto the garden!!!)

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  2. Lian says:

    Hi Nikki – how do you siphon the bath water up and over the windowsill without sucking on the end of a pipe – or is that what you do?! I carry every drop in buckets, hoping to tone the biceps and triceps at the same time . . . . but have long wanted to get that grey water into the garden more easily?

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    • Nikki Brighton says:

      Easy peasy! Put one end of the pipe into the bath and connect the other to a tap. Open the tap and flush out air bubbles into the bath. Then disconnect the tap and lay it down somewhere below the level of the bath so the water runs out.
      I have two big plastic containers I bought at Victoria Packaging, but they don’t have them anymore. Even a row of 25l buckets would do – or you can let it run directly onto the part of your garden you want to water, as long as it is below the level of the bath.

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  3. janistheron123 says:

    Lovely Nikki! I too feel your angst about Mother Earth and that we are all part of this Enormous problem. I guess that all we can do is our own little bits from our hearts – save water, save energy, help plants survive, help animals survive – and then of course, be as humane as possible…x Janis

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  4. Elle Durow says:

    Hi Nikki,
    A delightful little story highlighting the harsh times that we are living in. Most people put food out for the birds and other small wildlife that lives in their neighbourhoods. Tehe question is: is this the right thing to do?

    I know that we all feel that we, in providing food during difficult times, feel that we are helping the wild creatures to survive during hard times such as during winter and during droughts. I see lean times as Mother Nature’s way of sorting out the weak from the strong and those who have the stronger genes will survive and pass on their stronger genes to the next generation. Those with the weaker genes will not survive and so will be weeded out preventing them from passing on weaker genes to the next generation.

    There are a number of people who feed the wild antelope over dry periods. Unfortunately, they are unable to provide for all of the animal’s requirements and the antelope still have to try to find sustenance in the surrounding countryside. The feeding of the antelope encourages them to remain close to the feeding area and they, consequently don’t wand far from their food and water source leading to over utilisation of the browse. In thornveld areas this leads to the trees putting out tannic acids in their leaves and the over utilisation results in the poisoning of the antelope that eat them. Last year a large number of nyala died as a result of this poisoning.

    If people had not fed the antelope they would have spread out and sourced their food over a wider area thereby preneting their deaths.

    I believe that we should not provide supplementary feed for wild animals, water yes, but food, no!

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    • Nikki Brighton says:

      Thank you Elle for your thoughtful and interesting reply. This sounds a bit like the Reedbuck that feast on the rye grass planted in the midlands and die as a result. A few years ago I found 7 dead buck all within a couple of weeks.

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  5. Barry says:

    We are indeed in a time of great unravelling, and the question is all about our response. I certainly have no answer. Airline pilots are trained, in an emergency to “do something” as that’s usually preferable to doing nothing. What is the “something” that needs to be done?

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