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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.