Letter from Birdland: Keeping a close eye on the family forest

Letter from Birdland: Keeping a close eye on the family forest

Birdland is emerald green. We had a satisfying and dramatic thunderstorm last night, and this morning, the corn seedlings have turned the fields into a rumpled pinstriped quilt.

Raindrops glisten on all the leaves and blades of grass. Water has caught in any upturned hollow, and though I faithfully carried fresh well water to the chickens this morning, I see them seeking out the rainwater.

They drink from the puddles in the driveway, from the metal lid on the well pit. They dip their beaks in and then throw their heads back, looking at the sky to swallow. They look like they are singing.

My pear tree, my apples and my real, fruit-bearing quince are blooming.

The ornamental quince is fading, and the lilacs are in their prime. The big, spherical bush in the door yard is more of a colony of quince than one bush.

I noticed this year, for the first time, how many hummingbirds are drawn to the deep crimson flowers. Probably they come every year, but I have always looked for them in the backyard when the lilies come.

The new location of the chicken coop has me walking past the quince more often, and it seems like every time I go to feed the chickens or gather eggs, I see hummingbirds dueling over the lovely flowers. Now this is a huge quince bush, maybe four times bigger than it was when we first moved here, and simply covered with flowers. You would think that they could share, but hummingbirds are very territorial.

I guess I can relate to that. I'm pretty territorial, too. I consider myself one of the stewards of my family's land — our ancestral home. We have some woods, which I love to walk in. I don't mean to be selfish, but when I see cars parked alongside our timber, I want to know who is walking around in our forest and why. Sometimes folks just want to walk there, but sometimes they sneak in to dump garbage or steal firewood. At times, they even cut live trees!

A few weeks ago, my ride-share friend, Gayle, was taking me home after work and we drove through the woods. There was a car and a truck parked at the side of the road by the smock timber. Gayle knows me.

"Do you want to stop?" she asked. She pulled over and I got out. I looked into the woods, but even though the trees hadn't leafed out yet and I could see pretty deep into the woods on either side of the road, I didn't see anyone.

So I wrote a note to put on the windshield of the truck. I tried to strike a balance between friendliness (just because I didn't recognize the cars, didn't mean it wasn't someone with legitimate business there or that they mean harm) and a sense of protectiveness of the property.

I wanted to let people know that they really need permission if they want to walk in our woods and that we do pay attention to what goes on there.

I placed my note and got back in the car, and Gayle drove me home. Then I got on my bike and rode back to the woods.

I had been meaning to go look for ramp, the wild leeks that grow so abundantly this time of year, and see the Dutchman's breeches before they fade, but had been so busy with grading.

My protectiveness was a good excuse to get me there. I leaned my bike against a tree between the two cars and crossed the street to the smock timber.

The Mayapple was abundant, making a little mini canopy on the forest floor, like a tiny fairy wood. Jack was just getting ready to pop out of his pulpit, ramp was growing in clusters and the similar-shaped leaves of the dog-toothed violet grew all around.

I went into the woods a little ways and then stopped and looked. The fresh scent of green, growing things mixed with the musky smell of the decay on the forest floor. Bird songs ran together to make a bright melody. I closed my eyes for a bit. "I am home." I thought. "Why don't I come here every single day?" Then I heard a human mumble of conversation. I opened my eyes and saw two figures walking toward the road. They clearly hadn't seen me yet.

To be continued ...

Protect beauty, defend peace, blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in all the green, growing things in the world and in her backyard. You can read more of her writings at letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Mary can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com or via snail mail care of this newspaper.

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