Last week, I stepped out of the never-ending mob of Möbius that I call the Garden Seasons to give a group of neighborhood kids a little perspective on nature.
You know what a Mobius strip is – pop artist MC Escher’s twisted drawing of big ants forever crawling around what at first glance looks like a simple eight. It is also used to reduce wear on car engine belts.
Anyway, I see my garden like this, as it goes from its current paper whites and camellias through forsythia, dogwoods and azaleas, to summer roses and gardenias, then to mums. , with fiery maple leaves and white paper sasanquas. Launch into extreme weather conditions and it’s an exhilarating race that I just can’t seem to fall for, despite it going around and seeming non-stop.
The truth is, gardens may look more like Oscar Wilde’s sinister “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” in which a portrait ages while its hedonistic subject does not. My garden drifts and matures with the seasons, becoming more and more weedy and tumultuous, wallowing in entropy, as I frolic in a new, perpetually pristine growth of botanical gardens still in their prime.
Either way, one of my favorite ways to break out of the routine, both to enjoy the here and now while getting things done, is to share little observations and activities with the kids. I have a ton of easy garden-related activities for kids, ranging from teens barely able to concentrate to brooding teens, and I’ve created a free illustrated PDF for anyone emailing.
At this time of year, the easiest way to detach children for a minute or two from their portable devices is to get them to feed and identify wild birds, and get them to hold onto them in such a way. responsible as a daily chore.
My toddler bird feeder is disposable, a shoebox top lined with foil and filled with sunflower seeds; just lay it on the ground and watch the wild birds flock. We also made flat feeders with raised edges to prevent seeds from escaping and nailed large plastic saucers to posts, with drilled rainwater drainage holes. Glue bare branches here and there for perches, and birds will come in droves, especially with a shallow birdbath reflecting the sky nearby.
That’s about all it takes to attract and appreciate the color, movement, and drama of wild birds. That, and a big window, and a way to keep the neighborhood cats from turning a serene scene into a binge eating. Oh, and an appreciation for squirrels, which are also wild animals, especially for kids who don’t have to shoulder the cost of feeding expensive bird seeds to “tree rats”.
Heard and read all about this and that kind of bird food, interesting mixes and specialty mixes, to types that squirrels wouldn’t touch (FYI, red pepper powder doesn’t deter them. only for a minute or two). But for a few decades now, I’ve just used “black oil” sunflower seeds bought in the 50 pound bag.
The cheap stuff can have a few broken pieces, sometimes even a few grain weevils, but it’s OK for large birds, from blue jays to red birds and woodland doves. And there is also a lot of action from the little sparrows, chickadees, finches and chickadees. I even saw puppies and woodpeckers, which normally wouldn’t come to feeders, calling.
My now adult children were raised in the yard, which brought me there as well; my new granddaughter will definitely grow up there too. Meanwhile, with the permission of the parents, I invite the neighborhood children to get into nature.
That’s what the old people in the neighborhood are for.
FELDER RUSHING is an author, columnist, and host from Mississippi …
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