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Memorial Day

Barn Swallows Have been returning to my barn as long as I have lived here. Two years ago they brought so many friends and relatives that the rafters of my barn were encrusted with their tunnel nests and the floor was impossible to keep clean. There were 32 nests. So we incorporated ornithology into our art class.  Children watched them build nests using mud from the swale across the road in Eric’s field.  We made watercolor sketches of birds and nests and wrote journal entries with facts about these genius construction engineers.

This spring when they returned from South America, they were dismayed to find a new barn door blocking their entry to their customarye nesting site. I’m glad I won’t have the mess to deal with but I do feel sorry that I took away such a good habitat, and I expect we will have more flies and mosquitos this year.

Another  conflict of interests on the farm is the domestic cat population. Our rural neighborhood shelters too many of those prowling felines! The bluebirds and wrens are upset. And this week a roving black cat killed 4 of my pure white baby pigeons.  It’s hard to tell if the parents grieve at all for this loss–they just get right to work sitting serenely on more eggs.

I do think hens grieve. I’ve watched  them fall silent when a death occurs. If one hen is ailing, the others will take turns staying with her, tilting their heads to show their concern for her discomfort.  I spend quite a lot of time watching my flock and its my belief that the phenomenon of hen pecking is associated more with a bored captive flock than with a flock that has places to go and menu options to explore.While hens can be cruel like us humans, overall a backyard flock is a source of joy.  Their social life is one I admire, where contentment prevails.

Thanks to those of you who have contacted me about the art camp. Schools will release the new generation from classroom environments in a few days and I am eager to provide a group experience of enrichment in our area.

A house wren is warbling near the nesting box in my apple tree, reminding me of summers with my father who especially loved these little brown songsters.  He was a conscientious objector during world war two and did government service projects right here in Michigan. His unit planted pines in the Manistee National Forest.  Peace to everyone who remembers a soldier today.


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