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Side Yard Wildlife Refuge

Just off our kitchen is a sweet little
side yard, with a door for quick in-and-out and a small patio for
morning meditation. We have a birdbath, a few hanging flower
baskets, some lovely flowering vines, and about a dozen different
fresh herbs planted in a sweet garden. It’s a major reason
why we bought this house.

Every morning we sit at our breakfast table and look out at the
dewy lawn and wonder what visitors the garden will see for the day;
we’ve got a hummingbird feeder that calls frequent visitors,
lots of butterfly-friendly flowers, and pinecones rolled in peanut
butter and birdseed tied to our fence. Cora will happily putter
there all morning, walking back and forth to the rain barrel to
water the herbs or check on the strawberries or try to coax a
four-legged visitor into our yard. And recently, the visitors have
been plentiful.

So plentiful, in fact, that the girls have
started an Observation Log for the yard. This might sound a little
extreme, but bear with me.

First, we’ve got a couple of morning doves who are looking to
go from a couple to a family. For about a week they were moving
amongst our three hanging baskets and we’d look outside and
see the baskets spinning crazily as the birds craned their necks to
see each other. A few days ago they settled on the bougainvillea
and when we brought down the basket to water it later in the
evening we found a nest! So we’ve been quite careful about
watering or touching it too much, and the girls watch it anxiously
for the day when the mother comes and sits – and stays.

Then we have a family of bunnies who quite like our yard. The girls
have named at least two of them, identifiable by markings on their
foreheads, and the littlest bunnies are also the source of much
anxiety: “Look, here comes Li’l Diamond – oh,
where’s her mommy? Is she getting enough to drink?”
“Mommy, don’t go get any herbs right now – Baby
Mac is out there! You’ll scare him!” Add in a couple of
cardinals and a flirting pair of blue jays and we’ve got
quite the busy yard.

Last night I went outside to pick some dill and there on my plant
was a big, fat caterpillar. Excitedly, I called the girls outside
to come and see. “Mommy!” Maddie said happily.
“It’s a monarch caterpillar! Look at how big and fat it
is – I bet its ten days are almost up! Are you gonna go in a
cocoon, little guy?” she crooned to it.

A few minutes of watching the caterpillar steadily munch through my
fern dill was enough for most of us and we traipsed back inside.
Maddie, though, chose to sit and hold the plant while the
caterpillar ate, and when I came outside a few minutes later to
check on her I saw the sweetest scene: there was Maddie, stroking
the plant and talking to the caterpillar. And sitting right behind
her, eating my cilantro, was Li’l Diamond, munching
contentedly and not at all worried about Maddie.

As Thoreau said, Heaven is under our feet as well as over our


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