The morning rides with sunshine and the voices of the birds alight with song. The day is new as we set about to travel through Headington to the Kilns.
The tops of our potted vegetables are pecked out by what look like the beak of a mother bird feeding her small one our broccoli. We hear the crying chatter of this small one while the mother dives for nearby greens, or insects to hush her child. Their nest sits atop the patio covering, placing this family in eyes view of the Hummer and her band of friends.
“Wading shore bird searches out insects in pond. Near Mile 0 Alaska Pipeline Route by Dennis Cowals,” U.S. National Archives, 08/1973
Our bird, Hummer, has been spoiled by a constantly filled feeder that Mama keeps for her on the clothes line in our yard. Last week I bought a second feeder, a bit larger, with white flowers. We hung it further down the wire near to the original feeder and found it wasn’t getting much use. “It’s the white flowers.” Mama explained. “She likes the red flowers on this one better.” “Really?” I thought. Knowing little to nothing about birds and not having spent as much time with Hummer as Mama, I had no opinion except to wonder about this.
As we were talking about her again this morning, she arrived, drank, sat on the wire and started to settle herself as she usually does and then surprise, let out a large squirt of pee onto the cement that Mama missed seeing while I exclaimed with pointed finger at the wet droplets.
“Mother hummingbird on edge of nest about to brood young,” by William Lovell Finley, OSU Special Collections and Archives, 1905
Consumed with technological shifts in document creation, I spend less time in the garden and more at work in front of glass covered machines that emit a back light on keyboards that direct my typing. The reality of apples as food is lost on the logo of the company that drives access to the information we chase, churning out apps as tools to document a history that we often do not live into but rather peer at from a screen.
“Northern spy apples,” Huron H. Smith Expedition to Oregon, The Field Museum’s Library Photo Archive, 1910 – 1911
It’s hard to describe how songful the backyard birds are. That I can’t yet name these small birds is due to the time in the garden with the broccoli, beets, basil, dill, and chives. I’ve never planted food from seed nor have I had to navigate the now 3 feral chickens to make sure the crops are still thriving. The yellow leaves on the broccoli were a sign to transplant them into the earth with their siblings so that the integrated soil can deepen their new root life. Meanwhile, the birds chirp away, talking, singing and finding in their own voices a hint of spring gone wild.
“Half grown barn owls,” by William Lovell Finley; Herman T. Bohlman, Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives, 1900 – 1909
The small carrot, broccoli, and beet seeds we’ve potted are sprouting in 2.5 inch plastic pots that incubate by the kitchen light overnight. Once green stems rise from the dirt, we take them outside to fend for themselves in these warm California days. If it gets cold overnight, sometimes we coddle and bring them back in, trying for the first time ever to grow our own food.
“Spirit of ’18. The World Cry FOOD. Keep the home gardening going,” ca. 1917 – ca. 1919, U.S. National Archives, College Park, MD