The planet is our home; we need to be more responsible. Here's what I do.
Last November, at the allotment there was little going on. Most of the vegetable patches were cleared and the permanent plants were dormant.
It was cold and crisp. The sky was relatively clear. What happens at allotments on days like this?
Maintenance and weeding.
Checking things out. Looking for surprises like the odd parsnip. If there’s been frost they’ll be extra sweet.
So I spot that the cabbage family is a bit neglected and weedy looking. They’re a highlight of my veg plans. Last winter we had Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, broccoli and kohl rabi.
Cabbages are very tempting to birds in winter. Pigeons in particular can have a field day, stripping the leaves back to their central ribs.
To protect our precious winter greens, we had assembled a set of plastic tubing and covered it with netting. The nets are held in place with two pronged pins.
I fetched a kneeler (aka swimming float), my gloves and my favourite hand weeding tool. It looks like a claw! The chef set about checking the bee hive and doing some other bits and pieces.
I worked my way along the edge of the section, lifting the net, reaching for the weeds and clearing the dead yellow leaves too.
I worked into the corner fairly slowly. Then something moved. It was in the corner of my eye and initially I didn’t know what it was.
Commonly on our plot in winter we encounter hibernating toads on a regular basis. There are plenty of insects and the odd shrew.
I looked again.
Next to my hand, almost entirely camouflaged against the dull sandy soil was a small female blackbird.
She was motionless.
I looked at her.
She looked at me.
We’ve had some unfortunate discoveries at the garden. The over head power lines have claimed a few casualties including a young heron. An Egyptian goose that hit once was fortunate enough to recover and fly away.
But this beautiful, brown blackbird lay there still.
Now normally blackbirds can be quite friendly but this one was too close.
I kept looking. She stared back. A big brown clear eye.
I thought she was dead.
Then finally she blinked.
A long slow blink.
I couldn’t believe my luck. It was a cold day. If this bird had been there much longer the weather or a cat would’ve finished her off.
So I reached out and picked her up.
The evil net was caught around her head and through her wing feathers.
A sharp knife was the only appropriate implement to hand. Thankfully it didn’t take long to free her.
I checked her soft delicate plumage and her wings for obvious damage.
Then I placed her gently on the ground.
In no time she demonstrated that her wings were working, as she swooped over the fence across the neighbouring plot.
It was a very significant message to me.
Now we are very careful with the net we use and how we fix it. We make sure that we don’t leave any trailing areas that might catch an unsuspecting creature.
As a gardener I need to learn the messages that the garden gives me
I was very glad we met that bird that day.
And very sorry that she got caught.
a blog by a multilingual expat-since-birth, linguist, researcher, mum of three, living in the Netherlands and writing about bilingualism, multiculturalism, parenting abroad, international life...