The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Providing for the Air Support in Pest Control for the Garden.
My 2000 Earthworms for Our Cul-de-Sac

The long pointed beaks of starlings mean they can dig up grubs
and flip mulch over for bugs. Grackles are bigger and even more powerful.
Both species love water and need to use it often.

Yesterday we had blue skies, a baking hot sun, and plenty of birds in the yard, front and back.

I suggested that our doctor get a lot of shallow clay dishes and keep them full of water for the birds in his yard, because he was getting June bugs.

These are steps to take, in order of the most effective and least costly, without using poisons, which are counter-productive:

  • Water is primary, because birds must bathe and drink in dry weather. I use the clay dishes meant to go under flower pots, from Lowe's. They are heavy and easy to clean. Kiddie pools are on sale at Walmart. The sides need to be cut down to keep the water shallow and non-threatening for birds. I clean and fill our pans and community pool twice a day. 
  • Suet is the best overall food, because fat-eating birds also eat bugs. Suet is easy to buy in meat stores and hang in big wire baskets on trees or bushes. Our birds go through five pounds of suet in a few weeks. Woodpeckers, grackles, and starlings love bugs and suet.
  • Berry plants will feed birds all summer long. I have strawberries, wild strawberries all over the backyard, blackberries,  gooseberries, raspberries in two locations, beautyberries, and plans for more.
  • Sunflowers grow all around the yard, so they shelter and feed beneficial insects while providiin birds with their seed.
  • Mulch has been called the largest bird-feeder in the yard, because mulch is alive with creatures that feed birds and improve the soil.
  • When squirrels dominate on the edge of a forest, most bird food will be scarfed down by the greedy little rodents. They happily destroy feeders and bins to get at the food. In grassier areas, finch food is not appealing to squirrels and brings the small birds almost exclusively - finches, chickadees, and sparrows.
  • Purchased seed works best but costs more with a big variety of food. Black oil sunflower seed alone is priced favorably. When the seed includes nuts and fruit, more species will come to the food.
Water is more important than all the purchased food put together, because birds can get plenty of natural food on their own. A variety of natural sources and shelter will easily attract and keep a variety of birds.


Gardeners forget that leaf litter, mulch, tall grass, weeds, and piles of sticks are good habitats to use to attract birds. Where did our baby robin go when he fell out of the nest? First he waited on a tall stump. Next he hopped on the top of a large pile of sticks.

Logs, sticks, and branches can be gathered and used for a natural fence. Why buy garden fence to trip over when logs serve just as well for tripping and also shelter toads, insects, soil creatures, and birds?

We set off each Butterfly Bush with logs and mulch. They look much better and they have their own habitat. I moved one log and a giant toad sat there, royally, steadfastly, placidly. The toads also love those shallow dishes, which they sit in to hydrate themselves. Dishes under the Jackson Aqueduct will fill up in dry and stormy weather.





Maynard G. Krebs Won This Debate
I promised earthworms for two neighbors, just as the weather turned hot and sunny, making the creatures harder to find and much more difficult to dig. 

Mrs. Gardener wanted to compost, and the landscaper wanted earthworms in his new, Jackson Mulch raised beds. I thought of places for earthworms since I expanded gardening so fast this year, so I ordered 2,000 from Uncle Jim's. Far less work for a little money.

I was disappointed in no earthworms in the mail on Thursday, because I knew Uncle Jim sent them Priority on Tuesday. An hour later the doorbell rang and a young women in a Post Office uniform handed me a box that felt like it was full of pudding. "My earthworms!" She smiled and said, "We did not want this left in the box on a day like this, and we wondered what it was." She knew they made the right decision.



I took a bunch of worms over to Mrs. Gardener, who was pleased to get them. No need to buy a bunch when I had plenty to spare. I walked down to the landscaper's on the corner with Sassy to place many more. Earthworms only have to be placed on top of the soil. They did in at once and get hydrated. They lose about half their weight in shipping (in sawdust) and quickly recover. The worms went every place where flowers were growing - and I still had about 1,000 left.

Sassy asked to go inside while I sprinkled earthworms everywhere in our yard, especially near new plants and gardening areas.

A bag of earthworms looks like this, but with more sawdust.