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Organic Gardening

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Ethical Questions in a Carrot Bed

A nest of eggs

I’m the kind of human who carefully captures spiders in the house and escorts them outside away from playful indoor cats. I try my best to step lightly upon the planet, rejoicing in the wildlife around me as I watch them go about their daily lives. I literally cringe when I drive by butchered trees along the side of the road or see downed trees after big storms. Imagine my dismay when I came across the sight above as I was weeding my wildly overgrown carrot bed.

Had I been weeding in front of me rather than reaching around behind in my lazy efficiency, I might have discovered the nest before I’d removed too much ground cover. I would have mulled over a different set of ethical questions at that point. However, as it happened I discovered this lovely, well-built nest after it was already half-exposed and one egg had fallen out (though I didn’t notice that right away).

What to do? We use our carrots a lot and I don’t have a ready replacement bed, so I decided to temporarily move the nest to a safe spot. I would finish my weeding chore, then replace the nest along with some sort of shelter while hoping that the mama bird might return if I moved my activities to a different part of the garden.

I’ll warn you now, there isn’t a “rest of the story” yet. I’ll have to fill you in at a future time, but I remain ever hopeful because it’s part of my nature. I don’t have to get back into the carrot bed for a couple of weeks — so, if the transition for mama bird succeeds, we may have photos of baby birds. I’m fairly certain these are Carolina Wren eggs as the size and appearance are a decent match.

I haven’t had any birds nest in my carrot bed before, but I usually don’t leave it so long before weeding. I definitely see how this particular spot was so inviting (see upper left photo in the collage below). There was a lush bunch of green cover growing under the safety of some chain link (temporarily pulled back in the photo). I imagined how the babies would have hatched in what seemed like a forest with flowers on the trees and light breezes blowing through.

weeding and amending the carrot bed

After moving the nest to the corner of an adjacent bed, I sheltered it from the sun and wind with a piece of aluminum left over from when our house was re-sided 17 years ago. Then I got back to work, moving a bit more quickly.

I finished pulling the weeds, turned over the bed with my shovel, worked in a bit of that wonderful compost, covered the whole bed with straw, then set about replacing the nest. As I was working I mulled over the things I felt necessary to help recreate the original site of the nest.

I decided to use the piece of aluminum to create a shelter over the top of the nest. I put two small bamboo poles into the dirt on the left side to help hold it in place. I made sure to leave a little bit of the top open on the brick end so that air could flow through. I knew the chain link fencing would keep it from lifting out of place as long as I had those poles.

I topped the whole thing with some of the pulled weeds. I figured even though they will die off quickly, in the near term the mother bird might decide it looked similar enough that she would see if her eggs were still there. I also thought the organic mat would quiet any rain that comes along this week. I know how loud the rain can sound on the metal roof of our house. I have plenty more weeding to do so if it seems like I need to replenish the matting it won’t be a problem.

Providing Safe Critter Spaces

Animals are great at finding safe places to raise their young. I’m thinking that I need to figure out better ways to learn on the fly as I can’t always drop what I’m doing and run to Google. This is the third time I’ve been surprised by unexpected babies in my garden. The first time, over a decade ago, baby bunnies were living under a trellis of gourds. The second surprise was a family of baby ringneck snakes living in my potatoes. I was able to leave the bunnies where they were, but I was harvesting the potatoes when I found the snakes so I carefully relocated them.

Here’s hoping that these latest surprise babies will be nurtured and nourished until they fledge out of my carrot bed. I’ll definitely be weeding that bed earlier next year. I can always depend on my garden to offer up questions of ethics and morals. Digging through the dirt, weeding and otherwise tending to my plants and trees reminds me that I’m not at all alone. In fact, it sometimes seems that I share this small patch of earth with thousands of other creatures.

For photos of some of our wildlife friends, visit this page on my website.

size and location of the nest

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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