The other day I was driving one of my “city” friends through a semi-wilderness area. The friend asked me to stop the vehicle to listen a moment. This person had never heard the ebb and flow of nature’s ambient sounds.
On my quarter-acre lot, more often than not, free time ambience is like the start of an Indy race: lawn mowers growling, leaf blowers howling, weed whippers screeching. I spend most of my yard time with a rake and hand clippers. I trim the edges faster and better with my hand clippers than any of my neighbors do with their high-priced weed whips — and get a good workout bending and stretching.
I cut the grass long and leave the clippings in the yard, not because I’m a conscientious tree-hugger, but because cutting the grass long, mulching the clippings and mowing the yard in irregular patterns produces a greener, healthier lawn. It also allows more time to listen to songbirds go about the serious business of attracting a mate, building a nest or chasing away an intruder.
Yesterday in the last sunlight I saw my first hummingbird return from its sojourn in Mexico. I try to prepare separate food sources for yellow finches, cardinals, blue jays and migrating orioles. Hummingbirds get fiercely territorial and have fought other birds to the death protecting their food source. Bald eagles circle overhead riding the thermals off the river ridge a quarter-mile away. A neighbor’s cat slips through the back yard trying to catch a rabbit that lives in the warren underneath the shed or to pounce on a robin sitting on an egg. My trusty canine companion barks loudly to chase away this feline intruder.
A few winters back, we had an opossum visit regularly. We named him Pedro. However, he met an untimely end when he decided to climb on a power line.
Our motion light will come on sometimes in the morning from a deer eating the green twigs from our neighbor’s pussy willow in the spring. During the heat of summer, worms and bugs feast on my compost bin (Ben’s blend: one part green plant cuttings, one part brown leaves, one part black dirt.)
The reason I dwell on how I do my yardwork is because this is the one task of homeownership that does not seem like a chore. Being outside with the sights and sounds of nature is something I would miss if I used a timesaving, noise-producing gadget.
I wish some of my neighbors were like my friend and would also stop, look and listen to nature’s surround sound theater.
Benjamin Cherryhomes lives in Hastings.