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Juniper Berries

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Backyard Wildlife Garden

Last spring,
when the free-ranging chickens
ate the first plants–tomatoes–
I put in the new garden plot,
(which I had spent 18 months
building
with compost, alpaca beans, straw,
molasses, bone meal, blood meal,
lava sand, cardboard)
we decided to keep the chickens and guineas
here at the farmhouse
and Ann would raise the vegetables
at the pond house.
So, what to do with this
fertile garden plot?
All last winter, I had enjoyed a pheasant family
coming to eat the wheat grain
out of the straw in the garden.
So I decided I’d add plants
that wildlife enjoy.
I’d already planted asparagus beds,
so they remained
(though not for the wildlife.)
I transplanted some volunteer Lambs Quarter
Ann had removed from her flower beds.
It grew six feet tall over the summer,
surviving giant grasshoppers.
The grasshoppers demolished
some bare root bushes
I had planted.
Many native plants grew in the garden
voluntarily.
I let it go natural,
let the grasshoppers have their way
all summer.
There are lots of sunflowers,
now tempting tiny birds
with dried seeds.
The birds hang out
in the Lambs Quarter too.
Wildlife will also come
for the beautiful blue berries
on the old Juniper nearby.
A flock of Cedar Wax Wings
stayed a few hours
recently.

Though I sometimes wonder if I’ll
be able to grow vegetables
if I need to someday, for now
Ann’s vegetable growing–
in the high tunnel–is epic.
I can always do as our friends
Bruce and Barbara have done
to save their garden (from grasshoppers):
box the whole thing
with a six-foot tall covering
of bird netting.

This is the moment of truth
for the wildlife garden.
Now that winter days are here
I’m hoping for pheasant,
and maybe–just maybe–
the five deer that take morning strolls
just south of the hermitage,
will make their way up
to their garden.
I’m not intending to eat
wildlife; they are food
for each other, perhaps,
and my soul.