Baby birds and a baby -- 4-28-14

(A robin, sitting in a nest as long as Santa’s beard, waits for her eggs to hatch. To enlarge the picture, click on it.)

Why things sometimes get done slowly at my house -- why that’s not always a bad thing:

My story begins a few years ago, when we hired a former co-worker to fix one of our old garage doors, two-piece wooden models that swung out rather than rolling up. He said he would try.

He soon told us the wood, more than 50 years old, was rotten. Not to worry, he said. A friend of his had a roll-up door that would fit our space exactly. And so he installed it, with a promise to find a matching one for the other side.

But then our friend got sick and could no longer work, which left me to search for a door and find an installer on my own. Fearing I would not get an “old friend” price from someone who didn’t know me, I procrastinated.

Meanwhile, the paint on the remaining old-time door began to flake off, giving half the garage a dilapidated look. So when some leafy vines began to crawl up and cover the surface, I said, “What the heck” and let Mother Nature do a camouflage job -- until I got around to doing something else.

This spring was my deadline for action -- until a mother robin came along. Instead of using the crook of a tree, she built her nest in a hammock of vines. It fell down once and the springy quality of the vines required much more material than robins usually use. But mama robin persisted and she finally got it up. To install a new door now would negate all of her hard work, and be really mean, too. Wouldn’t it?

And so as I waited for her eggs to hatch, I began to think about what my wife and I had done while we weren’t fixing the garage door.

We took care of our infant granddaughter for several months at the start of this school year, until circumstances made full-time care impossible. We still care for her one or two days a week, an experience which forced us to remember how all-consuming a parent’s job can be.

Like the robin, who flies away from the nest whenever anyone approaches, then returns as soon as the coast is clear, parents cannot just fly off on a whim. If they must leave, they return quickly, preferably with food for the little one.

And then there’s the process of nurturing. The saddest thing about teens giving birth is that they often don’t know that talking to a child and holding it close are as important as feeding it.

The robins will fly, much more quickly than our granddaughter, who celebrated her first birthday this past Saturday. While we watch the birds and the baby grow, the door will just have to wait.


My son’s two raised beds in Greencastle, Pa., are taking shape now. After reading the results of a Penn State soil test, he did the following:

-- The soil test found that in both raised beds, the pH -- the measure of a soil’s acidity or alkalinity -- was in the optimum range, as were potash and calcium.

However, phosphate was in the “beklow optimum” range. To fix that, test recommendations were to apply 0.5 lbs. of UREA (nitrogen) per 100 square feet and 1.0 lbs per 100 square feet of 0-46-0 per 100 square feet. My son obtained both at Snavely’s Garden Corner, applied them and tilled the soil again.

Continuing his father’s tradition, when he pulled the rented tiller to start it, the cord popped out and the machine immediately stalled. Fortunately, he had paid extra for damage insurance, so the rental shop attached another mechanism and he got back to work. In the same situation 25 years ago, I would have taken the machine apart because taking it back to the shop would mean time lost from the job and how difficult can these things be to reassemble anyway? He is smarter than I am, but then he had my bad example to learn what not to do.

In about two weeks, we’ll be past the last frost date and he’ll be able to plant most of the vegetables he wants to grow. In the meantime, my wife and I have filled our plastic planting box on legs with kale, cabbage, spinach, lettuce and Brussel sprouts, all of which seem to be thriving.

The flower bulbs seemed to have survived the winter well, sending out the best display in years and so are the wildflowers -- purple and white dog violets, dandelions and clusters of tiny blue flowers I haven’t been able to find in my field guide yet. Each has its cycle and I’m afraid if I stop looking, I’ll miss something we could photograph and show you in greater detail.

( Did you like this column? Please send suggestions and constructive criticism to


Recent Posts
2015 Big Tomato Contest
A baby and bright leaves -- 10-15-14
A baby who loves leaves -- 10-14-15
Building a compost pile -- 9-29-14
The lowdown on crickets -- 9-15-14
Monday 15th September 2014
Fall planting how-to's --9-8-14
Garden roundup and recipes -- 9-3-14
Rain, autumn and amaranth -- 8-25-14
Saving seeds -- 8-18-14
Tomato contest winners - 8-11-14
Big Tomato Contest Aug. 9 -- 8-4-14
Progress Report- Friday 25th July 2014
A basket of garden tips -- 7-15-14
How to plant a tree -- 7-7-14
Trees to like and hate -- 6-30-14
Time to give up? -- 6-24-14
Tomato growing tips -- 6-18-14
Tomato tips -- 6-17-14
Big Tomato Contest in August -- 6-11-14
Bees, bush cuts and baby weeds -- 6-10-14
Winterburned evergreens -- 6-2-14
After a slow start... -- 5-26-14
First report on the garden -- 5-20-14
The last frost date -- 5-5-14
Baby birds and a baby -- 4-28-14
Reading a soil test -- 4-15-14
Seeds of a family -- 4-7-14
Scent of a bug -- 4-2-14
Big trees and gusty winds -- 3-24-14
Spring lawn care -- 3-17-14
Stink bugs killed by Jack Frost? -- 3-10-14
Family Tree -- 3/2/14
Taking Residence -- 2-24-14
Prudent Pruning -- 2-17-14
Damaged tree care -- 2-14-13
Winter turf care -- 2-4-14
Cool-weather crops -- 1-28-14
Garden soil testing -- 1-20-14
Garden partners -- 1-13-14