Taking Flight, Again

baby_pheobes Last year, Phoebe, our winged resident, built her nest in one of two Arroyo Craftsman lights that frame the front door. Each year, I marvel at why she chooses the busiest location to tend to her nest, as she has a hissy fit -- tail flicking, stressed alarm calls -- every time the screen door opens and closes. Despite the coming and going disturbances, she keeps showing up each year to tend to her latest brood.

Peering around the corner from my summer office, the screened-in porch, I watched the building take shape. My front door, with its lopsided entrance, one light adorned with twigs and branches, the other naked, winked daringly to keep my distance.

It reminded me not to leave behind my work utensils on the commute from kitchen to porch.

Computer, check…glasses, check…phone and headphones, check…cloth napkin, check (have been known to spill while groping for the teacup in a computer trance)…

With loving care, Phoebe folded the natural bedding round and round until the little nest fit her perfectly. Then she sat, shimmying from side to side, watchful eyes aimed at the porch. One day, her peeping took on a fevered pitch and she was done sitting -- hatched -- five tiny, translucent bodies with open wide beaks peeking over the top of the nest.

Then came a soaking rainstorm. In the early morning hours, the summer sky opened to a deluge of windswept water. When the riot subsided, I tiptoed out to the porch, arms full of work paraphernalia, focused on not slipping on the slick deck. Stepping into the safety of the porch, I noticed the silence. No mother/child chorus. No movement above the light. Dead quiet.

Right about this time, my writing ebbed.

For months, writing had flowed out of me like nobody’s business. Notes filled notebooks and pages piled up. Then an insightful editor told me to put the breaks on the floodwaters and get cranking on publishing.

In the meantime, I continued along my work trail. Work thrived. Writing limped.

Even blog posts that used to spring out of nowhere, where nowhere in sight.


A few weeks ago, right on schedule, Phoebe came back and laid her eggs -- one, two, three. All fluff and beaks, these minis flourished.

One morning, the birds stood up, peered around their nest, and like a toddler about to throw one chubby leg over a crib gate -- they were ready. Thinking the birds would jump ship, I went around back to enter the porch. But they held tight.

The next day I was leaving for the BlogHer conference – 3 insanely hectic days in NYC. I dreamt about gardens and flight. The stark contrast of my lush home in the woods to the rush of city lights and throngs of people, couldn’t be harsher. But I enjoy the freedom of travel and look forward to the change of scene; always thankful I have a refuge, this haven, to return to. My nest.

Returning, I walked out to the porch this morning and the peeping started, reaching an all-time high. Then, in a blink of any eye, the babies flew over to the power line that connects us to the rest of the world. There they sat, tails flicking like mom’s. Once safely ensconced in my writing porch, I watched them fly into the woods, one by one.

Settling down to work, I click on my computer, but instead of opening my Inbox, I stare at a blank white page. Maybe I could write something today? How do I know?

'Cause just like that a post took flight.

Photo note: I tried hard not to disturb Pheobe and her babies. I didn't dare take photos. This photo of sleeping newborns is from Shutterstock.

Please Don't Pollute Our Nests

I love nests. The original logo for Econesting was a nest. My daughter (a graphic designer) and I went back and forth between a nest or a tree logo. At the time, my life was in flux. I had just left my teaching job, and as my youngest left for college, my nest was empty. The nest seemed so fragile and exposed. My daughter guided me towards the strong, solid tree. We both loved the movement of the tree. But, nests and birds fascinate me. I've written widely about the ones that visit my home, and the birdhouses my community created for a fundraiser.

Canary In A Coal Mine

First to fall over when the atmosphere is less than perfect Your sensibilities are shaken by the slightest defect You live your life like a canary in a coal mine You get so dizzy even walking in a straight line Canary in a coal mine ~ Sting

Did you know the refrain from that Police song is the literal interpretation of the expression, “canary in the coal mine" – an old practice used by coal miners? Canaries were sent into coal mines as a warning signal for toxic gases, fumes and other air pollutants. Early mines did not feature ventilation systems, so miners would bring a caged canary into the mine because tiny canaries are especially sensitive to air pollution. If the teeny bird kept singing, the miners knew their air supply was safe. A silent canary signaled immediate evacuation.

Birds are such vulnerable, tiny creatures, so it's no surprise they are highly susceptible to pollutants. Like Thoreau said, "The bluebird carries the sky on his back.”

I recently wrote a Moms Clean Air Force post called, DON’T POLLUTE MY NEST. The piece delves into the fragility of birds in our changing environment.

I can't help but reiterate my strong feelings that if we continue to delay, dismantle, decimate and ditch the Clean Air Act, it's our littlest creatures who will be the next "canaries in a coal mine." Let's not leave our children carrying the weight of the sky on their backs...and in their nests.

Please join me and thousands of parents who are fighting to clean up the air for all the earth’s creatures. Thanks!

Photo: Garden Design

Lessons From A (Pet) Heron

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, Let’s Party!” ~ Robin Williams

With all the rain, the flowers are bursting, the grass is growing, and the birds have renewed their vow to come back and nest in inconvenient places (right over my back door). Just when I thought the party was under control, my two dogs began their early morning spring barking frenzy. 5AM is now the new 8.

A Pond Story

As the sun began to rise, the pooches were falling all over each other at the glass doors - clamoring to get out to the deck that leads to the pond. After brewing my tea, I checked out the commotion. Standing elegantly on sinewy legs, was the same great blue heron that graced my pond last year. Here she stood...again, with one of our last remaining fish dangling from her beak. I opened the door and let the dogs go crazy. But, this heron is wise to my canines. She stoically turned from the beasts, walked over to a bench, glanced to the sky, then she glided up to perch on a tall tree that overhangs the pond. The heron held its ground while the guys went bananas.

When the saga began last spring, I watched helplessly as my koi fish became gourmet chow for a "scattering" of herons. This year, I'm taking a different tack...

Learning From The Heron

The last few days, I purposely woke in the wee hours to grab a glimpse of beauty radiating from this magnificent and massive creature. Refusing to be bullied, while obliterating the aquatic life in my pond, these birds have proven to me that with a quiet confidence and slow and steady wing beats, a seemingly calm temperament can ward off a multitude of dangerous situations. If two ninety-pound barking dogs don't faze the living daylights out of these birds, it would seem not much would.

Native Americans consider the great blue heron to be nature’s representation of the ability to evolve and find one’s own way. Herons are believed to reflect the journey of self-realization and clarity of purpose. The heron's long delicate legs are likened to unusual pillars of strength. Standing still, waiting patiently, and going forward with inquisitiveness, curiosity and determination are judgment skills worth learning from the heron. Her noble stature seems to go with the flow, as she welcomes the elements of nature. Thus, my heron is truly a gift, (wrapped up in a natural lifecycle eating package).

Yes, I loved my colorful koi. Now I love my heron.

Credit: Ted Fink

Rachel Carson: The Power Of One

After listening to a Moms Clean Air Force webinar, it struck me that protecting the air our kids breathe can seem so overwhelming that one might feel powerless against the onslaught of information. I am reminded that one individual can, and did, change our nation's pollution history. Rachel Carson used her extensive scientific knowledge, her prolific writing skills, and her love of nature, to make citizens aware of the dangerous chemicals in our air. She not only cleaned up a pollution problem, she led the way for the EPA to clean up the air for the future.

Rachel Carson's groundbreaking book, Silent Spring called for a ban on the chemical DDT, and other harmful pesticides. She provided scientific evidence of the devastating effects these chemicals had on living things - changing the way we viewed pollution forever.

Carson was already a renowned nature author and marine biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when she heard from a friend on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, about large bird kills that had occurred as the result of DDT sprayings. To no avail, Carson tried to gain the interest of a magazine to publish her findings about the incident. Then she decided to go ahead and tackle writing a book about the issue.

In Carson's meticulous prose, Silent Spring describes how chemicals enter the food chain and accumulate in the fatty tissue of the bodies of humans and animals - causing cancer and genetic damage. Carson's conclusion was that DDT and other pesticides had irrevocably harmed birds and animals. She also presented an alarming statement that the pesticide had contaminated the entire world's food supply. In the most evocative chapter, "A Fable for Tomorrow," depicts an American town where all life "from fish to birds to apple blossoms to human children had been silenced by the insidious effects of DDT."

In the early 1960's, The New Yorker picked up the story. Ater the release of the article, claims by chemical companies and terrified readers attacked Carson's words: "If man were to faithfully follow the teachings of Miss Carson, we would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth." ~ American Cyanamid Chemical Company

Much to the chemical company's dismay, and because of Carson's findings, DDT was eventually banned. Many believe Carson was one of the inspirations behind the formation of the EPA: "There is no question that Silent Spring prompted the Federal Government to take action against water and air pollution - as well as against the misuse of chemicals - several years before it otherwise might have moved." ~ from a government natural resources expert after Carson's death

Rachel Carson's message still resonates strong today. Let the legacy of Silent Spring serve as an awareness wake-up call: All living creatures are vulnerable - the littlest ones have the most to lose.

“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, what if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?" ~ Rachel Carson

I highly recommend reading Silent Spring. One summer, my family visited the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge in Maine. It is a beautiful vacation spot, and an idyllic environment to view the habitats of coastal creatures. The tidal salt marsh is particularly fun for hands-on exploration. Teaching the powerful message that each and every one of us can clean up the air is a gift worth sharing with our kids.

Main Photo: Chris-Lamprianidis via Deviantart

10 Modern Birdhouses

Pre-fab homes are all the rage in the eco-modern design world. Want to dabble in modern architecture and pre-fab homes? Why not start with a modern birdhouse? In a recent post Get Busy Building Birdhouses, here the plans are provided for making your own birdhouses/birdfeeders. While it is wonderful to create birdhouses from scratch...CLICK HERE FOR MORE Image: modernbirdhouses.com