“Oh my gosh! I just found an ‘orphaned’ baby bird sitting on the front porch. What do I do?”
“There’s an ‘abandoned’ fawn in my hostas! What do I do?”
“Oh, the poor baby bunnies, they have no mom. What do I do?”
We get these type comments all the time at Winding Pathways. The short answer is: Do Nothing!
The babies are ready to “branch out!”
This summer millions of Americans will discover baby birds, fawns, bunnies, and a host of other seemingly helpless newborn animals in their yards and face the dilemma of “What do I do?”. Usually the baby is all alone with no mother in sight. It’s easy to assume the poor baby’s mother suffered a tragic fate and that the baby is doomed to an early death unless people “help” it.
We’ve often found baby bunnies and birds at Winding Pathways and we know the best way to help it is to leave them alone. A cottontail nest we found last spring is a good example.
This is a tale of free trees. Our friend, Marilynn Keller, learned how to plant the best tree species in her yard at no cost and with little work.
She simply didn’t mow a tiny area of lawn where she wanted a tree to grow. As if by magic, a White Oak, Sugar Maple, and Shagbark Hickory sprouted there this spring. Although the spot is too small for three trees Marilynn can simply decide which one she wants and mow the others off.
Likely a squirrel buried a nut that has sprouted.
Last fall an industrious squirrel gathered acorns and hickory nuts and buried them in her yard. The squirrel might have forgotten his hidden cache or perhaps died. Either way the unrecovered nuts sprouted.
Although squirrels often eat maple seeds, it’s most likely that Marilynn’s baby maple sprouted because a gust of wind pulled the ripe seed off a nearby tree and it helicoptered to her yard.
While Maples are usually easy to transplant, and are widely sold by nurseries, not so Hickories. Although any of the many Hickory species make outstanding shade trees, as soon as a nut sprouts it sends an enormous taproot deep into the ground. Moving a hickory is difficult and often unsuccessful. Commercial nurseries avoid them.
The same goes for white oaks, one of our favorite trees. It’s difficult to buy one to plant in the yard. Because they are slow growing and challenging to transplant, few nurseries bother with them. Fortunately, they readily sprout on their own.
In autumn Maples glow with color.
Anyone living where there are mature Hickory, Oak, or Maple trees nearby can use Marilynn’s tree planting method. Simply don’t mow a patch of lawn where a tree is desired. Odds are one will appear on its own next spring. If more sprout than the spot can support just mow the others off and put wire screening around the new tree to protect it from hungry cottontails and deer.
If a tree sprouts in the wrong place it can be easily transplanted with just one shovel of dirt. Move it before the tiny tree has grown a long taproot.
Nature is not all sunshine and roses, cute baby animals and gentle breezes. Sometimes nature is rough, sometimes vicious, sometimes other creatures simply clean up carcasses of fallen animals. This spring the Heartland has had its share of hail, winds and heat. The front yard maples and Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth’s budding Bur Oak survived by bending with the winds. With the variable weather comes casualties. The last video graphically shows the scavengers cleaning up a fawn carcass that showed up on the back lawn after a night of cold, wind, and heavy rain. It’s sad but we have to remember than Mother Nature’s clean up crew will benefit from the loss. And, life goes on.
We never spray our lawn at Winding Pathways. Occasionally, that yields an exciting discovery like what happened in early May.
Rich shows the tiny oak seeding.
We wanted to plant a tree, preferably an oak, on the south side of our garage. But, we got busy and never found time to buy or plant one. One morning Rich, while walking across the lawn to fetch the morning newspaper, spotted a baby white oak tree that sprouted exactly where we wanted to plant one. It was serendipity.
Plant ecologists talk about the “seed bank.” In land that hasn’t been greatly disturbed by plowing, spraying or compacting of soil, seeds of desirable native plants often remain dormant in the soil for years or decades. Then, when conditions are right they’ll sprout like magic. Other desirable plants spread their seed through the wind or enlist the help of a hungry squirrel to carry and bury a nut or acorn. That’s probably how our new oak got planted.
Before mowing walk across your unsprayed lawn. You may discover a plant you want that is starting to grow. Just mow around it to let it thrive. Mark it with a stake or fence it off from rabbits and deer. If the plant is not quite in the right place, remember that tiny plants are usually easy to move with just a shovel full of dirt.
We protect volunteer trees that grow where we want them.
About seven years ago we found another baby oak in our lawn. We protected it from mowing and ran a screen around it to keep hungry deer away. It’s now about seven feet tall and growing rapidly.
That black oak didn’t cost a penny and will grace our yard long after we’re gone.
Another way to go about natural or plant and wildlife friendly yards is to deliberately plant certain forbs and grasses to attract a variety of beneficial insects and interesting birds and other wildlife.
Chicks are amazing! How quickly they learn and adapt. Their personalities amuse us at Winding Pathways and their problem solving is the best! Enjoy the videos of the Hoover’s Hatchery chicks at about ten weeks.
At Winding Pathways we wrote periodically about preparedness. Usually, it’s related to the potential for seasonal weather-related events. Almost every day someone somewhere suffers damage from a tornado, hurricane, ice storm, blizzard or some other natural disaster. Sometimes we simply discover an alternative use for emergency equipment. Sterno is one! It’s as simple as a quick way to heat water for tea or coffee while working in the cabin or out camping.
We all realize that when the power goes off it’s helpful to have back up lighting and cooking equipment on hand. Propane and liquid gas stoves designed for camping are ideal for emergencies when the power goes off, but they are pricey. A lower cost alternative is a “Sterno” stove or equivalent. These are inexpensive lightweight stoves that fold flat and take almost no storage space. They are sold in big box stores that stock camping equipment.
The common fuel for these stoves is “Sterno”, a gel made from alcohol and contained in a small aluminum cup. You pry off the lid, stick the fuel cup in the stove, light it, and it’s ready for cooking. Sterno stoves cook slowly. They’re not the best for elaborate cooking but are perfectly suited for a few days of light meal preparation until the power comes back on.
We’ve found that fuel cans sold in restaurant supply stores and called “Chafing Fuel” are less expensive than buying fuel in a camping store. These are mostly used by caterers for keeping food warm at buffets, and they work great for emergency cooking, too! For information go to Sterno Products.
Please note that Winding Pathways has no connection with the Sterno Company. We like their products but have not received money or materials from them.
Sterno is a handy way to heat water.
Two burner Sterno