Despite the sometimes seemingly insurmountable uncertainty facing folks these days, the Cascadia School Learning Garden has remained a place where people can feel a sense of belonging. In addition to continuing garden classes this season, the school learning garden has been able to provide families with produce, seeds, starts, and a place to safely and tangibly connect to the school itself.
And, as Garden Teacher Nicole likes to say, when you take from the garden, you must give back to the garden. The Cascadia community has done a tremendous job at giving back. Students and families alike have found a sense of connection by participating in our garden work parties this Fall. We have maintained appropriate social distancing and adhered to the district guidelines while weeding, mulching, harvesting, winterizing, and tree planting, making a lasting impact for years to come.
A garden symbolizes hope. It represents faith in a brighter, better future.
The Cascadia Learning Garden is no exception. It has been there for families in this time of need, as they have been there for it. It will continue to bloom, grow, be fruitful, and whatever other garden metaphors you can think of as we continue navigating these trying times as a community with the common goal of staying safe, healthy, and connected.
Many of us are stuck inside these days, but I find comfort in the fact that animals are still able to come and go as they please. Now is the time of year when birds are collecting materials for their nests, bees are beginning to emerge in search of pollen and nectar, and many other animals are out and about searching for food, water, and shelter.
Here are a few ideas you can do while at the home to help out these amazing urban critters!
Like us, urban wildlife needs 3 essential things to survive: Food, water, and shelter. This time of year, they are also looking for a safe place to raise their young.
1. Bird and Squirrel Feeders
This project is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can help out your local wildlife! There are many ways to make a feeder: The classic pine cone, peanut butter, and seed is always a good option. You can make a similar project using an apple half if you don’t have access to pine cones. Recycled materials like toilet paper rolls or old milk cartons can also be used, and you and your kids can even create a bird garland with string and dried fruits! Don’t be upset if a squirrel comes to your home-made feeder- they need food too! My backyard squirrels have even planted me beautiful sunflowers in my garden that they found in my feeder.
Home-made suet is another great way to attract furry and feathery critters to your yard or garden. It is a zero-waste project that can be catered to the specific diets of birds in your area that you are aiming to attract. These “cookies” are no-bake, but very messy, so be aware! They should be put out once they dry, so they don’t start to get moldy! They can also be made even simpler with bird seed and coconut oil.
2. Bird baths
“Bird baths” are just as much for bathing as they are for drinking! If you currently have a birth bath, make sure that the water is fresh, and being changed regularly. Birds won’t come if the water is too deep- this can be fixed by placing small stones in the middle to for a place to perch. Birds need to bathe in order to loosen the dirt in their feathers, so it’s easier to preen.
If you don’t have a bird bath, you can make one using a plant pot saucer and some pea gravel. Have the kids help collect rocks from the yard and find a nice shady spot somewhere along the side to put it. The bath shouldn’t be put out in the open or the animals will feel exposed to predators. Putting it in the shade of a tree or a fence will also help keep the water from evaporating too quickly.
Apparently, white is used in bird plumage to warn other birds, and is a color of danger for them. Try not to use too much white in these projects, or in your yard in general if you are trying to attract birds to it!
3. Nesting Material Ornaments
Now is the time we are seeing birds big and small searching for the perfect twig for their nest! They also need soft, natural materials to line their nests with, so they are warm and safe for their eggs and future chicks. Generally, they use dried grass, moss, cattail fluff, and anything else they can find that might work as nest liner. I have even seen and old nest with snakeskin woven in! You can help birds keep their hatchlings cozy by creating nesting material ornaments. These are colorful and whimsical decorations for your yard that also act to attract native wildlife. You can use recycled net bags, like the ones potatoes and mandarin oranges come in, to hold the materials. Start by going outside and gathering grass clippings, dead leaves, and anything that looks like it might belong in a nest. Then, you can turn your search inside and collect bits of yarn and cloth scraps. Even pet hair would be a great addition to your nesting material ornament if you have a cat or a dog! Finally, put it all together, and hang it up in a tree near your house so you can watch the critters come by and “shop” for their home-improvement supplies.
It is a common misconception that birds “live” in their nests. Nests are actually only used by birds to lay their eggs and raise their young. After nesting season, nests themselves are abandoned, and many adult birds sleep, or “roost” off the ground in tree branches safe from cats and other predators.
Have fun trying one of these crafty, practical, hands-on activities with your kiddos at home today to inspire respect, wonder, and admiration for their natural environment.