The robins have returned to our hill, and their cheery songs fill the early morning and late evening air. I didn’t realize how utterly quiet it has been during the early winter day until the sun begins to rise and that familiar, but practically forgotten chorus greets my ears in mid March. All day long the robins search for worms and nesting materials, preparing for their April broods.
The Canadian geese, too, have stopped by- but theirs will be a much briefer visit. A resting point along their great journey north. Do you see them, taking off from the pond?
Our chickens have begun laying again, after their late winter hiatus. My daughter thrills over each and every egg. “So pwetty!” she says, as she examines each one.
Last week, we spent the night at Mama Monica’s after co-op. Mama Nga made us a spectacular Vietnamese stir-fry dinner.
The children really enjoyed being able to try out chopsticks.
We spent the night so we could be near Cornell, where they were offering a very nice event for children including an animal tracking walk through the botanical gardens and the opportunity to make “nesting balls”. The boys on the walk saw several animal prints, but mostly they found (imaginary) dinosaur tracks. 😉
With a toddler and two very active boys, I found it a little daunting to be in such a busy public place. I didn’t have free hands to make one of the nesting balls, which are circle “containers” made of twigs and vines and filled with natural nesting materials for the birds to choose from, then hung from a tree. But I decided I would try my own at home. I soaked grapevines in the bathtub overnight to soften them (they were rather brittle). My daughter asked me a million times, “Are the sticks taking a bath?” Ha!
Taking two longer vines, I made two simple circles by entwining the two ends of each vine together.
Then, I fitted them together so that they were perpendicular to each other. I tied a knot with some twine at the top and the bottom, being sure to leave extra string on the top to hang it from the tree when it is done.
Then I just began filling in the gaps, weaving vines this way and that until I had a basic globe shape.
I filled it with alpaca fleece, hay, and some feathers and down I scavenged from the chicken coop. I decorated the outside by laying pieces of variegated yarn and beautiful Northern Lights “cotton candy” roving on the outside (be sure to use natural fibers, as synthetics can be harmful to birds), which just arrived at the co-op for a member who ordered it. Isn’t it so springy? I think I will use some to line our Easter baskets. I have extra, as I need to order it in bulk packages, so if you’re as in love with it as I am, you can buy some here and it will ship out right away (members, use your discount code!). A little goes a long way, as you can “fluff it out” nicely.
Lately my children have been asking me for another Cloud Boy story, so I came up with an early spring tale about the birds for them. I haven’t been able to keep up with posting all the ones I’ve told them, but in a recent story the Cloud Boy received a magical flute (when I presented my son with his Choroi pentatonic flute).
The Cloud Boy Helps the Robins
The Cloud Boy hadn’t seen Anthea or any of his fairy friends in several days. “I wonder what they’re up to?” he thought one morning. “Perhaps I should use the magic flute she gave me to call her with?”
After a few beautiful notes filled the air, the Cloud Boy saw a bird getting closer and closer. It landed on a patch of grass nearby and he saw that it was a robin, and Anthea was riding on its back!
“Anthea! What have you been up to?” the Cloud Boy asked with a big smile. “I missed you, and I can’t wait to hear another Fairy Tale!” he added.
“Hi Cloud Boy, This time of year the fairies are very busy helping the birds build their nests. Many of the birds, like Mr. Robin here, have come from the far southern lands where it never gets quite as cold as it does here. When they return, they need to build their nests quickly and be ready for their April broods of baby birds. Would you like to come with me and help the robins find their nesting materials?” she asked.
“Yes, I would love to help!” said the Cloud Boy excitedly. Anthea asked him if he had any spare wool from his sheep, and together they collected bits of fleece that had gotten caught on bushes and thorny hedges near the sheep’s pasture and paths. Then he followed Mr. Robin, who flew as slowly as he could, to a wooded area surrounding a park where the lawn was short and green and the robins always found good worms.
Some fairies were fluttering in and out, bringing bits of fleece and flax, and other fairies had their tiny spinning wheels at the ready to make bits of twine and yarn. Other fairies were looking for good, longish pieces of dried grass and hay and building a pile of them beside the spinners. And still other fairies were gathering water in tiny buckets, and pouring it all into a huge puddle they had made, for the robins to use should they need to add a bit of “mortar”, or mud, the make the nest stronger.
The papa robins chose the nesting sites. They made sure they were not too close to another robin’s nesting territory- robins need privacy when doing such delicate things as raising a family! They checked to be sure no cats lived nearby, for they were quite afraid of cats. It was the mama robins who did the actual building, and they were very picky about what materials they used. It took them five or six days to build their home. In the meantime, the papa robins began to scout out the best worm hunting grounds, for very soon their days would be filled with bringing worms back to a very hungry family. Mama would not leave the nest, as she needed to keep her eggs and her new hatchlings warm for a while. Everyone would be very hungry!
“How long will your babies be in the nest?” the Cloud Boy asked a mama robin as he brought her some freshly spun linen yarn from the flax-spinning fairies.
“Oh, fifteen or sixteen days at most, and then it will be time to think of another brood. We robins are very busy birds you know, and sometimes we raise three sets of hatchlings, usually about four eggs each time!” she said proudly. “And our eggs… they are the most beautiful blue you’ve ever seen! Like the color of the sky on a beautiful sunny day.”
The Cloud Boy helped the robins and the fairies for several more days, until the nests were all built. To thank them for their help, the robins promised to perform concerts for the fairies every morning and evening- to wake them up in the morning, and to lull them to sleep at night. If you listen closely at dawn or dusk, you will hear them singing…
While we are learning about birds, we have been using The Young Birder’s Guide. We gave it to my son as a Christmas present when he was five, and he loves it.
Today, we plan to make a giant “nests” using sticks, yarn, grass, and hay, for all of us to sit in and imagine how the babies feel in their nest. Then we will use play silk “wings” when they are ready to fly out! I’ll post some pictures soon. In the meantime, if you’re looking for some outdoor spring activity inspiration, head on over to the Waldorf Connection blog where I am honored to be a guest poster for Donna Ashton, and check out the Gnome Mudpie Restaurant we made recently! Last year I did a Spring Equinox Giveaway, and this year I am also hosting a giveaway on Donna’s blog, for these lovely fingerpuppet dolls- so be sure visit her blog (and in addition to the three ways I offered to enter the giveaway, you can share on facebook for another chance… let’s spread the word!).