Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

When home is a field

Like I don't have enough baby animals to fret over, I now have three more. Less than an ounce each I suspect, baby sandpipers.

Saturday as we were tilling in the front lavender field, we were careful not to disturb the ground nest of the mama sandpiper. We had found the nest over a week earlier, and marked it with stakes so we wouldn't hurt it by mistake. The three small speckled eggs had survived another week, and we kept on with our work after we checked on the nest. About two hours later, I checked the nest again before a lunch break, and there was a brand new baby, who looked so much like the egg - survival of the fittest in action, the speckled baby looking just like the egg, blending in so perfectly with our speckled ground. By the time we came back from our picnic on the tailgate, all babies were born and amazingly mature looking within an hour - again, survival.

Thanks to the way we are maintaining our fields naturally, the left over green mulch allowed the nest to remain safe, or as safe as can be. I thought later how if we had put down plastic ground cover, we would not have had that experience with those babies. It made it feel like the hard work was helping three small little beings.

That night, as we sat on our favorite sitting spot now that the warm air is back, looking up towards our hills and hay fields where the neighbor cows are pastured, we saw the newborn calf out in the field for the first time. He was frolicking like a lamb, going to all the cows and introducing himself, then running back to Mama. Then back again for more introductions. It went on and on. Babies on the ground, babies in the hay field, babies in the barn. Babies everywhere. And I worry about each one, not every minute, but I worry the gates are closed after I drive off, worry the dog up the road will get in somehow and work someone into a frenzy, worry the hawk I love will pick the baby birds up. It's a relief sometimes to go inside.

So this morning, as Huck and I returned from town errands, I came upon those three baby sandpipers - There they were with mama, on our gravel road, making their way towards the stream. They were remarkably larger even after 3 days. Three days they have lived, in a 700 square foot area of land at most - a trip across the driveway to the stream must be pretty exhausting. And confusing. I stopped the car so mama could gather them to safety, but one little guy panicked and ran the opposite way, back to the pasture he knew. Huck and I must have sat there for 20 minutes, waiting for that patient mama to gather her family, which she finally did.

Between the warm air on my skin and the sound of the babbling stream, dog at my side, it was 20 minutes well spent.