Tributary Farm

  (Exeter, Missouri)
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farming is for the birds

That title may be cliche but how can you resist it when you have as great  a crop of  bird feed as we have this year.  And it has to be the best kind of bird seed at that; the birds love it, it is free, and I don't even have to fill feeders.  Yep, you probably guessed it.  We have got weeds, weeds, glorious weeds.  Just outside my window is our pig pen a couple summers absent of a pig now and flower beds that have not been put to sleep. They are growing an amazing crop of poke, giant ragweed, wing-stem, brown-eyed-susans, coneflowers, docks, mullein, goldenrod, pigweed and a thousand more grasses and asters and other unknown weeds; and they are all seed laden! 

The best thing is the ease with which this crop grows. 

I was fortunate enough to work with a man, Tom, who could off the top of his head recite many of  Aldo Leopold's writings  (and other conservationist / naturalists).  He once let loose  a passage of Aldo Leopold's extolling the virtues to habitat of a certain type of agricultural slovenliness. This was a passage about fencerows and how his fencerows grew up like the hair of an unkempt hermit; unshaven, unwashed and in all ways unneatened. I know  I messed the words up on that one big time(sorry Tom, sorry Aldo), but the point remains the same.  He was not the type to keep a well manicured fencerow and he saw value in that. 

Anyway, Adam, who I also work with, just returned from an Audobon meeting a couple weeks ago and told me how detrimental the loss of the family farm has been to birds.  Urban expansion and ever expanding industrial farms with their erasure of fence lines and overambitious tidying have done away with unkempt fence lines and things such as fallow hog yards.  These bird-food producing weeds grow best in edge habitats or disturbed and early succession areas and these areas are disappearing alarmingly fast. He had numbers and stats which blew my mind and then promptly flew right through the hole, but it was staggering how much of this habitat and the estimated accomanying food resource has been lost.

So I used to think I was lazy, but now I'm proud to be in the same company as the great conservationist Aldo Leopold.

And I'm happy that on this second snowy morning of the winter, as I was sitting here writing this, I was able to look out the window and see cardinals, juncos, a crow, white throated sparrows, goldfinches, and a carolina wren all feasting and well fed. 



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