by Sandy Swegel
After the first big cold snow of the season, I find myself drinking coffee next to the window, captivated by the Wild Kingdom drama of the outdoors…watching the many different kinds of birds foraging or lurking near the bird feeder waiting their turn, or hearing the rustling of unknown small furry creatures in the garden debris.
The best gift for outdoor animals is a heated bird bath. I might even put two out, one on the deck rail for the birds and one on the ground in a wild area for all the other thirsty creatures…rabbits, squirrels and even the field mice. When it’s super cold like it is now, snow doesn’t melt and there are no natural water sources near my house. Maybe a water source will keep the squirrels from eating holes in my irrigation pipes.
Holiday Shopping List for all the Animals in Your Life
Dogs: Plump baby carrots are the gift of choice for my dogs. I had to fence off the main garden from their enthusiastic digging, but I leave an area of little round carrots and beets for them to “discover.” Cats: Catnip of course. Don’t waste your time on anything else. Chickens: Swiss Chard is my chickens’ most favorite food. I think they like its natural saltiness. I throw bags of dried leaves on the garden bed as insulation just so I can harvest some greens from under the bags all winter. Wild birds: Sunflower Seeds naturally…and any seeds. I discovered dozens of little birds the other day in the snow in a patch of lambsquarter and tall weeds that I had foolishly allowed to go to seed. Bees: Wildflower seeds of course. Rabbits: A wild clover patch, anything green. Field Mice: Any seeds left to fall on the ground. Overgrown zucchini and pumpkins left to rot. Squirrels: Pumpkins. The Halloween pumpkin left out is the perfect squirrel buffet. Owls, hawks: Any of the above-mentioned seeds left in the garden bring the mice and voles and other rodents that are the perfect gift for the birds of prey. The rodents double as gifts for the snakes. Soil microbes: What else but moo poo tea is the ideal gift for the soil Earthworms: Make them a compost pile. And forget to harvest some of the root vegetables. As the vegetables decompose in place in early spring, hundreds of hungry earthworms show up for the feast. Humans: All the vegetables are the perfect gift of health and vitality for the humans in your life, especially when packaged with the love you grew them with.
I wish to all this Winter: abundant food and water and a warm place for all good creatures.