Last Thursday, while transplanting lettuce, the crew disturbed a nesting killdeer. We knew she had a nest nearby from the way she performed her broken-wing act—fluttering as though she was injured, hoping to draw any threat toward her and away from her eggs. I love watching that bit of bird behavior, love how the killdeer, once you approach her, will swiftly move further away, then repeat the whole routine.
Since killdeer like to nest in open spaces, like farm fields, they’re vulnerable to farm activities like plowing and mowing. And the nests, even though out in the open, are remarkably well camouflaged and surprisingly difficult to find on foot, let alone to see from a tractor’s seat. So we took a moment to hunt for the nest and, once found, to mark it with a bright survey flag. And yesterday, while making beds in that plot, I was able to pass over that little bit of the field and leave her nest and the four speckled eggs in it undisturbed.
Maybe I’m being overly sentimental and romantic, but I think taking care of creatures like the killdeer and the barn swallows and the tree frogs and the snapping turtles is just as much a part of my job as is growing vegetables. Or, better, my growing vegetables here in this place requires me to keep in mind the whole web of life of this place. So I use organic sprays that won’t harm amphibians, and I set out nest boxes for bluebirds and tree swallows, and I leave some spaces on the edges of the farm ragged and unkempt and natural so the creatures here have places to hunt and to hide, to forage and to frolic. And I think the farm is a better place for it.