By The Masked Biologist
Special to the Star Journal
I grew up right here in Wisconsin, with farmers as relatives, neighbors and friends. Watching farmers my entire life, there were times when it seemed like an enviable profession, and other times when I thought I could never do that job. It seemed like an enjoyable and rewarding profession but there are a lot of challenges to overcome. They must deal with sick livestock, equipment breakdowns and inclement weather. Every hour, every day they don’t work they don’t make money; every bit of work they need to perform is still waiting for them when they go back into the yard.
Working in the natural resources field, I used to routinely interact with neighboring farmers. I developed a whole new level of respect for them, and I started noticing that not only were they tending their livestock, repairing their equipment, dealing with planting fields based on crop futures and meticulously grooming their lawns—they were also building bird feeders and bird houses and planting trees and shrubs to benefit wildlife. I couldn’t help but wonder how they found the time to build and maintain more items in their lives that might seem unnecessary.
Recently, I was working on repairing one of my vehicles. I had an extensive list of things to do, equipment that needed repairing, responsibilities that needed to be met, and my weekend was getting away from me without hope for going out on the lake fishing or into the woods for a walk.
The repair job was not going well; I had skinned almost every knuckle and felt no closer to having it repaired than when I had taken it apart the first time. As I struggled, I looked up at my homemade chickadee house, which this year has a family of chickadees using it. I had put up two bird feeders, a plastic one and a homemade one, and the squirrels had destroyed them both. I thought about a squirrel-proof feeder I had seen for sale but could not justify buying. That bird feeder did not seem too difficult to make. I decided my truck could sit for a few minutes while I took a crack at making my own metal bird feeder.
I went into the shop, and pulled together a small metal coffee can, a scrap of one-quarter inch hardware mesh, and a lid from a Christmas popcorn tin. In 20 minutes, I was done assembling the feeder. It was such a pleasant distraction! I could stop fretting about the truck repair, focus on a battle of wits with squirrels, and craft old scrap metal into a makeshift bird feeder. Maybe it will hold together and stand up to the squirrels, maybe not. Either way, at least I gave it a try. Feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment, I then went back to work on my list of waiting chores.
Maybe that is why farmers take the time to build elaborate bird houses and feeders. They live their job, surrounded by work that must be tended around the clock. Farmers are natural nurturing individuals to begin with, so taking care of songbirds with feeders or houses shouldn’t be a surprise. Also, having a distraction that gives you a kind of sanity break during a seemingly unending and winless task can make a significant difference in your attitude and your spirit.
The Masked Biologist earned a Bachelor of Science degree from a university with a highly regarded wildlife biology program. His work in natural resource agencies across the country provided opportunities to gain experience with a variety of common and rare fish, plant and wildlife species. Follow The Masked Biologist on Facebook. Email questions to MaskedBiologist@charter.net.