One day, I will build a wall with sofa cushions and pillows on the living room floor.

The wall will be situated close to a floor-to-ceiling window. Taking inspiration from ancient castles, this mound of upholstery will be crenellated to provide opportunities for concealment. You may not know it, but you know what crenellation is; they’re the gaps at the top of a castle where archers could hide as they rained down arrows on their attackers. Yes, crenellation will be a necessary feature of the pile of pillows.

Photo by Hannah Wright

Once this wall is built, we will lie on the floor and be as still as possible. The ‘we’ that I imagine will be a grandchild and me. Let’s shoot for the moon and say grandchildren – the more the merrier.  The purpose of this structure will be the observation of the bird bath.  This will be our duck blind.

This will be our duck blind.

Maybe it’s a feature of age, but I’m fascinated by my bird bath. I’ve inverted a wire planter form over the top of it to keep out the crows but now the birds use it for queuing up as they wait their turn in the bath. It turns out there’s not only really a pecking order, but a bathing order, too.

The time squandered watching birds frolic in the ‘pool’ could probably have been better spent sorting out some pesky international conflict or finding a cure for a medical plague, but it’s addictive. The happy splashing is a calming distraction that somehow re-orders priorities. I can’t identify all of the birds that use the bath but that doesn’t diminish the year-round enjoyment.  On winter mornings my first task is to thaw the frozen disc of bath water and replenish it. In summer, the water gets changed twice a day. When I die, I shall be borne to heaven on the wings of pine siskins and barn swallows. 

When I die, I shall be borne to heaven on the 
wings of pine siskins and barn swallows.

I can make the case for being sanctimonious about managing a well-run bird bath. It’s getting harder and harder to be a bird. According to the City of Vancouver’s Bird Friendly Design Guidelines (2015), in Canada, as many as 42 million birds annually are killed by collisions with buildings. Light pollution is similarly impacting their numbers. As backyards are gobbled up by laneway houses and multiplexes, birds see their habitats shrink to nothing. There’s less garden diversity and canopy tree planting in favour of screening trees and monocultures which don’t offer the same opportunities for birds. Crows thrive in this new environment but song birds, not so much.  And let’s not forget about the threat posed by those subsidised predators, the household cat. 

And let’s not forget about those subsidised predators, 
the household cat.

Outside of the obvious need for hydration, birds need water to help them maintain their plumage. Water is essential in retaining the waterproof and insulating qualities of their feathers. Even in the dead of winter,  water helps stimulate the preen glands which keep feathers in good working order.  Recent hot, dry summers, as well as watering restrictions, have also meant birds are desperately parched. A frigid winter can also deprive birds of necessary hydration.

Photo by Dan Wayman

So, grandchildren of mine will learn all of this while lying on their stomachs spying on birds.  I will explain that yes, they are cavorting, but the birds are also attending to absolutely necessary aspects of their health. I’ll explain that it’s our job to try to offset the changes that are so dreadfully impacting avian lives. I’ll explain that we have obligations to the natural world and this is such a delightful one to maintain.

And then I’ll explain about crenellation and castles and archers.

And how we have to pick up all these cushions and get them back onto the sofa.

And I will hope the seed of stewardship is planted in the next generation.

This week’s question for readers:


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Submissions to last week’s question:

How do you like your eggs? Any tricks up your bathrobe sleeve?

My husband is being treated for colon cancer. He’s doing very well, but struggles to maintain his weight. Every Sunday I serve him three eggs, soft poached in silicone cups, on buttered biscuits smothered in Hollandaise sauce. All home made, of course!!

Linda Moore

I’m not fond of egg yolks so I use just the egg whites in my favourite Pavlova recipe made on special occasions. I whip four egg whites until soft peaks form, then add sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and vinegar.

I then beat the mixture until stiff peaks form. I spread the results on a parchment lined cookie sheet  and bake in a 250 degree oven for one hour. The meringue is left to cool before I add sliced strawberries and a topping of whipped cream. The yolks can be used in other recipes so they are not wasted. 

Joan Ellis

Here is the perfect method to poach eggs: Crack eggs into a colander. Let the watery whites drain off for 15-20 seconds; the white solidifies at a higher temperature. Transfer eggs to a measuring cup. Add vinegar to boiling water in a pot which lowers the pH and makes the protein in the white set faster. Add a pinch of salt, then turn off the heat, put the strained eggs into the water, replace the cover and set the timer for three  minutes, maybe add another 15 seconds based on preference. Voila! Perfect poached eggs and a healthy way to eat an egg.

Ron Hemmings

We make just about everything into a frittata.  Leftover meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, shredded zucchini – lots of options here.  It gets added to a frying pan of scrambled eggs and then flipped over.  Other than that, we baste eggs in lots of olive oil while frying them. The result is a nice crispy edge.

D. Walter

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