Saturday, July 08, 2006


An old-fashioned rambling rose shields the front door of our home. Last summer I did a little work pruning and retraining it to climb the full height of our trellis. This spring it bushed out nicely, filling in the bare spots and stretching to reach the eaves of the front porch.

There was just one small problem. A few branches of new growth escaped the thicket and reached out across the sidewalk to welcome anyone making their way to our front door.

Pukka and I danced around them for the most part, saying we should do something about them, but not actually getting anything done. But last weekend, Pukka's nephews were coming to visit. Imagining the three-year-old with rose scratches across his face was not a pretty picture, so on my way to the car one day, I stopped to try and quickly reintroduce our stragglers to the tangle of their brethren.

As I pushed one wayward branch into a small hole about a foot over my head, a female cardinal exploded out of the rose bush. She flew to the silver maple nearby and proceeded to cuss me out rather vehemently.

"Do you have babies in there, mama?" I asked, maternal instinct being the only reason I could think of that would give rise to such fiercely territorial behavior. I inspected the rose bush more carefully, but couldn't find any sign of a nest or baby birds.

The next day I was in the living room talking to Pukka when I finally spotted the nest. Since then we've enjoyed keeping track of mama's comings and goings. While she was off eating one day, I climbed up to take a peek inside -- three pale green-blue eggs with brown splotches. We should have babies this week most likely, and then it will be another week before they leave the nest.

I'm strangely proud of this arrangement. As if it's some kind of testament to my homemaking skills that we've been chosen by a cardinal for a breeding ground. Still, I get so much frustration from the local wildlife -- squirrels digging up my bulbs, rabbits eating everything in sight, voles excavating under the back patio -- that this has been a nice contrast. I've been unable to find out whether or not cardinals re-use their nests, so I'm not sure if we'll get a return visit or not. In any case, it appears there will be no pruning done on the rose bush this smmer.