Earthworms’ Castings

With Jean Ponzi


Mama Robin was set on building her nest in the curve of our downspout.

Despite its corrugated form, the pipe from the roof outside Dale’s studio proved too slick to hold her stuff. For more than a week, birdy building supplies just dropped to the ground, littering that end of our home with stringy dried hosta leaves and other garden flotsam.

How long could she wait to lay her eggs? And with lovely trees all around, why did she have to perch on a pipe?

She persisted, flying more of last year’s plants to the other end of the roofline, where a twin downspout turns rain away from our new porch up in the trees.

“Check out the big Black Cherry there,” I urged her, “those branches are just right for holding a nest.” She ignored my suggestion, which was totally, selfishly based on not wanting to give up our porch for the spring.

Somehow, over more days, most of her fibers started sticking to the tube.
So we latched the screen door, conceding porch pleasures to this goofy Robin’s family plan. The door-to-downspout angle was just wide enough to let us observe her nature taking its course, without disturbing the process.

Her nest survived one whopping mid-May storm. Tulip Poplar trees taller than our house bent and strained in that night’s gale. Wicker chairs blew across the deck! But that bit of mud-on-metal, trailing all its raggedy strands, held firm, as she did, covering her eggs.

Robins lay one egg per day, up to 5-6 eggs in a clutch. Our Neighbor Mama warmed her brood for the normal 12-14 days after the last egg was laid. Then we watched four big-beak heads poking the air while their folks foraged, for almost two weeks. Baby robins stay in their nest for 9-16 days; most jump from their nest when they are 13 days old.

It was in this Robin noggin’ bobbin’ time that I spotted another group of squatters, in the rock-wall planting beds that border this side of our house. They had been around for a while.

It’s the only full-sun part of our forested yard. Any edibles we desire must be grown here. Last year organic Kale plants from a genuine gardener friend took over this ground. Husband Dale does not like Kale, so the green and purple leafy beauties mainly went to seed. I, in turn, gifted scads of skinny pods of organic Kale seeds to any pals who would take them. But some seeds, and more, remained.

Five lush Kale plants were filling this bed when the Robin finally laid her eggs – and other eggs began their metamorphic cycles. Her hatchlings shared their birthdays with a black-and-yellow mob of caterpillars.

The bugs were overwintered soil-sisters of the Kale, whose ruffled leaves they nibbled right down to the ribs.

I alerted Mama Robin: “Local Food!” But I did not keep constant watch.

Did she make better use of the Larval Buffet than Cherry Tree Nesting options? Were cabbage moth cocoons spun? Did all the robin fledglings thrive, out in the trees?

Answers we have are an empty, amazingly solid nest, and a few new veggie re-sprouts.
No occupancy permits, no checkouts needed.

They built and ate; they grew and flew. And we were glad to host them.

Jean Ponzi celebrates Earth with human-nature conversations and “Green views you can use.” Pick up her Earthworms podcasts from podcasts.KDHX.org, or through iTunes.