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Really, All I Wanted Was Hummingbirds

This is all YOUR fault.

When I started gardening, seriously, all I really wanted was to have hummingbirds in the garden, because my parents had hummingbirds in their garden—Da Hummingguys, as my stepfather call them—and y’know, hummingbirds are just so inherently neat.

But I’m way too scatterbrained to reliably clean and refill a hummingbird feeder every week, so it was much easier for me to plant plants that the hummingbirds would like. So then, because I was on a budget, I had to research what kinds of plants hummingbirds like, instead of just buying everything with a silhouette of a hummer on the label

Then the hummingbirds needed more than nectar. They needed little tiny bugs. Lots of little tiny bugs. Apparently they are not exclusive nectarvores. So I had to do things to bring in little tiny bugs, which involved reading books about wildlife gardening, which led me to discover all the shocking facts about the amount of ecological lifting a native plant does vs. the vast majority of ornamental immigrants. (Bringing Nature Home is a great book for charting this all out in layman’s terms.) So then I wasn’t just working for the hummingbirds, I had to do something for all those poor specialized little bugs that would be starving in my yard. The butterflies were easy to love, but my affections are broad, if largely unrequited, and I found myself fretting over the fate of the milkweed assassin bug.

Plus I had to clear space for my plants, which meant that those take-over-the-world viney things had to go, which led me to discover Japanese honeysuckle and English Ivy and Chinese Wisteria (They call me…Wisteria-bane…) and also I lived in the south, where you learn about kudzu very rapidly. And this taught me about invasive species in a big and practical way, beyond the abstract knowledge derived from an 8 AM biology elective in college, which turned out to be one of the more important classes I ever took and I kinda wish I’d been more awake for it.

And then it turned out all those little bugs fed frogs, and I knew amphibians were hurting around the world so they needed all the help they could get, and I started trying to dig them a pond, and then it turns out that bees are in trouble too, so I had to plant more things for bugs, because let’s face it–bugs run the world under our feet and largely out of our sight, and planting spring things for bees, because without bees and pollinators in general, we are in A Whole Lot of Trouble. This is pretty much enlightened self-interest, particularly since I had discovered tulip poplar honey and what it can do to tea.

Then I started reading about why the bugs and the birds were in trouble–factory farming and pesticide use for one, habitat loss for another. Eating pesticide sprayed bugs kills some unbelievable number of birds a year–millions and millions, even by conservative estimates–and we need the pesticides because we killed the predatory bugs with last year’s pesticides, and every time it takes more to kill the pests because the bugs are growing resistant but of course big Agribusiness isn’t interested in changing this state of affairs, because they’re the ones who sell pesticides.

And that led to reading about organic farming and the way our food really works, and once you start reading about farming and food you are utterly lost, because the whole system as it is set up is so insane and so warped and so…unkind…that it’s nearly impossible to get your head around.

To go off on a tangent for a minute, I had two grandmothers, like most people. You’ve heard me talk about them. I usually think of them like fairies at a christening–this is the Good One and this is…the Other One.

To cite a representative example, she once called up a relative who had just miscarried to inform her that it served her right. That sort of thing. She was not precisely a good person and she got worse as she aged. She could be very engaging when she wanted to, but it generally lasted as long as it took to get the outcome she required, and then she went back to something that was…oh, just this side of pathological, honestly.

So anyway, having been the chief victim of this madness for a stretch, one day my stepmother turns to my father and I and cried “Why didn’t you warn me?”

Dad and I looked at her in mild amazement and one or the other of us said “You can’t. If you try, it makes you sounds crazy.”

Most of my reading about food in this country has reminded me of that–you can’t explain to people how weird and broken parts of it are. You sound crazy if you try.  Nobody could really be so greedy as to decree that saving seeds from a crop for next year is a serious threat to the bottom line, and allot millions to pursue farmers who do it…except they are, and they do, but if you try and explain this, it’s like yelling that somebody’s pointing a death ray at your head. Nobody is going to believe you, because that’s just crazy talk.

Seriously, try talking about Monsanto and monocultures and the Irish potato famine at your next party. If you manage to get very far, you have awesome friends. (Also tangentially, just ‘cos I think it’s neat, the potato that Ireland was hit by was a variety called “the Ol’ Lumper.” I don’t think it still exists.)

All I wanted were hummingbirds. I’m not an activist. I’m nothing even resembling an activist. You couldn’t get me to sing a protest song if you had sheet music and a cattle prod. I have never waved a sign. I do not march. I occasionally give a few bucks to the Nature Conservancy and Planned Parenthood, but that’s as far as it goes. I can only get angry about politics in short spurts–mostly I just get tired.

But all this stuff makes me want to do something, except that I don’t even know where to start. Little tiny stuff turned out to be connected to huge big terrifying stuff. I feel like I went out fishing for minnows, whistling and thinking about nothing in particular, and then I looked down through the clear water, and saw that I was fishing over top of a kraken, and his back went on for miles in every direction. I don’t even know which way to row.

For what it’s worth, some people estimate that if everybody in America ate one local meal a week, we’d save a million barrels of oil. Per week. It’d take a little over a month—five local meals, say—to save more oil than went into the Gulf of Mexico. So I guess that’s a place to start, even if my cooking skills are such that said meal is likely to be scrambled eggs. Local eggs, local milk, both available at the co-op. It still counts!

…I think I might need to learn to cook.

Damnit.

You hummingbirds better appreciate this…

Originally published at Squash's Garden. You can comment here or there.


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Yeah. I've had a lot of moments like that lately: the feeling that I should Do Something, but the whole thing is such a tangled mass of suck and evil and suck that I don't know where to start. The local food stuff is a good idea, though.

Also: Nobody could really be so greedy as to decree that saving seeds from a crop for next year is a serious threat to the bottom line, and allot millions to pursue farmers who do it

Yes. I was talking elsewhere about some disturbing political stuff, and had the same realization: I couldn't *write* these people. Not in a novel. Not even in a game. (Although the U.S. corporate world is a decent model for a Tiamat cult, attitude-wise.) Nobody would find them believable, because...come on, nobody's that fucked up and evil, right? Right?

...guys?

It's what I've been saying for years, right after I quit my bank job... no-one believed me either, at least right up until the economy went Ka-boom!

Talk about bitter-sweet. I couldn't say 'I told you so' for the taste of ashes.

I keep seeing Slacktivists on here. I don't post much, and I don't think most people pay attention to me, as when I do post, I don't say anything of note. But I love reading your comments. :)

Aw, thank you! I like yours as well!

The saddest part is that, if we all buck up, and get into our political big-kids pants, and start to reverse the whole damn mess, it will most likely take longer than we are alive to get things squared away.
And I'm just talking about the political stuff, let alone the economic and environmental aspects.

If it ever gets going, I think it will feel like the movements back in the 50s and 60s, but it's so much more ethereal, I don't know if it will actually attract people.

Oof, yeah. I try to be hopeful, but...yikes.

Someone mentioned, and damned if I can remember where or why, that we might need a PR campaign like they had in WWII: make it about doing your part and personal heroism and that. Which would be great, but frankly I'm too cynical about politics to see today's government doing it.

Gotta try, though!
Up till a week ago, I had faithfully held on to my Republican registration, and I had never been active in politics, other than voting.
The straw that broke the camel's back for me was hearing my new Governor, after not a whisper about his pro-life stance during the election, actually call for restrictions on abortion in Kansas. This after Dr. Tiller's murder, and all the witch hunts that went on several years ago, till Kansas got tired of it and threw out our pro-life Attorney General. But, the Rs took nearly the whole government back, and they've already got several laws on the roster to restrict abortion, in between cutting vital services from the budget in the name of balance. BUT BY GOD, NO JOB WORK YET! Apparently our unborn are more important than our economy.
So, I changed my registration, and volunteered for the D party, for anything I can do. I'm also on half a dozen mailing lists for various causes, and every petition that I see regarding choice and jobs, I sign.
I figure I might not be able to do more than pass the word along, for now, but it's a start.

Good for you! It takes a lot of guts (and a lot of disgust) to change a lifelong party affiliation--lord knows, I can understand why in this case. It really is the economy, stupid! *flail*

Err...welcome to the other side?

Personally, I think it's going to end up being a grassroots movement, sort of like the Tea Party, but without the corporate backing.

The phrase "cartoonish super-villainy" does start to come irresistably to mind.

Doesn't it, though?

I might have to stop mocking Captain Planet so much. At least for its villains. I can still snark about the Heart kid and his damn monkey, though.

evil seed sob;s

(Anonymous)
Oh yes, oh yes, they are that evil. As for part of what anyone can do. KEEP Talking about Monsanto, the EEEEVil that they are, and the senators they must own, and try try to buy organic (even if some of it is lies, sigh),
and sniff around for locally grown meat, and , well, keep pushing the rock up hill. My daughter and I run a small organic truck farm, in Colorado, and we can't produce much, but we have customers, and yay for them:) And we buy
organic for the stuff we don't produce, and , that's about all any of us can do.
Monsanto, the Sauron of the modern world. Yes, they are that vile.
Nanette Furman

Yeah, I have similar problems, except with an extra level. I find it hard to believe that anyone can be that creepy and scary especially since professionally I interact with people from the agrigiants and they are very nice normal people who are doing their jobs and living their lives as best they can.

It's quite the dichotomy, and an unspoken but very real reason why I turned down the attempt by one of those giants to lure me away from my current employer. I'll work with them, but I sure as hell don't want to work for them.

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