When I planted our peas in March, I chased the crows out of the cherry tree before I started. I was thinking of all the crows I’d seen watching gray squirrels bury their peanuts. The squirrels are so busy-busy, patting down the soil over their treasure with those bad little paws. Then as soon as they leave, the crows swoop down, pluck the nuts up, and eat them with a stylish nonchalance. My beautiful snap pea seeds had been soaking overnight, and had begun to sprout–they looked alive and tasty.
As soon as I finished planting and was putting my tools away in the shed, a swirl of three crows flew into the cherry tree, cawing loudly. I laughed to myself, “They’re calling their friends to say, ‘She’s finished! Come eat!’” But I thought I was kidding. Later I found perfect crow-bill-sized holes in the pea-patch!
In his wonderful book, Living With Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest (which offers a great deal of insight no matter what your geographic region), Russell Link writes, “We love wild animals, or we hate them, depending on what they’re doing.” Our hearts lift at the robin’s spring song, then in the summer they eat our strawberries.
One morning there was a Cooper’s Hawk perched on the corner of our fence. So close! Such beautiful yellow legs, and deep orange eyes! I rushed to get my binoculars, my first impulse as a bird nerd. But in the next breath I realized, oh my lord, that bird was eying my six-week-old baby chickens! Cooper’s Hawks are bird-eaters. I ran out there like Ma Ingalls, barefoot in the wet grass, my pink flannel pajamas dragging around my feet, waving my arms and yelling “Shoo!” The hawk looked at me coolly before lifting over the garage roof, and I brought my feathered girls in the kitchen for the day. I’ve always been critical of farmers that bait “vermin” such as coyotes, wolves, and cougars because they are a perceived threat to livestock, and I still am. But my thoughts are more nuanced since the hawk incident. What if I really was Ma Ingalls? What if those chickens were not my hobby, but my family’s livelihood? My children’s sustenance? What if all that were true, and I had a shotgun hanging over the door?
I don’t have any brilliant how-tos for preventing crows from eating your peas. But I love the reminder that there is no clear line we can draw between our households, our lives, our habits, and the wider, natural world. Our homey thresholds are flimsy and marginal–they represent the point from which we cross into nature, and wild nature–distressingly sometimes–crosses back. Such a recognition of our constant, inevitable continuity with the more-than-human world is, I believe, exhilirating, enlivening, and beautiful.
Meanwhile, we protect our chickens, net our strawberries, and wave our arms at waiting crows. I tossed some new pea seeds into the holes the crows had made, and they’re beginning to fill in nicely.