So let’s start with the ants. Every summer the ants move inside — it’s as if my kitchen is in their path as they travel from the front garden to the back garden; they just make their way across the walls, from west to east.
This year, however, they detoured. Via my honey and vanilla jars.
I’d arrived home from Christmas at my parents’ place, and was unpacking fruit and veg. Oh, there’s an ant, I thought. There’s another. Wait, there’s a whole busy trail of them ... where are they going? I followed them around the sink and over the hot plates and past the oven and into the cupboard and — IN MY HONEY! And golden syrup and vanilla paste and macadamia chocolate goo! Welcome home. I spent the next half hour washing down all the surfaces and jars, and putting everything sweet and sticky into plastic ziploc bags, where they still live months later (thankfully none of the ants actually got into the honey or chocolate goo, which saved me throwing away everything. But still!).
Another time they marched in and made a bee-line (ant-line?) for some egg shells in my otherwise-empty compost bin. Or they trooped into a vase of silverbeet — heading for the water — but ignored the jug of drinking water I had on the opposite side of the sink. Go figure.
Since the heat of summer has abated, I’ve had only the odd ant or two walking around the kitchen, but I work around them, and try not to get too annoyed. Actually, I usually shoot these lone wanderers a withering look: ‘What are you still doing here, by yourself? Don’t you know, everyone else has moved on? Loser.’
But, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. I’ve had lots of little brown grasshoppers around (thankfully they’re staying outside and are not migrating thru the kitchen). I’m not sure what damage they do to a garden, but some of my plants had very small holes in the leaves, and I could spy no caterpillars in the area.
Then again, it may have been the sparrows. I blame them for my failure to grow any peas this year. I’ve never seen such large flocks; again, it’s the dry and they’re desperate for food, but I have come to despise these small birds because they have deprived me of homegrown sugar snaps!
Why don’t the sparrows eat the aphids? Because there’s plenty of those around. A couple of years ago, I decided to put down the pyrethrum and live in harmony with those little green suckers (literally), in the hope they’d attract insect-eating birds. The only things I defend chemically are my climbing roses, but by and large the aphids restrict themselves to the nasturtiums, aquilegias, and birch trees. I’ve seen wattlebirds picking along the birch branches, and while part of me loathes that there are aphids around, another part of me sees the silver lining.
This year I’ve attracted more little birds into the garden than ever before. I’m sure it’s the lower chemical use, the bird baths I maintain, and the extra lion’s plants I’m growing. New Holland honey eaters come noisily in for the sweetness of these orange flowers, swinging from one tall stalk to another (and often breaking them, too). They also enjoyed red nerines! I’ve had young eastern spinebills, with the longest, thinnest beak I’ve seen, slurping out the goodness from tubular flowers and chasing insects in the dense jasmine wines. They were enchanting to watch as they flitted about; once or twice they even did a good impression of a hovering hummingbird!
But the sweetest bird ever to grace my garden — only once; never before and never since — was a spotted pardalote. Look it up: a small, rounded little bird with the most amazing spots and markings (hence the name) I’ve ever seen. She was not at all shy about me standing so close to her and mimicking her call. I slowly extended my arm out to see if she’d come closer and land on my finger. She didn’t, but we stood there chatting and eyeing one another off for quite a few magical, happy moments.
It’s wondrous to attract that kind of wildlife into my suburban garden. Now the weather is cooling, I have some small grevillea plants to add to the garden, to supply more food for more of these feathered visitors. I’ll just put up with the ants and aphids and grasshoppers.
What sort of wildlife do you get in your kitchen and garden; good and bad?
And sorry there are no pictures of the wildlife, especially the pretty birds. My camera and skills aren't that good. And who wants to see a plague of ants?