Garden helpers are not
what you might expect when you are
by Craig Presnell
Zolfo Springs, Florida
Click images to enlarge
A few years back we relocated from what had been "rural"
Palm Beach County to the truly rural heartland of Florida. One
immediately obvious drawback was the limited availability of
human help. As luck would have it, the animal kingdom immediately
stepped up and offered assistance.
The first on the scene was a great horned owl, who for the
price of an occasional chicken dinner not only shepherded us
safely from the nursery home on those nights we worked late,
but also assisted with his keen eyes to ensure I laid the blocks
for the ponds in straight courses.
The long hours were taking a toll on us and it became difficult
to get up and at 'em some mornings. Luckily, the next to show
was a wayward guinea fowl we dubbed Rover, as he behaved more
like a dog than a bird. His raucous calls at dawn made sleep
nigh impossible and if we dallied over a second cup of coffee
he'd appear at the cat door to insist we get into gear.
Our move occurred in the "summer of storms" and
our area endured a series of three hurricanes in six weeks. The
owl could still get around fine, but Rover had trouble coping
with the flooded conditions, so an alligator appeared to pick
up the slack. Rover would still wake us up, but the gator stood
guard over the one functioning pond while we worked on expanding
the production area. It turned out he took his job too seriously
and once the block ponds began producing, he moved from the original
dirt pond into the lined ponds to be closer to the action. The
flood water had receded and Rover was back, so it became obvious
to all that the gator had outlived his purpose. With the arrival
of spring, he officially retired and moved on to find someone
else in need of his services.
Considerate neighbors gave us goats to help with the ground
maintenance and chickens for bug control. Turf wars broke out
over assignment of duties and things were getting a little chaotic
when Molly the Ostrich arrived and immediately assumed a management
position, supervising the growing menagerie.
Things were good. Molly acted as the efficiency expert, but
wasn't as forceful as necessary sometimes. So enter One Trick,
the Haflinger pony; she rules with an iron hoof. While Rover's
morning calls have become background noise
there is no
way to ignore One Trick clomping up the steps to get us out the
door. Once she had us on the job, she gladly offered her services
as an expert in dealing with spent lily pads.