Gardens … what a great subject! Almost all of us have, at one time or another, had a garden. We all have specific memories of each garden during our lifetime. My earliest garden memory was of my mother killing a rattlesnake in her garden. I know, I know, gruesome. When you grow up on the prairie in Colorado, rattlesnakes are not your garden friends.

Kay Wheeler’s entire family bonded with a baby bird her husband rescued. Rosa Jay/

When I got married, in the 1960s, my husband and I bought a lovely old center chimney farmhouse in New Hampshire. The garden space was large and already contained an asparagus patch. It was the perfect vegetable garden, and I planted the whole space every year.

There was an old, rotting apple barn near the orchard and my husband decided to take it down. As he was working on the eaves, a tiny bird fell to the ground. He immediately picked the baby bird up and brought it into the house. We put the baby into a cardboard box on a soft towel with a lamp for warmth. For about five nights, I fed the baby every two hours with damp chick starter on the end of my finger. By then, he had imprinted on all of us and became part of the family. We named him “Admiral Bird.”

Admiral followed us around constantly. He loved all of us. He felt free to perch on your shoulder or your head or just hang out. When I would work in the garden, he would be right there with me. When I dug a little hole for a broccoli plant, Admiral was right there to get the worms.

When my youngest was born, I gardened during her naptime. She would be in a mosquito net-covered baby carriage and Admiral and Mama could be working alongside. That was a perfect setup for a while and then … she turned 2! We quickly figured it out. We had something called a “Port-a-pen.” We took the bottom out so she could play in the dirt along beside us. We would move the playpen along as we planted down the row. Admiral was right there following every move and eating worms as we went.

One afternoon in the garden, my baby girl found a beautiful worm in her playpen area. She picked it up and started to put it in her mouth to eat. I was horrified, but as I started to move toward her to grab the worm, she called to Admiral Bird. He came right over and she offered the worm to him. He took it and ate it and they were both very happy.

Suddenly it dawned on me that she was not only learning about the soil and the garden, she was learning about generosity and how to share.

I smiled and said, “What a good girl you are for sharing. Mama and Admiral love you for that.” I then continued to plant my broccoli, Admiral continued with his lunch and my baby girl has been a generous soul her whole life.

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