Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks — Rusty, Richard and Sydney — from the canals of Venice who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible.

Through dirt, shoots, leaves and grasses it had pushed its way up, seeking the warmth of the sun.  Day by day, nourished by rich soil and falling rain, it grew straight and strong. Soon, at the tip of a stem, a small bud appeared. It grew unnoticed among the other plants until that one sunny morning when its delicate yellow face slowly unfolded in response to the warming sun.

Richard had been up since dawn. He was worried about getting his new rain barrel in place before the next storm rolled through. The job went so quickly he still had time for a stroll around the yard before taking off for the beach.

He passed by the spot he calls his “wild garden.”  It’s a small patch of earth he filled with a wild tangle of plants that he purposely lets go to seed for the birds. Rusty renamed it the “Tweet Spot.” He says it’s like a Starbucks for birds, only with seeds instead of coffee.

As Richard checked on the Tweet Spot something bright caught his eye. There, amid a tumble of old sunflower seed heads, in a sea of sprouting green, surrounded by spent asters and zinnias, a single daffodil had appeared. Like a tiny sun, its yellow petals seemed to send out delicate rays of warm golden light. Richard’s eyes grew wide with excitement. He shouted, “Sidney! Rusty! Come see.  Spring has sprung!”

With those words we experienced two emotions, joy and fear. We were torn. Should we go and see or run and hide? To most, including Rusty and I, spring is a time of renewal, growth and beauty. That’s the joy part. However, with Richard for a brother, spring means lots of extra work for me and Rusty. Hard work in the garden is joy to Richard, for us, not so joyous, thus the fear factor. 

We decided to face the inevitable and went outside. I must give Richard some credit for sensitivity. He did let us admire the daffodil for a full five minutes before mentioning work assignments. 

Rusty and I both begged, “Please, let’s surf now and work later.” His answer was a resounding, “No!  Impossible! We must seize the day!”

Rusty grumbled and muttered something about Richard’s messed up priorities.

Resigned, I just shook my head and started getting out the gardening tools.

The past rains made weeding a breeze. It wasn’t long before Rusty and I were enjoying our work just as much as Richard. Besides, who can stay upset with the sun shining, a sweet breeze blowing and nature surrounding you on all sides?

With the clean up complete, Richard called a huddle. He said, “Listen up! Our goal for today is to turn this vegetable plot into a giant buffet restaurant for beneficial insects. If we do it right we will be rewarded with a naturally pest free garden. Let’s get to it, men!”

In hopes of attracting loads of beneficial insects or “good guys,” like lady bugs, lacewings, stink bugs and assassin bugs, Richard had decided to set out cilantro, dill, fennel, yarrow, alyssum and black-eyed Susans. These plants all had inverted umbrella shaped bloom clusters or daisy shaped blooms that the beneficial insects seemed to love. By selecting plants of varied heights he was also able to create a structurally diverse habitat that he hoped would attract a diverse array of the good guys.

Richard said the beneficial insects would use the nectar from the flowers for fuel so they would have the energy to search out garden pests, find mates and lay eggs. The pollen from the flowers would supply them with the protein and fat they needed for good egg development. 

Richard said he hoped that the good guys would like the plants, decide it was home, settle down and lay eggs throughout the garden. He knew their young would hatch hungry and crawl all over the garden looking for tasty pests to feed on like aphids, thrips and whiteflies. Who needs pest sprays with the good guys on the job? 

My job was to place the alyssum completely around the border of the vegetable plot while he and Rusty placed the other plants at intervals among the rows.  Richard said when the time came to plant the vegetables he would sprinkle out a few more seeds of the plants he had put out for the beneficial insects and then mark his calendar to sprinkle out a few more every three to four weeks. That way the good guys would have a never ending, 24-hour, all-you-can-eat buffet from now until fall. We hoped that would seal the deal.

With our goal met, we hurried to get our boards and make it to the beach before sundown.

Rusty paddled hard to catch a nice three footer.  As he took off he laughed and yelled back at Richard, “Dude, you’ve got to work on those priorities!”

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com. The Quackers have a new, amazing Web site! Stories, pictures and a blog at www.thequackers.com.  

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