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Watching a miracle of nature in the backyard

The green thumb at our house belongs to my wife, Kim.

She loves her orchids, her fruit trees and her flowers.

In trying to describe the drive and intensity of the woman to remake the yard after we bought the house in 2003, the only word that comes to mind is “jackhammer.”

She was relentless in pursuing her vision, and I was often her whining tool, shoveling dirt, toting a bag of fertilizer or struggling with a sprinkler head. If she was the artist, I was the apprentice. Ask any neighbor, they’ll tell you.

Now just a few years later, we have trees that are as tall as the house, and we’ll be at the rare fruit and herb sale today at the Manatee Convention and Civic Center. If we buy anything, I don’t know where it will go.

An unexpected spin-off from all that planting, digging and weeding is that we recently had the privilege of watching a family of cardinals raise their young in a tree right outside our living room window.

We were so enthralled with the close-up view that I posted a series of three sets of photos to my Facebook page, most of them shot through that window.

The first in the series showed a neat little round nest, made of twigs and Spanish moss, with three tiny eggs.

There was also a picture of the rust-colored mother bird diligently keeping the eggs warm.

The brilliantly red father bird brought home the bugs, and we saw, but never managed to photograph, him sharing with his mate.

A second in the series showed two of the babies asleep in the nest. The third egg never hatched.

In the final series, we photographed one of the fledglings stretching its wings, preparing to fly, with mom and dad in the background.

In all, the cycle — this miracle of nature — took just a couple of weeks. The cardinals are all gone now, and we miss them and their distinctive metallic “chink, chink” call.

Sometimes after the fledglings had left the nest you would hear that “chink, chink” sound, but you couldn’t see them anywhere.

We never understood how they were able to hide so well in the trees.One of my Faceback friends, Anita, who was a classmate of mine in the Class of 1965 at St. Augustine High School, posted that she was happy to see another bird enthusiast, and that she had been watching bluebirds near her Nashville home.

We can’t quite claim to be birders. We’ve just had our first crush with the cardinals, sort of like fourth-grade puppy love. But we are thinking about getting a feeder and setting out some sunflower seeds.

The nature show in the backyard was better than anything on TV.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.