Back to Suburban Nature

Share this post

By Chris Mittelstaedt

Wayne, PA, June 1981. It’s a hazy and humid gray-blue Saturday and the summer beetles  are whistle-clicking as I push the riding mower backwards out from the garage. I’m in grasscutting gear—white shorts with green piping, tube socks pulled up to my knees, a blue  Adidas T-shirt, mirrored sunglasses, and super-absorbent plush white-and-blue wristbands.

Halfway into my mowing the barn swallows start to gather. They’re suburban Philly barn  swallows, bred long before Valley Forge was a park and the Pennsylvanian fields of gold  summer straw were filled with office parks and houses instead of pheasant and fox.

They dive—two at first, then two more. Soon it’s an aria of slight, razor-winged birds rising and  falling in concert with my mowing. Even though I don’t speak their language, I know these  birds understand me. It’s a message. Something about a connection between what is natural  and what is built by human hands. I have a special power. I’m the Doctor Doolittle of suburban  Philadelphia—there’s no doubt that yo hablo barn swallow! It brings tears to my eyes.

My sister, watching from the window (and who later claimed I was yelling and ducking  hysterically while flapping my arms and controlling the lawn mower with my knees), makes  sure she’s there when I pull the mower into the garage. “I talked with the birds!” I tell her  excitedly. I add, in a whisper, “I have a gift.” “Chris,” she says matter-of-factly. “They eat  the bugs that you kick up when you cut the grass.”

Nature speaks to us in many languages depending on where you live. For example, right now  it is loquacious on the West Coast—chatting away with Ed McGee’s white-flesh nectarines  from Vernalis, CA, and Olson Family Farms’ Candy Red yellow peaches from Kingsburg, CA.

The east and central parts of the United States are well over being tongue-tied by spring  and are in chorus with a wide variety of stone fruits.  See what’s growing in your  region by visiting our mix pages at

And remember — if no hablo barn  swallow, you can always try mime.


Subscribe to the WEEKLY BITE

* indicates required


Recent The FruitLife articles:

Summer fruit varieties and when you’ll be seeing them
July 9, 2019
Beehives, swales, and vermicomposting, oh my!
April 29, 2019
Spring fruit varieties and how to enjoy them
April 16, 2019
A tribute to the “Lemon Lady” of Redwood City
March 11, 2019
The FruitGuys New Year’s poem
January 8, 2019
Sowing the seeds of entrepreneurship
October 31, 2018
Give the delicious gift of farm-fresh fruit and healthy snacks
October 4, 2018
Summer to fall transition brings new fruit into the rotation
October 2, 2018
Bring some fruitful fun to your workplace on Tuesday, October 2
September 27, 2018
Farmer suicide is a public health threat and could hurt our food supply
August 14, 2018

More recent articles:

Simple summer salad dressing recipes
July 11, 2019
Easy summer pasta recipe
July 4, 2019
How to create a dress code that works all year
July 2, 2019
More employers are getting serious about time off
June 27, 2019
Two Easy Recipes for Canning Stone Fruit
June 25, 2019
The health benefits of honeydew melon
June 20, 2019
The delicate flavors of white peaches and nectarines
June 13, 2019
Don’t let plantar fasciitis pain break your stride
June 11, 2019
How to make stone fruit jams and butters
June 6, 2019
Listen and learn something new about work life—wherever you are
June 4, 2019

About Us

Our online magazine offers a taste of workplace culture, trends, and healthy living. It features recipes for easy, delicious work meals and tips on quick office workouts. It's also an opportunity to learn about our GoodWorks program, which helps those in need in our communities and supports small, sustainable farms.