November 29, 2011

What I Learned from the woods

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Henry David Thoreau
We did not go to the woods for such esoteric reasons. We went to the woods sixteen years ago because we needed more space, and the house happened to be adjacent to a woods.

Over time I came to realize that this was not our property; we were just interlopers here. The place is populated with a variety of critters, some seen and some unseen. But we know they are here. And they know we are here.

Take the ground hogs (please). We have yet to catch one that we frequently see sunning in the afternoons on the side lawn. We found the entrance to his lair and closed it off; it remains closed. That probably means he has just found another route into his secret hideaway.

One evening I opened the back door to our deck and heard a squeal and saw a furball run directly past me. I got a glimpse. It was Mr. Groundhog, who apparently did not like the proximity. I deduced that perhaps this is why they are called groundhogs, because they do squeal like pigs.

We have a trap used for the various beasts, but we humanely relocate them to a Animal Witness Protection Program (the Isaac Walton League grounds five miles away.)

Last summer we caught something and it was the oddest looking thing we've ever seen. Gray with a very pointy nose. We've spotted red foxes in our yard, but this was gray. I sent a picture to our county extension agent, speculating that it was a rare gray fox. They are still laughing about the half-blind woman in the county who was unable to recognize a young raccoon, or the "highly unusual gray-striped fox" as the agent called it.

Be gone with him! Two years in a row we had raccoons get into our attic--the second year the coon made sport with our thirty-five year old roof and we had to replace it quickly. Initially we had to cover it with a large blue tarp because he did damage so quickly.

Most of the country is still overpopulated with white tail deer and our neighborhood is no exception. Until we built a fence across the back of our property, anywhere from four to seven deer crossed our yard after sunset each night, during every season. It seems our fence has only rerouted the inevitable, a neighbor complained to us that they have now found his garden and are having their evening appetizers on their travels through his yard.

When we still had an outdoor cat, I opened the back door one evening to fill his bowl. Eating the remains of Tiger's breakfast was a nice fat opossum, three feet from my screened door. Apparently Tiger's bowl needed to be refilled daily, because the mistress of the house wasn't smart enough to figure out that one little outside kitty was not eating all that food.

We've had the occasional large turtle. At our former home a mile from here, Beloved Husband was mowing the lawn and found a snapping turtle with a shell about a foot in diameter near the fence.

Rabbits show up occasionally. And we are blessed with birds, which we feed both in the back and front of the house.

Our neighbors have contributed to this zoo, with various dogs of all sizes and temperament (I think the common breed is Crotch Rocket because that's where they go to). Three houses up the street we have an "urban chicken rancher" who has the world's horniest rooster and six or seven lily white chickens that like to inhabit the middle of the road.

Beloved Husband, who thinks he is very funny, often pauses in the car and yells at them, "Why, why?"

(as in "Why does the chicken cross the road?")

These same neighbors also have peacocks which give the noisy rooster a run for his money. All of them are apparently confused with the time changes because they are making noise round the clock.

In calmer weather, I still enjoy sitting on the deck, though I've considered emulating Granny from "The Beverly Hillbillies" and protecting my turf with a shotgun across my lap. Ya'll come back now.