When You Least Expect It

As consciousness began to creep in this morning, I felt deeply renewed and sated from a restful night of sleep. Of course, this only made me want to remain curled up in the comfort of blankets and darkness of the room. But my nagging friend, “Responsibility” kept chiming in my head, “That poor orphaned squirrel has been without food for nine hours, and those three little dogs have been holding their bladders for eight hours. You need to get up! Get up!”  Yeah, well, I did not want to get up! Why did it always have to be me to get up early and get everyone taken care of? Why was I always the breakfast wench each day? Oh well, c’est la vie…

Finally up and at ‘em, I got the dogs fixed up and the squirrel formula prepared. While Punkin’s formula was warming, I quickly checked my email and texts. My sister Jules was on her way home from working the night shift at a rural hospital in Nebraska, and had text-messaged me to see if I was up yet. So I called her to keep her company on her drive home from work. While we visited, I fed Punkin, our orphaned squirrel, on the back porch. Punkin crawled all over me while I talked to Jules. It tickled for the most part, but sometimes those razor-sharp claws really dug in!

Now that we have appropriate squirrel nipples for the syringe, Punkin is going to town gobbling up his formula!

Now that we have appropriate squirrel nipples for the syringe, Punkin is going to town gobbling up her formula!

After I put Punkin back in her little cage, I happened to notice Daisy and her twins, along with another doe and her fawn, eating down at the feeder. I was just remarking to Jules how beautiful it was on the back porch this morning, in the company of all of these amazing deer, when… I thought I saw a fourth, smaller fawn! I counted again. Yes! There were four fawns and I knew the smaller one had to be Spirit’s baby! At this point, Jules knew what was coming next – we have had this conversation many times. I tell her I have to get the camera, and she responds with, “Oh, you go ahead and go down with the deer. I’m just about home anyway.”

I knew FD, who was still slumbering, would not want to miss seeing Spirit’s fawn, so I ran to the bedroom and rousted him up. I did not waste time. I grabbed the camera and quickly as I could, ventured back outside.

Daisy is about to send another doe's fawn off in the direction of its mother. Dancer and Heidi stay near the feeder.

Daisy is about to send another doe’s fawn off in the direction of its mother. Dancer and Heidi stay near the feeder.

Spirit's fawn, "Willow" curiously approaches the group of deer near the feeder.

Spirit’s fawn, “Willow” curiously approaches the group of deer near the feeder.

Heidi sniffs Willow.

Heidi sniffs Willow.

Spirit gets after Willow with gentle hoofing action to separate her baby from Daisy's fawn Heidi.

Spirit gets after Willow with gentle hoofing action to separate her baby from Daisy’s fawn Heidi.

Down below, Daisy was on a rampage. I watched her hoof off the other big doe and her fawn. As she was sending them off into the woods, Daisy’s fawn, Heidi walked over to Spirit’s fawn and they touched noses. All of a sudden, Spirit showed up, gently hoofing at her baby in order to separate it from Heidi.  Pretty soon, Daisy arrived back at the scene with her ears laid back and charging at both Spirit and the baby fawn!  Heidi and Dancer stayed where they were, both alertly observing their mother. I snapped a few photos but, unfortunately, I was not in a good position to see the baby very well.

Daisy’s charge sent Spirit and her baby down the buggy trail to the west, while Daisy returned to the feeding area. After nibbling a little more corn from the feeder, Daisy, Dancer, and Heidi joined the big doe and her fawn, who had moved to watch the ruckus from a safe distance in the pecan orchard nearby. Once the scene around the feeders had cleared, FD and I walked down the slope and carefully headed west down the buggy path in hopes of seeing Spirit with her baby. Sure enough, we spotted both of them about seventy-five feet down the lane from us.

Daisy sends the big doe and her single fawn off to the pecan orchard, while rounding up Dancer and Heidi. She watches to make sure Spirit and her new fawn are heading away from them, down the buggy path.

Daisy sends the big doe and her single fawn off to the pecan orchard, while rounding up Dancer and Heidi. She watches to make sure Spirit and her new fawn are heading away from them, down the buggy path.

I did not manage any great photographs, as we did not wish to spook our new great-granddeer, nor did we wish to alienate Spirit by following her.  Instead, we respectfully kept our distance behind them, speaking gently to Spirit to let her know it was us. The fawn stood at alert, looking straight at us, but did not bolt because its mamma, Spirit, was calm and not bothered by us. Soon, they both turned into the woods, weaving their way up to the top of a small hill that overlooks the entire canyon below. The foliage up the hill was too dense for us to follow quietly, so FD and I turned back to the house.

Willow_7512 Willow_7513

As Spirit quietly meanders  into the depth of the woods, little Willow looks back momentarily to check us out.

As Spirit quietly meanders into the depth of the woods, little Willow looks back momentarily to check us out. Click on the photographs to get a closer look of Spirit and Willow in the woods!

As I prepared breakfast and FD made coffee, I was grateful the morning had presented so much activity. Had I not risen early and gotten on with the day, I would have missed out on seeing Spirit’s fawn. Again and again, and yet once again, nature had shown me that very little is predictable… and that some of the best life events happen when you least expect them!

This is the only good photo I managed before Willow high-tailed it down the path after Spirit. Willow was very curious - this probably being the first time she has seen humans.

This is the only good photo I managed before Willow high-tailed it down the path after Spirit. Willow was very curious – this probably being the first time she has seen humans.

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

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Late Summer Punkin

Tuesday morning started out in a typical, ordinary fashion. During the first hour I am up, I usually manage to accomplish quite a bit before getting FD off to work. But this particular morning, as I was setting our breakfast frittata’s on the table, the phone rang. The caller ID indicated a local number, but not one I recognized. I had a feeling it might be a wildlife rescue call, and it was. On the other end of the line was a nice young woman who had found a baby squirrel. She still needed to get to work in Oklahoma City that morning, but wanted to get this baby settled in where it would get some help from a professional. I told the woman it would be fine for her to bring the baby squirrel to my home. Even though driving here first was actually quite a bit out of her way for getting to work, she, like most animal lovers, was happy to do it.

Not thirty minutes later, another rescue call came in about three bunnies whose mother was killed while a farmer was mowing nearby. Apparently, this wild, country rabbit was used to the comings and goings of people, as she did not seem spooked by the caller and her young children who had actually observed her giving birth earlier in the day. After watching the birthing for a bit, the family went away to leave the mother rabbit to tend to her new ones in peace. Later in the day after noticing the nearby pasture had been mowed, the children discovered the unfortunate fate of the mother rabbit not far away from her nest. Evidently, she had been hit by the farmer’s mower. Fearing for the babies, the children went to the nest site to find them lying safely snuggled together in the hole they had been birthed in.

The woman calling had already cared for the orphaned bunnies for three days but, after learning it was illegal to keep them, she called me. Indicating that she was a stay-at-home mom and really wanted to raise the young rabbits, I told her how to contact the local game warden and emailed her the forms to apply for a license to rehabilitate wildlife. I also gave her the name and number of another wildlife rehabilitator in western Oklahoma who I knew had great success raising bunnies. I myself, had never raised rabbits, so I was relieved that I did not have to commit to raising this trio along with the baby squirrel that would be coming through my door at any minute. Still, it felt good to provide some manner of help to another individual willing to sign on as a wildlife rehabilitator.

Soon, Jasmine, the young woman who had called earlier, arrived carrying a little box that contained baby squirrel she had found. Jasmine had done her homework and had taken the initial steps to see that the baby was kept warm, while also attempting to re-hydrate it. Upon her initial discovery, she had inspected the young squirrel for injury but did not find any obvious issues. Providing a little background of her discovery of the baby, she mentioned that she had been outdoors the evening before when she heard a ruckus of squirrel chattering and squealing coming from a tall tree high above their garage. Then, all of a sudden, this little girl was cast from the nest and, THUMP, the baby hit the garage roof, and then tumbled down the roof to the concrete driveway.

All I had to work with at first was a kitten nipple from the local vet. Punkin dribbled more formula than he took in.

All I had to work with at first was a kitten nipple from the local vet. Punkin dribbled more formula than she took in.

Punkin actually did a little better with no nipple on the syringe. Finally, the special squirrel nipples arrived in the mail which made feeding better for him and me!

Punkin actually did a little better with no nipple on the syringe. Finally, the special squirrel nipples arrived in the mail which made feeding better for her and me!

My first thoughts were how traumatic it must have been for this four- to five-week-old squirrel to suddenly be thrown from the only home it had known. Now alone, and with its eyes not yet open, it only had smell, touch, hearing, and instinct to find its way around. Squirrel babies are timid and shy creatures, yet curious, anxious, and always on alert. Caring for a baby squirrel that has experienced the kind of trauma this one had just been through, requires much patience, quiet surroundings, and detail to creating comfort and security. Living here in nature, my mind thought about the scenario that must have taken place that evening. Likely a mother squirrel had her babies secured in her nest when a predator of some type threatened the nest. Like any good mother, she probably tried to fight off the intruder – likely a raptor of some kind, or perhaps a snake. In the fight, this baby was either knocked out of, or fell from, the nest. But then it occurred to me that, as tragic as the fall may have been, perhaps this single baby had actually been the lucky one. There was no telling what ultimately happened to the mother or siblings. And fortunately, this little baby was old enough to have been nourished well and managed to roll and tumble from the nest to the driveway without sustaining injury.

Those little claws are razor sharp! I love how he wears his tail all over the place!

Those little claws are razor-sharp! I love how she wears her tail all over the place!

Punkin is not a fan of my camera. I had a terrible time getting photos.

Punkin is not a fan of my camera. I had a terrible time getting photos.

Over the last several days, little Punkin has made great strides as a survivor. Her appetite has improved thanks to quick delivery of squirrel supplies from an online distributor, where we stocked up on special feeding nipples and formula. After recovering from her initial, dehydrated condition, Punkin’s bathroom business is finally spot-on as well. Her eyes are open and she is acclimating to human touch. Making gradual improvements like these to get back in the groove of everyday life, is normal for any newly-orphaned wild animal, and Punkin has been no exception. She has been a delight!

And truly, experiencing life-changing events is not so different with humans. Our days typically start out like any other, but misfortunes, accidents, tragedies, and catastrophic events do happen. And, when they do, we are cast out of normalcy and must acclimate ourselves to whatever we have to work with. The struggle to survive can be a continued burden, or it can be met with resiliency that catapults us into creating something good or, at least, something better. The choice is always ours.

My feeling is that little Punkin will do just fine. Having been raised by humans, her early days will not be the same as for other squirrels, but that will not direct the course of her adult life. Soon, her natural, wild instinct will take over, and her desire will be to live the life of a squirrel – bounding from tree to tree in Daisy’s woodland, and cleaning up the kernels of corn she leaves behind at the feeder…

Punkin loves to curl up on FD's chest to nap... but when he's in his little shoe box a nice soft tea towel makes a great cubby to hide in!

Punkin loves to curl up on FD’s chest to nap… but when she’s in her little shoe box a nice soft tea towel makes a great cubby to hide in!

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

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Following Spirit

August finally brought the scorching hot weather we are familiar with this time of year. I suppose we should be thankful that the heat held off longer than usual, as it made for a fairly comfortable summer with ample moisture. But now the grass is burning up and there is very little mowing to do. The tomatoes are spent, as are the squash and zucchini plants. Even my native flowers are drying up and dropping dried seed for next year. Only the bell peppers and hot peppers seem to be flourishing.

The twins are really growing! Daisy is still an always-alert mama!

The twins are really growing! Daisy is still an always-alert mama!

Daisy occasionally babysits while Dancer and Heidi make a new friend!

Daisy occasionally babysits while Dancer and Heidi make a new friend!

 

Daisy and her twins seem to be doing well, though. I see them down at the water tub a good bit, along with two other big does and their single fawns. It seems Daisy is the only mama in the local herd with twins this year. And, of course, the newest mamma, Spirit, comes to get water and feed two or more times a day. It is obvious she is still nursing a fawn, but we have not seen it yet.

To me, Spirit looks terrible, but then, who wouldn’t look terrible in this miserable heat? Much of her summer coat has been shed and she has a patchy, almost mangy, look about her. She is a new mother – an eating machine – and always on guard. While at the feeder or water tub, she is constantly attacked by horse flies, mosquitoes, and other insects. Spirit never has shown much patience with insects, so she eats in a hurry and, quite often, it is the frustration of attacking flies that ultimately sends her back into the deep woods.

Spirit and Heidi_7138 Spirit and Heidi_7139 Spirit and Heidi_7238

Spirit does not run her mother, Daisy, off, but she sure goes into "protection" mode when anyone is in the vicinity of the nursery area where Spirit has her baby hidden. This happens to be Heidi who is taking a good hoofing!

Spirit does not run her mother, Daisy, off, but she sure goes into “protection” mode when anyone is in the vicinity of the nursery area where she has her baby hidden. This happens to be Heidi who is taking a good hoofing!

One morning recently, I tried to follow Spirit, in hopes of photographing her two-week old fawn. While Spirit is not really afraid of us, she does not allow FD or me to pet her or get closer than about ten feet. Still, I hoped she would allow me to follow her, at least at a distance. My zoom lens would be helpful to get the shot I hoped for.  So, in preparation for my venture into the thicker part of the woods, I girded myself with thin, lightweight olive-green pants, steel-toed boots, and a lightweight camouflage shirt. I sprayed myself down with an organic insect repellent that reeked of cedar oil. I wondered, after I had coated myself with the repellent, whether I had actually ruined any chances of getting near Spirit. I could hardly stand the smell myself!

Spirit carefully watches before approaching the water and feed area.

Spirit carefully watches before approaching the water and feed area.

Once she feels it is safe, she hurriedly drinks water and eats corn and deer chow. Soon she will return to her baby hidden in the woods.

Once she feels it is safe, she hurriedly drinks water and eats corn and deer chow. Soon she will return to her baby hidden in the woods.

When venturing on such a journey in the past, Spirit had given me the slip. Any time I had attempted to follow her, she would take one leap and the next thing I would know, she had disappeared. This time, however, she leisurely nibbled at cat brier and elm tree leaves as she slowly moseyed to the deep woods. When she took a few steps, I took as many, staying about ten to twenty feet away from her. I tried not to think about snakes and spiders. This time of year, everything frightening lurked in the woods. But I was surprised at the coolness of the heavy shade, and Spirit and I were in the undergrowth most of the time – where it was sacredly dark and quiet. Here, even the insects seemed to disappear. There were no grasses growing, and the ground was dry and cracked, with dead leaves, tree bark, and decomposing wood lying scattered on the woodland floor.  The only green I saw in this densely brown area, was tufts of liriope spicata that grew in huge patches, scattered here and there throughout the woodlands. Spirit was calm as she sauntered along, just nibbling around, while occasionally looking back to see if I was managing along with her. Finally, she laid down in a lush spot of liriope to rest. I sat a distance from her, with my back against the trunk of a fallen tree.

Spirit, like all deer, loves to nibble cat brier. She is an eating machine while she's nursing!

Spirit, like all deer, loves to nibble cat brier. She is an eating machine while she’s nursing!

Sometimes Spirit bites at the horse flies. FD once saw her get one with her mouth and eat it!

Sometimes Spirit bites at the horse flies. FD once saw her get one with her mouth and eat it!

Spirit often just lays down to escape the biting horse flies.

Spirit often just lays down to escape the biting horse flies.

I rested there with Spirit for close to thirty minutes, I guess. She chewed her cud as she watched me, and I knew this was a sign that I was not going to see her fawn – she was too careful for that. Spirit was showing me that she was a good mother, and I marveled at how, being just a yearling herself, she had managed for two weeks to care for, not only her first fawn, but a very late-season fawn at that. But apparently, she had learned well from her mother, Daisy. She found respite for herself from the heat and insects in the cool of the deep woods, and she had also found an area off the beaten paths of animal trails in which to hide her baby and keep watch for predators. And, most important of all, she relied on instinct to show her the way.

Spirit chews her cud while she rests in the cool shade.

Spirit chews her cud while she rests in the cool shade.

Spirit, nearly hidden in the lush liriope grass, watches me from a distance.

Spirit, nearly hidden in the lush liriope grass, watches me from a distance.

After a time, I knew I would have to wait for photographs of the new one(s) until Spirit was ready to bring her baby out of the woods. And I hoped she did not mind that, if only every so often, I tagged along behind her just to spend some time in her hidden world under the canopy of the woodland vegetation. Perhaps, I could learn a few lessons of the ways of nature from Spirit, just as I had from Daisy not so very long ago…

After getting food and water, Spirit makes her way carefully back to the woods.

After getting food and water, Spirit makes her way carefully back to the woods.

My beautiful yearling mama, in evening sunlight.

My beautiful yearling mama, in evening sunlight.

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 

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Children Of The Woodlands

A few weeks back, my mother-in-law brought news of her delight to learn that a great-granddaughter wanted to spend a few days here this summer. Most of FD and my families live in various states across the US. Only a few have made roots in Oklahoma. So, it was wonderful to know we would have nine-year-old Riley Jo here to spend a few days helping out and have some fun too.

Great-grandma and Riley Jo working in the iris beds.

Great-grandma and Riley Jo working in the iris beds.

In the mornings, while it was still cool, Riley Jo worked with great-grandma in the garden and in the flower beds. She helped to feed the chickens and gather eggs in the afternoon. In the evenings, I would see them taking walks around the property, or riding bicycles in the nearby neighborhoods. They also came over to our home to deliver eggs, and sometimes to swim in the pool. Whenever I saw them, I could tell my mom-in-law was enjoying every bit of the visit from her great-granddaughter.

Riley Jo drew this the very first day she arrived. She and great-grandma had spotted Daisy with her twins down at the feeder and water tub.

Riley Jo drew this the very first day she arrived. She and great-grandma had spotted Daisy with her twins down at the feeder and water tub.

While swimming one afternoon, Riley Jo mentioned that someday she hoped to be a veterinarian who traveled the world helping zoos with animals in need. So, when it was time to take our dog Bear to the vet for his annual exam that week, I asked to take Riley Jo along, thinking she might learn something from the expert vets on staff. Actually, Riley Jo entertained the staff with her knowledge of animals, and when we began discussing Bear’s recent seizures, Riley asked some very good and important questions. I was quite proud of my great-niece!

When we returned home from the vet visit, we found Daisy deer alone at the water tub down below the slope. Apparently the fawns were resting elsewhere. Wanting her to have the opportunity of a closer look at Daisy, I cautioned Riley Jo to come down slowly after me, and not to make any sudden moves. I greeted Daisy in my normal manner, but she was still very alert about the stranger behind me. As you know from some of my previous blog posts, mother deer are protective of their territories when they have babies in the area. So, mamma Daisy ignored my attentions and went straight to Riley Jo to investigate.

Daisy was very interested in the unicorn on Riley Jo's shirt!

Daisy was very interested in the unicorn on Riley Jo’s shirt!

Why not give Riley Jo's hair a little tug too?? Daisy seemed completely enthralled with Riley Jo!

Why not give Riley Jo’s hair a little tug too?? Daisy seemed completely enthralled with Riley Jo!

Daisy licked and nibbled the unicorn so much that it was beginning to tickle Riley Jo!

Daisy licked and nibbled the unicorn so much that it was beginning to tickle Riley Jo!

Thankfully, I had the camera with me to capture what came next. Daisy sniffed Riley Jo and seemed particularly interested in her t-shirt, which had a puff-paint image of a unicorn on it. Investigating further, Daisy licked the shirt and tried to nibble it. She sniffed Riley’s long hair and tugged at it. Riley Jo was not sure what to do about all this, so she laughed and nicely stepped back, but Daisy’s interest was piqued, and back to Riley’s shirt she went, licking and nibbling and being quite assertive about it! Amazingly, Daisy hung around right next to Riley Jo for the next forty-five minutes to an hour, and I was able to manage several nice photos of the two of them.

The next day, Riley’s mother, brother, and little sister came to fetch her home. Upon hearing of Riley’s experience with Daisy the day before, her siblings hoped for a chance to see and pet her as well, but Daisy was nowhere to be found. They did manage to find a little ring-necked snake back in the woodlands though, so we had a quick lesson about where they lived, what they ate, and what kind of predators sought them. Of course, like most kids, they wanted to keep the snake and take it home for a pet! I told them why we needed to return the snake to its home and how we can learn from just observing it, but that we should let all wild creatures be free. I told them that, even though I was “mother” to Daisy since she did not have one as a baby, I still knew that I could not keep her in a cage, because she was a wild animal that needed her freedom. I had to let her roam the woods and live her own life as deer are intended to do.

Wager was an expert swimmer!

Wager was an expert swimmer!

Jaci felt a little more comfortable with lots of floaties and a secure hold on the pool edge!

Jaci felt a little more comfortable with lots of floaties and a secure hold on the pool edge!

 

Pretty soon, the kids discovered a spider and Jaci, the youngest, came to tattle that her brother was going to smash the spider! But I could see he was simply teasing his little sister to get a reaction from her. With Jaci assured the spider would not be smashed, we observed it closely. This was a young, female garden orb, and I told the kids how the orbs were very friendly and beautiful spiders. I explained all that I knew about these handsome creatures, and that I actually loved seeing them in the flower gardens and in the vegetable patches. After learning of the spider’s value, Wager piped up with, “We better leave her alone now, so she can catch some bugs”. The lesson was complete.

I hope this little trio comes to visit again soon. Maybe this fall, when the weeds are down and the snakes go into hiding for the winter, we can hike back into the woods and find all sorts of adventure. We might climb the giant hill to the secret places Daisy and I used to venture to, and sit under the cover of the tall, old cedar tree deep in the woods. Perhaps we will see rabbits and armadillos, or maybe just peer into their burrows.  And just maybe, we will stumble upon a few old skeletons of animals that lived their lives in the wild, and found peace at the end.

Riley and Daisy_6669

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

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