The Trouble With Fences

I am really quite thankful that we have welded-wire fence on the east and the south boundaries of our property. The trash from nearby streets is at least kept off of the property because of this fence barrier. However, the west and half of the northern fence lines are barbed wire, which I’m not too fond of. Crossing to the pecan orchard side, or hiking on to the river, entails either crawling under the sharp, barbed wire, or trying to hike a leg over the top wire of the fence. For my efforts, I have a number of rips in the crotch of my jeans and more than a few hole-riddled t-shirts to prove my own ineptness at going over, or under, the fence. If the difficulty of the barbed wire were not enough, part of the north side of the property fence line is a combination of welded-wire fence, wood privacy fence and cyclone fence. Most of this fencing belongs to our neighbor, Steve.

Other fencing on the ten-acre ranch, is the usual, necessary chicken-wire to protect the chickens from predators. Also, we built the deer pen of solid welded-wire dog kennel panels for the same reason – to keep Daisy deer safe from predators while we were raising her. And, after we turned Daisy loose to become the wild deer she was meant to be, it became evident that, if we wanted to harvest any vegetables for ourselves, it would be necessary to put fencing around our garden and FD’s mother’s garden. Early in Daisy’s life as a free-roaming deer, we had not given much thought to one sweet, deer becoming many, hungry deer.

Heidi Deer_5561

Fawn Heidi in June 2014. Daisy jumped the fence to the other side but Heidi could not figure out how to follow. For more than twenty minutes she ran back and forth, panting and crying out.

Fawn Heidi in June 2014. Daisy jumped the fence to the other side but Heidi could not figure out how to follow. For more than twenty minutes she ran back and forth, panting and crying out.

But it has bothered me a lot over the years we have lived here, that many tragedies result from fencing. Last year, FD found parts of a rabbit lodged in the chain-link fence between us and our neighbor Steve. It appeared the rabbit was trying to escape a predator but could not get its midsection through the fence. And, each summer I find numerous turtles stuck in the woven wire fences. Most are lucky to be rescued when I drive the buggy along the fences to pick up trash and check for any trouble with the fencing. Just last week, because I had missed patrolling the property lines for a couple of days, I found a land turtle who had gotten stuck going forward in the fencing, but the wire section was not wide enough for his shell, and he perished in the sun. There are places along the fence line where critters can get under, but of course they do not know that. And oddly, the turtle could have easily backed out – he was not lodged in the fencing. But I’m sure his only thought was getting through the fence.

Many times, when Daisy deer comes to visit, she is sporting long gashes down her back from ducking under barbed wire fencing. The wounds heal quickly, but I hate that this happens. On my hikes to the river, I see animal hair on the bottom line of barbed wire fencing where animals cross from one field to the next. While I have never seen it happen, I have seen photographs of birds and small mammals caught or tangled in fencing. I have also seen photographs of deer attempting to leap over fencing, but catching their hind legs between the top two strands of wire, and dying from not being able to free themselves.

I guess what I dislike most about fences, is the problems they cause my Daisy deer. For the past three years, Daisy has had her babies across the chain-link fence in our neighbor Steve’s back yard. And, each year, we observe first hand, that Daisy does not seem to understand the concept of fences. She leaps over without a problem, but seems to think her little fawns should just follow. When they do not immediately join her, she grunts for and waits and grunts again, and soon the panic begins. The fawns cry out, running back and forth along the fence line, distraught at not being able to follow their mother. Daisy continues to grunt and looks at them as if she does not understand the problem. Finally she will leap back over to join them.  Eventually, the little family ends up taking a very long way around Steve’s property, venturing quite a bit north to the pecan orchard and then taking a long hike back to our place. Two years ago, Steve gave us permission to open the fence near the pecan orchard, just below our slope to allow Daisy and her fawns easier access to our property. But it still seemed to be difficult for the little ones to figure out where the opening was, since it was located in the wooded area of the canyon, far below Steve’s immediate backyard and our front yard.

Daisy checks out FD's tools and takes a lick and nibble just to be sure.

Daisy checks out FD’s tools and takes a lick and nibble just to be sure.

FD and Steve agreed to pain the top rail of the fence white so that deer could easily see it. Daisy gives her approval "sniff".

FD and Steve agreed to paint the top rail of the fence white so that deer could easily see it. Daisy gives her approval “sniff”.

Daisy checks out the new opening.

Daisy checks out the new opening.

Daisy makes her way to the other side of the fence!

Daisy makes her way to the other side of the fence!

This year, shortly after Daisy gave birth last month, Steve mentioned that he thought we should open the fence up top, between our two properties – his backyard and our front yard. FD thought it could easily be done in a fashion that would not destroy the fence, and yet offer Daisy and her fawns easy access between the two yards without having to venture into the woods or the canyon, where it was more likely that predators might lurk. FD got busy that very next day and opened the fence.

While we wait to watch Daisy bring a fawn through the new opening, Daisy decides to rest a bit.

While we wait to watch Daisy bring a fawn through the new opening, Daisy decides to rest a bit.

After about twenty minutes, Daisy decides to call her fawn for nursing time.

After about twenty minutes, Daisy decides to call her fawn for nursing time.

Daisy Nursing_1526 Daisy Nursing_1538 Nursing Fawn_1539

After nursing, the fawn does a little romping and wandering.

After nursing, the fawn does a little romping and wandering.

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It is time to find the next hiding spot to rest.

It is time to find the next hiding spot to rest.

Daisy constantly stops to groom and bond with her doe fawn.

Daisy constantly stops to groom and bond with her doe fawn.

Daisy carefully proceeds to the opening in the fence.

Daisy carefully proceeds to the opening in the fence.

A little nonchalant grooming before setting out again.

A little nonchalant grooming before setting out again.

Mama leads the way through the new opening.

Mama leads the way through the new opening.

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The fawns are two weeks old now, and Daisy has utilized the new opening in the fence several times. Daisy has been very secretive this year about where she hides her little ones. Always sure to hide them separately, I never know whether she has her babies over here or in Steve’s backyard, unless I spend a lot of time observing her. And, not surprisingly, I have noticed the foxes, one turtle, and an armadillo using the opening as well. It did not take long for the neighborhood critters to realize the magic door. And I must admit, even a large mammal like myself enjoys the ease of passing under the new, secret opening! I am happy not to have the worry about hooking my pants on those chain-link barbs anymore!

© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 

 

Posted in Deer, Nature | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Born In A Storm

Wednesday evening found me in a rush to clean up dinner dishes so that I could run over to our neighbor’s backyard to check on Daisy. When I observed her earlier that morning, her udder appeared to be slightly larger than it had been over the past several days. I also noticed her resting a good bit the day prior, so I had a sneaking hunch her time to give birth was near, and was curious as to what area she had selected for the event.

With my dishes now stacked (OK, maybe “thrown”) in the drying rack,  I crossed into the neighbor’s property through a small opening in the fence near the slope, and meandered through the wild growth of his backyard. Years ago, I could not have imagined anyone letting backyard property become so overgrown, but after raising Daisy and watching her browse about our property eating various plants and tree leaves, I have learned to have a great appreciation for the existence of natural grasses, weeds, and thickets of trees. In fact, over the years since Daisy came along, FD and I have become very wildlife conscious, and now take measures to ensure a wildlife-friendly landscape and not worry so much about it being pleasing to the eyes of the members of the “Yard of the Month Club”.

Snapping my thoughts back to the natural habitat of our neighbor’s backyard, I walked along calling Daisy’s name and speaking softly so that I would not alarm or surprise her. As it turned out, I did not have to venture far to find her. Daisy was lying on her side with her belly exposed, in an open, grassy area. I sat down beside her and we began our normal, mutual-grooming ritual for a couple of minutes. Daisy licked my arm while I picked a tick or two off of her and softly smashed mosquitoes on her face. Then I scratched her neck and head awhile, which she seemed to enjoy immensely.

I found Daisy resting in an open area between thickets.

I found Daisy resting in an open area between thickets.

Daisy's belly has dropped, but she still has several hours ahead of her before giving birth.

Daisy’s belly has dropped, but she still has several hours ahead of her before giving birth.

Daisy would lay down for a few minutes, then relocate. She was walking more open-legged now and could not seem to get comfortable.

Daisy would lay down for a few minutes, then get up and relocate. She was walking more open-legged now and could not seem to get comfortable.

When Daisy finally stood up, I noticed her belly had “dropped” – now hanging lower, rather than being as round and wide as before. Also, her vaginal area was swollen and her udder had more than doubled in size. She took a few steps and relieved herself, her tail stretched up and vaginal area puckering as she did so. Taking a few more waddling steps forward, she left even more scat, which were normal pea-sized pellets. Each time she stopped, she raised her tail as if stretching it straight up, while the puckering action of the vaginal area continued. FD arrived about that time, and indicated he thought she might be having mild contractions, but was probably still several hours from delivery. I was a bit disappointed at that news as, once again, I was hoping to photograph the event and be with Daisy during the delivery.

It was dusk now, and the onslaught of mosquitoes was relentless. I knew that even if I could have stayed out with a flashlight and camera, the mosquitoes would have made me insane. Besides, Daisy was still up and then down. She could not seem to get comfortable. Ultimately, I knew  she must do this on her own as she had done the past two years. So I bid her good night, praying that her delivery would be easy and safe.

Of course, being the worry wort that I am when my Daisy girl is involved, I did not sleep very well at all. The hours slowly rolled by, and I only dozed a few minutes at a time. Then at 3:00 a.m., the thunder cracked and rain poured down. As I laid there in our warm bed thinking of my Daisy deer, I heard the howling of the increasing wind and steady hammering of a torrential rain on the roof. I thought of fawns coming into the world at such a time. I had seen Daisy brave the elements, even hail stones, over the years, but I could not imagine emerging from the warmth and security of a womb, only to be pelted by cold rain and sharp, biting winds. Finally, I found comfort in realizing the storm was Mother Nature’s way of cleansing Daisy and the fawns, and washing away any traces of the birthing event. This would lessen chances of predators detecting evidence of the babies.

This is the view of the birthing area in our neighbor's yard. Daisy used the low-hanging branches of the oak tree on the right, as cover and possible shelter from the storm that moved through in the wee hours of the morning.

This is the view of this year’s birthing area in our neighbor’s yard. No wonder Daisy chooses this area for her nursery – wild and plenty of cover to hide babies! Daisy used the low-hanging branches of the oak tree on the right, as cover and possible shelter from the storm that moved through in the wee hours of the morning.

Needless to say, when morning finally arrived, I hurriedly went through my tasks of getting the dogs medications doled out and then getting both the dogs and the juvenile squirrels fed. With that complete, I whipped up a quick breakfast, inhaling my own and shouting to FD that he would be serving himself and might possibly have to heat his up again. FD was still busy getting ready for work as I donned my boots, grabbed my camera, and quietly, but quickly, made my way to the neighbor’s backyard in search of Daisy.

I carefully walked through the area where I knew Daisy had given birth to fawns the past two springs, but found no sign of her. Moving on, I gently spoke her name and talked to her so that she would not be alarmed or think a predator was lurking near. Next, I checked the place where I had found her the day before, lying in the grass as if in labor, and worked my way closer to our neighbor’s house from there. And then, to my horror, I felt the sole of my rubber boot landing on a soft lump! Feeling this, I was able to avoid fully stepping on it by lunging forward a bit more, and only giving the lump a good bump as I stepped beyond. With both feet now firmly on the ground, I froze and looked down to find a wee fawn curled up in the tall grass, completely hidden in my footpath! Gracious, I had nearly stepped on my own granddeer!!

Instantly, I bent over to check on the fawn, who remained lying motionless in the grass. Still wet from the rain, the little fawn blinked an eye at me, as if to say, “Gee, thanks. If it wasn’t enough being born in a thunderstorm, a clumsy human has to come along and clobber me with a rubber boot!” I apologized in gentle tones, and lightly petted the little one’s head, feeling just terrible about how my boot must have felt to the tiny, newborn fawn. Before leaving it, I carefully lifted a rear leg and determined it to be a little doe. Again, speaking softly, I apologized and stepped ever so slowly away, not wishing to disturb her any further.

Daisy is resting about thirty feet from her fawns.

Daisy is resting about thirty feet from her fawns.

FD gently checks the sex of both fawns.

FD gently confirms the sex of both fawns.

A fawn has no defense from predators the first week. Laying motionless and being well-camouflaged is its best defense. The mother also keeps it very clean and scentless the first few weeks.

Other than a mother’s watchful eyes, a fawn has little protection from predators the first week. Lying motionless and being well-camouflaged is its best defense. The mother also keeps it very clean and scent-free the first few weeks.

Now standing five feet away from the little doe, I removed my cell phone from my pants pocket and began dialing FD’s number, when I glanced to my right and found I had once again placed my boot very close to a second fawn! This one was more exposed in the weeds, though it had a young sapling next to it which offered a bit of cover. As I knelt down to pet it softly (finding that it too was a doe), I finally noticed Daisy lying under the cover of an oak tree just a few feet away, chewing her cud. At this point, I completed my call to FD, only to realize he had already come over the fence in his dress clothes. Apparently, he had inhaled his breakfast as well, in order to see Daisy and the new granddeer before dashing off to work.

After FD left for work, I spent a lot of time with Daisy, petting her head and smashing the mosquitoes that relentlessly attacked her cheeks. While petting her, I realized I should call my neighbor to tell him the news so he would be careful when letting his dog, Jessica, out for her morning bathroom business. Getting up, Daisy nibbled and grazed while keeping watch on her babies. Our neighbor, Steve, arrived about that time and, walking slowly to Daisy, received a hand lick as her approval to be in the nursery area. Daisy went about grazing while I showed Steve where the fawns were located. I suppose Daisy felt she could take the opportunity of having baby sitters, as she strolled further back into the yard to do a little patrolling in the immediate area. After all, the pesky foxes had been seen the night before and that morning already as well. With her babies born, Daisy would be on full alert at all times. At one point, Steve went inside and returned with hot coffee for us to sip while we continued to visit near the fawns. Daisy returned from time to time, finally nursing one fawn and moving it to another area. Nearly two hours later, she nursed and moved the other baby. Both were now located in tall grasses on either end of Steve’s back yard.

Daisy makes a small "buzzing" grunt to call her baby to her.

Daisy makes a small “buzzing” grunt to call her baby to her.

Daisy and Fawn_1349 Daisy and Fawn_1352 Daisy and Fawn_1360

Five hours later, I finally returned home to fix lunch and give my back a break. I thought of Daisy, who had given birth just hours before, and was now faced with being a protective mother and defender of her young. I observed her twice during the afternoon chasing the young fox off with hooves a flyin! And, throughout the day, I watched her browse about like a voracious eating machine. She was often nose-to-the-ground, either catching scent of what animals might have passed through the area, or searching for her babies while mooing her call to beckon them to nurse. A few times, I saw her resting a short distance from where her babies were hidden separately.

Daisy is on guard and has already had a few tangles with the foxes!

Daisy is on guard and has already had a few tangles with the foxes!

Daisy rests nearby, chewing her cud. I never see her sleeping - she is always watching her babies who are hidden separately, nearby in the  shade and cover of trees and grasses.

Daisy rests nearby, chewing her cud. I never see her sleeping – she is always watching her babies who are hidden separately in the shade and cover of nearby trees and grasses.

Observing Daisy as a mother of two for the third year in a row, I realize how easy I had it raising only her. Daisy’s job as a mother is so much more difficult than mine was. Being raised by humans, she managed to tap into instinct to know how to handle her role as a deer mother in the wild. Unfortunately, she has suffered loss in the process – her first little buck to a bobcat attack in which Daisy was also wounded badly, and last year’s, six-month-old fawns that simply disappeared a week apart during the fall rut. Then finally, her yearling fawn, Spirit (who also lost her own fawn a month after it was born), disappeared in mid-February this year. FD and I have never able to determine for certain what happened with any of them. We hope Spirit has simply chosen to set up her own territory somewhere not too far away.

I continue to marvel at Daisy’s resiliency. She is my teacher and my inspiration, always displaying a determination and fight to make it through the struggle of life in the wild. She continually reminds me that, despite the conditions and circumstances we grow up in, or the events that happen to us throughout life, we always have instinct – the inner spirit and direction that resides within – to help us along and show us the way of living in the moment, and of finding joy in stormy times…

Daisy and Fawn_1405 Daisy and Fawn_1407 Daisy and Fawn_1425 Fawn-1440 Fawn-1443 Daisy and Fawn_1444

The first couple of weeks Daisy will hide the fawns in separate places. She nurses them on different schedules too. In the wild it is better to keep them separate in case a predator finds them. Both could be lost if they were kept together. Later when they can run, Daisy will bring them together. But for many months, Daisy is on high alert - always watchful and at the ready to fend off trouble.

Over the first couple of weeks, Daisy will hide the fawns in separate places. She nurses them on different schedules too. In the wild, it is better to keep them separate in case a predator finds them. Both could be lost if they were kept together. Later, when they can run full-speed, Daisy will bring them together. But for many months, Daisy will be on high alert – always watchful and at the ready to fend off trouble.

© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

Posted in Nature, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 55 Comments

Let It Rain

As this month went on, we just could not believe the rains kept coming. After four years of drought, our area of Oklahoma had been designated as having “severe” drought status while conditions in the area just west of us were considered to be in the “extreme” drought category. As such, I never heard anyone complain about the first torrential storms that came through. And, given the much-needed rain, few even lamented minor tornado damage a couple of weeks ago. As usual, Oklahoman’s accepted what Mother Nature doled out. And when the recent flooding came, I still did not hear complaining. We all knew we needed water, and lots of it. Our ponds, lakes, and rivers were drying up.

The woodland floor has a very different perspective these days! This is a reflection from a pool of water in the woods.

The woodland floor has a very different perspective these days! This is a reflection from a pool of water in the woods.

The rain does not stop Daisy deer and Mr. Gambini the squirrel from having a snack of corn in the afternoon!

The rain does not stop Daisy deer and Mr. Gambini the squirrel from having a snack of corn in the afternoon!

Just about all Buddy and Francesca know about their outdoor world is rain! It has rained almost every day since we put them in their outdoor cage. Of course now they have ventured out to the trees and last night spent their first night sleeping in a tree!

Just about all Buddy and Francesca know about their outdoor world is rain! It has rained almost every day since we put them in their outdoor cage. Of course now they have ventured out to the trees and last night spent their first night sleeping in a tree!

The most welcomed rains began May 5th. The first one doused us with 3.45 inches of rain overnight. In the days that followed, another inch or two of rain, and sometimes three or five, fell in a single day. Fortunately for us, we had installed two drains up top on our property after Hurricane Erin trekked inland and dumped torrential rains upon us for three days straight back in 2007. With our recent rains, these drains were kept busy funneling water down a pipeline to the bottom of the slope where it gushed out into a little “dry” creek bed we had fashioned out of rock several years ago. Day after day, the rains came and the grounds all around the property became saturated to the point where it looked like we lived in a marsh. I half expected alligators to show up, searching for unattended Japanese Chin as they patrolled the moat around the house! Ok, maybe it was not quite that bad, but I absolutely did not venture out without first donning my muck boots!

Decades ago, before the trees of the bottomland established a presence up top, FD’s Grandfather built a couple of catch ponds in an area above the canyon. Now grown up in trees, I had never seen more than knee-high water in the deepest of the “ponds”. But the one particular pond flooded one night recently, with water spilling over its dam and paralleling my electric buggy path down to the bottom of the canyon, then gushing on north towards the neighboring pecan orchard.

After exploring the area the next day, I could not believe the mess I found in some places – lots of dead wood, leaf, and plant debris washed down in small gullies. I also discovered that the rushing water had turned my buggy path into a trail of mud and mostly exposed tree roots. It is obvious that I will most certainly have a bumpy ride to the bottom from now on! In other places, oddly, the floor of the woodlands looked very clean – the rushing water having completely stripped the debris and plant life, while leaving a smooth, dirt surface behind.

The pecan orchard is flooded into our property.

The pecan orchard is flooded into our property.

The river just a half-mile from our home is now out of its banks.

The river just a half-mile from our home is now out of its banks.

The pecan orchard from the road looking back towards our property.

The pecan orchard from the road looking back towards our property.

Our young neighbor and a couple of friends prepare to kayak in the quiet waters of the pecan orchard.

Our young neighbor and a couple of friends prepare to kayak in the quiet waters of the pecan orchard.

After three weeks of continual rain, the pecan orchard finally flooded, and now the water is backed up to our fence line. I have never known it to come back this far. No wonder I have been seeing so many water turtles around the property lately – a snapping turtle and several red-eared sliders. There are many little land turtles seeking higher ground as well. Daisy deer and two does, along with a little yearling buck, have been hanging about also. Apparently, the foxes have found dry ground in our area too, as have a few skunks and an old opossum that I have seen at the feeders. I hope the wildlife in the river bottom further west have managed to find safe places to relocate as well, as the river has just come out of its banks today. Oklahoma has broken nearly every historic rain record for the Month of May, and it appears we are not finished setting new rain total amounts, as more rain is forecast this week.

And even though this particular month of rain and flooding is quite an event, I do not believe I have seen anything compare to the storm that resulted from remnants of Tropical Storm Erin, on August 18, 2007.  Our area was inundated with over twelve inches of rain in just five hours. Several lives were lost in the flash flooding. More than one hundred and fifty bridges were washed out and countless roads were reduced to mere gullies or completely washed away. Farmer’s lost their crops and their land and, in some cases, their livestock as well. Protective dikes broke out and pond dams crumbled away. People lost their homes. The damage was catastrophic.

The dike of a large farm pond gave way during the  August 2004 rains, obliterating roads further down.

The dike of a large farm pond gave way during the August 2007 rains, obliterating roads further down.

The road that the farm pond dam washed out became this huge expanse of spillway, and the new road became the dam. Now the pond is much larger and wider with a safer release of future flood water.

The road that the farm pond dam washed out became this huge expanse of spillway, and the new road became the dam. Now the pond is much larger and wider with a safer release of future flood water.

The Washita River flood of 2007.

The Washita River flood of 2007.

Typical road damage in our county in 2007.

Typical road damage in our county in 2007.

Yes, FD drove our truck across what was left of this road. I took a few shots with the camera and walked across very carefully!!

Yes, FD drove our truck across what was left of this road. I took a few shots with the camera and walked across very carefully!!

 

This evening, while venturing out to do chores, and listening to the squish, squish of my boots as I slopped my way to the chicken barn, I looked over at my garden. With all this rain, it has been in limbo all month. Oh well, nothing much flourishes without the sun, I thought. I walked past my fruit trees and noted the black apricots and peaches dangling from the branches. Back in April, it looked as if we would finally have a bumper crop, but now, sadly, I might only have blackberries and possibly a few apples or pears to harvest.

On a brighter note, I have been thankful not to have to drag the water hoses around every day as I had to do over the last four years and, without much sunshine, I had not had to mow much at all either. Also, my gardening workload has been much lighter this spring. Yes, it has been an exciting time of rainy days and cooler temperatures this spring!

As we pulled up on this closed road, we noticed three boys attempting to fish in the flooded river water.

As we pulled up on this closed road, we noticed three boys attempting to fish in the flooded river water.

Shortly after I shot this photo, the boys left this area and opted to fish from a bridge higher up. I have to say I was relieved. I did not want this photograph to be the last memory their parents might have of their sons.

Shortly after I shot this photo, the boys left this area and opted to fish from a bridge higher up. I have to say I was relieved. I did not want this photograph to be the last memory their parents might have of their sons.

The river finally broke loose from the banks yesterday evening. It looks calm and peaceful, but I can guarantee you the rush of water was anything but calm.

The river finally broke loose from the banks yesterday evening. It looks calm and peaceful, but I can guarantee you the rush of water was anything but calm.

Just three hours prior this was river bottom farm land.

Just three hours prior this was river bottom farm land.

Barn swallows dart about, as access to their bridge home narrows.

Barn swallows dart about, as access to their bridge home narrows.

Road Closed_1205

And I know it sounds crazy, but I am a little excited about having just a few more rains in this area. For Daisy deer has not birthed her babies yet. And, if you remember… Daisy always has her babies in a spring morning’s rain.

Gust Front_1170

© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

Posted in Nature | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

When Your SNAP Is Gone

When this morning first began, I did not have a plan for the day at all. [This space is provided as a pause, to allow you time to pull yourself up from the floor after hearing that I did not have a plan for the day – you all know how I am.] The weather forecast boasted a bright and sunny day with a mild breeze, which are perfect conditions to help dry things up after more rain this past weekend. Even so, I knew it would be too wet and soggy through most of the day for me to manage any mowing or gardening, so I thought I might just do some reading. After all, I had been quite busy over the previous few days, so it just seemed right to take a day off to relax.

After having my coffee over a couple of telephone conversations with two of my sisters in Nebraska, I went to the back porch to check on Francesca and Buddy, our orphaned squirrels. They have been outdoors on the back porch in the big cage for about three weeks now, so this last Friday, FD and I decided it was time to open the little hatch door and let them start investigating the porch and beyond – if they chose to. As a result, Saturday and Sunday proved to be quite entertaining. Francesca seemed to be the most adventurous – taking all sorts of risks and being quite a show off. Buddy kept to the top of the cage, hidden in the leafy branches I put up there for cover. He finally did venture out on the deck railings and even managed to nibble some rose leaves and honeysuckle blossoms, but all of those places and plants were in “safe” areas. Francesca, on the other hand, had ventured into the grass and out in my flowerbeds – a little too far away for my comfort. But as always, instinct led her to quickly leap back or scurry to cover and safe nooks next to the house whenever a sudden noise or movement spooked her.  So, with this a new part of our morning routine, FD opened the hatch door just before sitting down for his breakfast at 7:00. Soon, the two youngsters were out of their cage and scampering around on the back porch when he left for work.

Francesca drinks from the bird bath on the back porch.

Francesca drinks from the bird bath on the back porch.

Buddy watches his sister on the deck.

Buddy watches his sister on the deck.

Francesca decides she likes the grass and dirt!

Francesca decides she likes the grass and dirt!

Buddy checks out the old antique grinding wheel.

Buddy checks out the old antique grinding wheel.

The sun shade and coral honeysuckle makes a great place for two little squirrels to observe the canyon below!

The sun shade and coral honeysuckle makes a great place for two little squirrels to observe the canyon below!

When I checked on them around 7:30, I found them having a wrestling match back inside their cage. But just thirty minutes later, I could not find either of them. Finally, I found Buddy hidden between the honeysuckle and the sun shade. I thought Francesca was probably cleverly hidden somewhere nearby too, but after about ten minutes of searching I began to worry. After checking the porch, roof, and flower beds that run all around the perimeter of our home, I decided to check the trees on the south side of the house. Perhaps Francesca had followed Punkin, our older, orphaned juvenile squirrel, who had also been on the back porch earlier for her morning pecan(s).  At this point, I donned my muck boots and started walking around the trees grunting, “Ur ur ur ur ur” and softly calling “FranCEEEESCA!!! Where ARRRRRE YOOOOOOU?” Becoming a little distraught, and in my mind going over all of the places she might have ventured to, I finally sat down at the old picnic table. Looking out further in the yard and pasture, I wondered if she might have ventured to other nearby places but, no, the usual first-go outings for young squirrels were these hackberry and elm trees I was sitting under.

And then, I spotted a large lump out in the yard just to the east. How odd. It looked like a big rabbit to me but, surely, it was not. I laughed. My eyesight is not the clearest anymore, as I suffer with dry eyes and allergies a good bit. But it did look like a rabbit to me, only it was awfully still. And if it was a dead rabbit, a fox or coyote or, at the very least, a vulture – would have confiscated it by now! Nothing dead ever lasts very long here. Curious, I walked towards the mound in the grass. Squish, squish, squish went my boots in the soggy grass. Whatever it was, it was still not moving. I looked to the south of the unidentified object, and saw a strange trail left in the grass. Whatever this was, it had drug itself across the dewy grasses leaving a tell-tale path. As I got closer, I realized that what I had discovered was a very big turtle and, by the looks of the shell, it appeared to be a very old one too. I had no clue what kind it was. It had the face of a snapping turtle, but there were no vicious ridges running along its back and the beak was somewhat smooth. This was definitely a photograph worthy subject, so back to the house I trudged to fetch my camera.

This is the lump in the distance I saw as I sat at the picnic table.

This is the lump in the distance I saw as I sat at the picnic table. Do you see the brown spot between the oak tree in the forefront, and the two little cherry trees in the upper left corner of the photo?

This low to the ground you have to keep your head up and be alert for danger!

This low to the ground, you have to keep your head up and be alert for danger!

My visitor seems to be old and weathered.

My visitor seems to be old and weathered.

I love the detail of this close-up shot. I wonder about the many stories this turtle could tell!!

I love the detail of this close-up shot. I wonder about the many stories this turtle could tell!!

After getting a few photographs, I followed the path the old codger had taken which led me to the pasture gate leading out to the street. But surely this turtle had not come from town! A sharp turn in the grassy trail told me it came from the west and followed our south fence line along the alley. From there, I walked all the way back to my new friend. In a slow but purposeful manner, it had made a little progress towards the picnic table where my quest began. As it trudged along, I stayed a distance behind and to the rear so I would not deter it from proceeding on its journey. Meanwhile, I spoke squirrel, “Ur ur ur ur ur”, just in case Francesca might be playing nearby. I doubted I would have the patience to follow this turtle very far along its journey, but I was curious about where it was going.

Following the turtle trail in the dewy grass to the pasture.

Following the turtle trail in the dewy grass to the pasture.

Somehow the turtle shimmied under the pasture gate, though it looks like a very tight squeeze to me!

Somehow the turtle shimmied under the pasture gate, though it looks like a very tight squeeze to me!

The same path along the ally fence indicated my friend came from a neighborhood to the west.

The same path along the ally fence indicated my friend came from a neighborhood to the west.

After conducting my investigation  of where the turtle came from, I decided to follow and see where it was headed.

After conducting my investigation to understand where the turtle came from, I decided to follow and see where it was headed.

S L O W L Y, my old friend made it to the slope and then picked up a little momentum as it headed down the hill and into the canyon. I took a few more photographs, and then decided to look around for Daisy. I walked back into the woods, but was immediately attacked by masses of mosquitoes. I zipped my hooded jacket, but my ill-fitted garment was no match for the buzzing army I faced. My left hand held the camera while the right swatted and smacked at my ears and face and my exposed left hand. These annoying bastards were everywhere!

Determined, I trudged back deeper into the jungle of growth where I had seen Daisy resting the week before. Through poison ivy and tacky spider webs I pushed forth into the cool dark of the woodlands. Finally, the mosquito population seemed to dwindle. I noticed the recent rains had washed a lot of decomposing matter and wood along the canyon floor, leaving small lines and piles where the water receded. Sandy, red dirt, mixed with black loamy soil, created a kind of sand art on the woodland floor. Fragrance from blossoms of a woodland shrub that I had often observed Daisy eating summer berries from, mingled with the musky scent of damp earth. In this cool darkness of the woodland tree canopy, I felt alive. I was deep in the oxygen tank of the woodlands… And I felt entirely immersed in the pureness of it!

Gaining momentum going down the slope!

Gaining momentum going down the slope!

Recent rains smoothed areas of the canyon floor into works of sand art. I wonder what small animal left these tracks?

Recent rains smoothed areas of the canyon floor into works of sand art. I wonder what small animal left these tiny tracks?

Each spring I see Western Scarlet Cup fungus in the darker areas of the woodlands. grasses. I am always careful not to step on  these small, delicate beauties!

Each spring I see Western Scarlet Cup fungus in the darker areas of the woodlands. I am always careful not to step on these small, delicate beauties!

I imagined the turtle might travel through the pecan orchard, heading to the old river channel or perhaps the river beyond.

I imagined the turtle might travel through the pecan orchard, heading to the old river channel or perhaps the river beyond.

A sudden “SMACK!!!” brought me back to reality – I was still battling mosquitoes and was beginning to get hot in my hoodie, despite the cool shade. Maybe it was a hot flash, I do not know, but I was suddenly mighty uncomfortable. Obviously, my clothing selection was much too heavy for the warm and humid temperatures and, along with these stinging insects buzzing about my ears and alighting on my face, I had had enough! Squish, suck, squish, suck, I slopped along the electric buggy trail with my boots being sucked into the dense muck. As I hurried out of the humid and insect ridden depths of the canyon, I met the old turtle heading to the west. I imagined he would travel into part of the pecan orchard and on to the old river channel. Maybe he would even venture as far as the river, just beyond. I thanked him for allowing me a few photographs, and then headed towards the slope. And then, there was Daisy deer at the feeder!

I am always happy to see Daisy Deer!

I am always happy to see Daisy Deer!

After spending a little time with Daisy, I finally made my way back inside to the cool of the house to research the turtle I had found earlier. From my photos and research, it appeared I had stumbled across a very old female Common Snapping Turtle. Long gone were the spiky ridges running the length of her shell. Worn smooth was the point of her beak. Even her tail had lost its ridge of sharp, jagged scales. I have seen quite a few snapping turtles in my day, and it was quite plain that this old girl had lost her snap a long time ago.

With all my missing squirrel, turtle discovery, and Daisy visit going on, I did not manage to read my book at all today. Instead, I took more worrisome walks to the trees and all around the house, in search of Francesca. Finally, I decided to just come in and write about the day’s adventures. Maybe that would take my mind off of Francesca’s disappearance for a time. Then, with a heavy heart and my writing almost complete, I decided to go out for a quick break at 3:00 and give poor Buddy some company. Imagine my delight when I stepped out on the porch and saw TWO squirrel tails… brother and sister wrestling in their cage!

I was SO happy to see TWO fluffy tails!

I was SO happy to see TWO fluffy tails!

There was a time today when I felt I had lost my snap too! Like the old, weathered snapping turtle, I was feeling smooth worn out, trudging along, defeated. But now, here was Francesca, as if she had never been gone, roughhousing with her brother. I knew this was a sign that it was time for me to “snap” out of the fear and worry I had allowed to take over my mind. It was time to celebrate and live in the moment of happiness! So, I went to fetch a few pecans for everyone in celebration of Francesca’s return!

Snapping Turtle_0779

Later in the evening, while chatting with my neighbor, I learned that he had actually seen the snapping turtle while walking his dog this morning.  Apparently the turtle made it to our gate, but was unable to get under it. My neighbor lifted the hefty girl up and over, reaching down as low as he could to allow her to land with a slight thud on the other side. He felt she was better off on our property than walking the streets. I asked if she snapped at him and thrashed to get free. He said she was quite compliant and accepted his help without any fight. Maybe she had not lost her snap at all, I wondered, but had simply lived long enough to learn when she was exposed to real danger, and to hold her snap in reserve until the threat was dire…

© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

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