A Girl Of Summer

I graduated from high school when I was still seventeen years of age, and worked part-time at a book bindery in our small town during my senior year. After graduation, it just made sense to continue full-time at the bindery, while keeping my eyes open for a better job in a larger town or even a big city. I had been hankering to get out on my own for several years and had even given some thought to attending college, but the idea of going into debt never appealed to me. On top of this, I was so introverted that the social aspects of school were very difficult for me.  In many ways, I was so uncomfortable around people that being in any large crowd or having to meet new people terrified me to the point where I suffered physically. So the summer after I graduated, I remained, comfortably, at the small book bindery, saving my money and dreaming of how my life would be.

This is me getting ready for school my senior year, 1979. The Farrah Fawcett look was all the rage back then!

This is me getting ready for school my senior year, 1979. The Farrah Fawcett look was all the rage back then!

One month after graduation I turned 18 and settled into my first apartment, above an electronics store in downtown York, Nebraska. My friend Sharilyn lived in the apartment across the hall. Terry cloth fabric was popular that year.

One month after graduation I turned 18 and settled into my first apartment above an electronics store in downtown York, Nebraska. My friend Sharilyn lived in the apartment across the hall. Terry cloth clothing was popular that year, as was wood paneling.

Recently, when FD and I set out on a trip to West Texas to fetch a great-niece who had just turned seventeen, I remembered those days of long ago. During a Christmas get-together at FD’s sister’s home last year, the topic came up of Haley possibly spending some time with us this summer. So, a couple of months prior to finishing her junior year in high school, Haley contacted us to confirm our offer and ask if she could spend the month of July with us. It had been a rough year for her personally, and she was really looking forward to having a place of refuge to come to, and a place of comfort. I thought about how many times I wished I had had a place to escape to at that age so, of course, we said she was welcome to come visit.

I knew I would have to slow down my busy pace and make time for Haley while she was here. We had talked about things she wanted to experience. Maybe if the game warden brought an orphaned wild critter she could help raise it. She hoped to try her hand at some cooking and baking. She had never gardened or harvested and put up fruits and vegetables for winter. We talked about FD and I taking her senior pictures and purchasing some special clothing for her to wear for the photo shoot. On top of everything, I knew she would flourish with some rest and quiet time. Haley has a younger brother and sister back home, and I knew all too well, having had a brother and four sisters younger than I, that being the eldest carried a lot of responsibility, which was often overwhelming. Oh how I had yearned for some quiet space when I was Haley’s age – some ME space, in which to regenerate and rest my mind.

Haley enjoys feeding Francesca a pecan. Nearly every morning Buddy, Francesca and Punkin come for a snack.

Haley enjoys feeding Francesca a pecan. Nearly every morning, Buddy, Francesca and Punkin still come for a snack.

The game warden brought me two orphaned raccoons which delighted Haley. After a long discussion about lack of appropriate caging and the temptation of the chickens just a short distance away, we decided the responsible thing to do would be to deliver these two cuties to WildCare for proper rearing. Haley was expert at handling them, despite some hissing and a slight scratch to her nose!

The game warden brought me two orphaned raccoons which delighted Haley. After a long discussion about lack of appropriate caging and the temptation of the chickens just a short distance away, we decided the responsible thing to do would be to deliver these two cuties to WildCare for proper rearing. Haley was expert at handling them, despite some hissing and a slight scratch to her nose from this innocent looking masked bandit!

Daisy accepted a few cherry tomatoes from Haley, but ears back means Daisy is being cautious!

Daisy accepted a few cherry tomatoes from Haley, but ears back means Daisy is being cautious!

Once she arrived, Haley seemed to settle in with us, and with life at the ranch, quite easily. For the most part, I found her to be self-entertaining, so I was able to go about my usual tasks and not worry about her. But she was also quick to help when I needed a hand in the kitchen or assistance with a little housekeeping.

On the weekends, we spent quite a bit of time in the pool, talking about life and Haley’s plans for her future. Late afternoons found us preparing meals in the kitchen and having lots of fun tormenting Uncle FD when he got home from work. Many evenings, I finished up dishes while Haley and FD went to battle each other in the pool shooting hoops. Haley never has been able to out shoot her Uncle, but she has learned to block his long shots with some impressive jumping skill. Yeah… girl power – that is what farm girls are all about!

Getting the best of Uncle FD!

Getting the best of Uncle FD!

Taking a break from shooting hoops!

Taking a break from shooting hoops!

FD encourages and gives a little instruction.

FD encourages and gives a little instruction.

We still have another month with our girl of summer, and Haley is still revealing her personality to us. It takes time to get fully comfortable with people you are just beginning to figure out, but she has found her niche in the day. We all have our daily rituals that give us comfort and security – and Haley’s has been about learning all sorts of new kitchen skills. We are still working on getting her to participate in the gardening, harvest, and putting up winter stock, but not everyone enjoys those aspects of country life. And I cannot blame her for not being too keen on the idea of getting out and working in the heat and humidity that Oklahoma summers are famous for! Overall, I think it has been a good and therapeutic time for Haley, and she looks quite healthy and bright.

We picked the coolest day in the forecast to shoot Haley's senior pictures. A hot and humid 84 degrees rose to the low 90's by afternoon. Still, we managed some great shots. This photo was taken in Daisy's clover patch in our yard.

We picked the coolest day in the forecast to shoot Haley’s senior pictures. A hot and humid 84 degrees rose to the low 90’s by afternoon. Still, we managed some great shots. This photo was taken in Daisy’s clover patch in our yard.

This photograph would later torment Haley and I. We ventured into the pecan orchard in the electric buggy as the weeds were four feet tall. Little did we know we would be attacked by chiggers! We are STILL itching like mad!

Getting this photograph would later become a torment for Haley and me. We ventured into the pecan orchard in the electric buggy as the weeds were four feet tall. Little did we know we would be attacked by chiggers! We are STILL itching like mad a week later!

Still in the pecan orchard unknowingly being attacked by chiggers, Haley discovers a great prop for the next photo series!

Still in the pecan orchard, unknowingly being attacked by chiggers, Haley discovers a great prop for the next photo series! A rusty old horse trailer is perfect for a farm girl photograph.

An evening trip to the wildlife refuge of the Wichita Mountains, finished off the last of the photo shoot. Haley and I were worn smooth out (as they say in the south) and FD rewarded us with a nice dinner at a nice restaurant in Medicine Park - a tourist town near Lawton, Oklahoma.

An evening trip to the wildlife refuge of the Wichita Mountains, finished off the last of the photo shoot. Haley and I were worn smooth out (as they say in the south) and FD rewarded us with a nice dinner at a restaurant in Medicine Park – a tourist town near Lawton, Oklahoma.

And for me? I certainly did not expect Haley to come as a teacher in my life. But, once again, I find I have been presented with a visitor who has arrived to help me understand that maybe there was room in my world to see life from the perspective of a seventeen-year-old girl again. A view revealing that I might do better to slow down and enjoy the good times, rather than tear through the day trying to complete my “to do” list come hell or high water. Haley has helped me see that my rigid ways and my tunnel vision about finances, and time, and waste, might be just a little extreme. And she has caused me to realize it is a lot of fun to occasionally fall off the Paleo meal wagon and eat something sweet, something totally not cavegirl appropriate! Most of all, Haley has managed to break through my tough exterior with five little words that she sometimes yells across the room, or sneaks up and whispers in my ear – “I LOVE you Aunt Lori!”

Haley discusses the sight, sound and scent of rain from her perspective - this particular shower reminded her of "movie" rain!

Haley discusses the sight, sound, and scent of rain from her perspective – this particular shower reminded her of “movie” rain!

One word: Adoration.

One word: Adoration.

No, I never imagined this summer would be about revisiting the age of seventeen, or about learning to loosen the apron strings of my busy, 50-something life. But I am very glad that it has been…

© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

Posted in Family | Tagged , , , , , , | 47 Comments

An Empty Nest

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Daisy finds comfort in her old deer pen. For three years she has hidden her fawns in the tall grasses and plants we originally set up as a food plot for Daisy.

Daisy finds comfort in her old deer pen. For three years she has hidden her fawns in the tall grasses and plants we originally set up as a food plot for Daisy.

Each spring I wonder about the logic behind cardinal birds building nests in the low shrubs and dwarf trees growing in and around our yard. Many times, the nests are robbed of eggs by snakes or squirrels, and sometimes even the hatchlings are preyed upon before their eyes open or feathers emerge. And far too often, I have witnessed neighborhood cats running off with a young fledgling in its mouth, the parents diving at the cat, but to no avail. Unfortunately, there is no saving the helpless baby in these circumstances. Though the Cardinal parents are resilient and I often see them taking up residence in another nest just a week or two later, I have to wonder how they feel about the loss of the previous clutch. Would it be horrifying for them to observe a predator taking their young? Could it even be considered easier to accept if the eggs or babies were just missing when they returned to the nest?

I thought about this when we took the chainsaw to the old “widow-maker” over at my mom-in-law’s garden area this spring. As my husband FD whittled away at the giant tree limbs, there in a hollowed area of a limb lay two baby squirrels, just inches from a chainsaw cut. These babies were now orphans, thanks to our decision to take down a dangerous tree. Of course we took in Buddy and Francesca and gave them a good raising, and they are now on their own and doing very well. But what of the mother who probably watched the tree come down and wondered what happened to her babies? Did she continue to search for them after we cleaned up the wood? Did she ache for them until her milk dried up? Or did she move on without a thought and begin the cycle of procreation again, just like the birds seemed to do?

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Daisy leads a fawn from her old deer pen to our neighbor Steve's property. The baby will find a place to bed down on its own.

Daisy leads a fawn from her old deer pen to our neighbor Steve’s property. The baby will find a place to bed down on its own.

For the past two years we have witnessed Daisy deer endure these same hardships. She lost her first little buck to a bobcat. She fought a brave battle to save him, but she could not. She searched for a week and a half, continually tracking his scent and mooing softly. Still having his twin sibling, Spirit, to look after, Daisy finally settled into her role as the mother of a single fawn. And last year she managed to raise a set of twin does to the age of six months. Then, during the rut, Heidi and Dancer disappeared only a few weeks apart. We never knew what happened, but suspected coyotes.

And in August of last year, Daisy’s yearling, Spirit, gave birth to a late season fawn we named Willow. Again, during the chaos of the rut, Willow was lost. Likely Spirit was being chased by a buck, and little Willow being only a couple of months old could not keep track of her mamma in the fray. A lost and confused little fawn would be easy prey for a predator. Spirit wandered the woodlands for six days searching and mooing for Willow before her calling stopped.

So this year when Daisy gave birth, if I am to be honest, I felt a bit detached from the entire process of birthing and rearing spring babies. Perhaps I am still feeling the loss of Heidi, Dancer, and Willow from last autumn… and when Spirit disappeared this February, well it has all been just too heavy for me. I have also worried about the four orphaned squirrels we raised and released. Too many times this past month, I have seen the foxes nab birds feeding on the ground or snag up an unsuspecting squirrel bounding along in the woodlands. Though I have respected the foxes and marveled at them since we began seeing them on the property a year ago, I really hope they will just move on. I do not want to think of Punkin or Mr. Gambini, Buddy or Francesca becoming lunch for one of the foxes or their kits.

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Daisy leads her fawn to the area she would like for it to bed down for the afternoon. It may be several hours before Daisy returns to nurse her.

Daisy leads her fawn to the area she would like for it to bed down for the afternoon. It may be several hours before Daisy returns to nurse her.

With all this on my mind as Daisy’s birthing took place this spring, I was proud that she seemed to be extra secretive with her fawns this year. Each passing day I was hopeful, but carefully so. The old Eeyore in me practiced caution in the emotional section of my brain. I felt I could not handle another loss. Instead, I watched from a distance, not wanting to interfere with Daisy’s ways – with nature’s ways. I was happy to see that Daisy chose to keep her little ones in our neighbor, Steve’s, more “wild” backyard. And I could understand why. For one, the back side of his property is a wild tangle of woodland and prairie grasses. Also, tall weeds and shrubs dot the back “yard” and old snags and fallen timber lie in waiting of decomposing and returning to the earth. This gives Steve’s place a more earthy smell – fresh and alive – where our more groomed property does not hold the same appeal for a whitetail mother to hide her babies.

After a couple of weeks observing Daisy with her little charges, I named the smallest fawn Sophie. She was light-colored and tiny compared to her sister. She seemed to be a mama’s girl, staying close to Daisy. Steve asked if one fawn might be named after his little sister, Megan, who died of a rare type of bone cancer at the age of nine. When Steve described his little sister, I knew that the darker colored fawn with bright blue eyes and a delightful sense of independence should be our little Megan. I often saw Megan running in Steve’s backyard, while an anxious Daisy attempted to supervise.

In late June, Daisy could be seen taking Megan to the woods, allowing her to run and scamper about. At a month old, it was common for Daisy to begin showing her fawns the layout of the woodlands. They were already familiar with Steve’s back yard and bottom-land, as well as our property up at the top of the canyon. The fawn’s next ventures would be the area below the slope, and in time she would lead them to the pecan orchard, and eventually there would be outings to the river, when the fawns were stronger and could endure running for longer distances.

Then on June 29th everything ended abruptly. A strange summer storm blew in, bringing down tree limbs and branches. Ear-splitting lightning cracked and thunder rolled. Rain hammered down in great sheets. And when it was all over, the silence that followed brought sunshine, warmth, and freshness. Unfortunately, it also brought the familiar mooing and moaning of Daisy searching for a baby. Was it for one fawn or both I wondered? What could have happened?

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I am fairly sure these photos are of Megan. Daisy tended to keep her closer to our woods either on a knoll to the south, or just north of the slope in Steve's bottom land.

I am fairly sure these photos are of Megan. Daisy tended to keep her closer to our woods either on a knoll to the south, or just north of the slope in Steve’s bottom-land.

 

 

In the days that followed, no answers came. Daisy roamed the same territory day after day, expanding the circular pattern into the pecan orchard and just beyond. After nearly a week, her udder did not seem as large as it had been, and I was not sure if she had been nursing at all. During this time, Daisy was healing from her own wounds and gouges that had appeared the morning after the storm. And, after a full week passed and her wounds were mostly healed, Daisy still seemed to be searching, nose to the ground, but the search was not in earnest, and the calls for her babies had stopped. I still felt hopeful that she had one fawn hidden somewhere, but I knew, deep down, that we should have seen some sign of a fawn by now.

It has been nearly two weeks since the storm and Daisy’s udder has shrunk considerably. She has almost healed completely from the gouges and scrapes she suffered the night of the storm. I cannot say I know what she’s thinking, but her actions are not that of a mother raising fawns. She comes to feed early mornings, and again in the evenings, but she is mysteriously gone all day long. Curiously, another doe who frequents the area, and who delivered her fawn(s) the first week of June, is also without any babies tagging along. Instead, her little yearling buck is with her again – which would not be allowed if she had little ones to care for. Apparently, all of the fawns of our woodlands have disappeared.

Daisy is in good company with her squirrel friends. I'm quite sure Mr. Gambini is one of the group chowing down on dropped corn!

Daisy is in good company with her squirrel friends. I’m quite sure Mr. Gambini is one of the group chowing down on dropped corn!

Daisy seems fine this week and I see her daily. She still walks through the areas where she kept her babies hidden, but she does not linger long. Sometimes, she stops for a few minutes to mutual groom with me, or she might throw her head to the side and do the “crazy head” movement, and then run to the woods. Her appetite is back to normal, her wounds are almost completely healed, and she seems quite content. When I am with her at the feeder in the evenings, I often see the other woodland doe and her yearling buck, waiting in the pecan orchard for Daisy to join them. They all seem to be doing just fine…

But, I am not fine. I grieve for Daisy, and for myself. Why must Daisy experience so much loss in her life? Usually, a clear message comes to my mind of just what I am to learn each time I witness something of nature. I observe an animal or a situation and the message is quickly revealed. But not this time. I do not have a clue what the message is with yet another experience of total loss for Daisy, and for me… this time I am blank. Maybe numb is a better word. I am sad, and I am angry. I feel a bit more hardened about life. Megan and Sophie lived thirty-two days, and all that remains are memories of two frolicking little fawns who danced briefly for their mother. And now the nest is empty. It just is not fair.

But I guess life is not about being “fair”. Life is just life – lived moment to moment. Life and joy come in some moments, death and sadness in others. And in nature, life for one often means death for another. But the circle of life goes on, as spring turns to summer, summer to fall, and fall to winter. And another spring comes, and the doe has a new spotted fawn, or two, or three – and the cardinal fills her empty nest with another clutch of eggs…

This is the last photograph I have of Daisy and Megan, heading off to the pecan orchard for a little stroll.

This is the last photograph I have of Daisy and Megan, heading off to the pecan orchard for a little stroll.

© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

Posted in Deer, Nature | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 67 Comments

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.

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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.

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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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 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…

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