A Hard Winter In The Woodlands

Looking through the kitchen window while cleaning up the last of the breakfast dishes yesterday morning, I noticed a bit of orange in the neighbor’s backyard. Sure enough, Daisy deer was bedded down in an area where snow had melted. Here, she had found a bit of protection from the north breeze that had picked up since dawn. I did not see Spirit, but I knew she was likely located somewhere near Daisy. They were never more than twenty feet from each other.

Daisy looks rough, with weeping in both eyes. Her woolly facial hair is matted down with frozen, green matter.
Daisy looks rough, with weeping in both eyes. Her woolly facial hair is matted down with frozen, green matter.
Spirit lays just a few feet from her mother, Daisy. She seems content to rest, chewing her cud.
Spirit lays just a few feet from Daisy. She seems content to rest, chewing her cud.

I quickly donned my jacket and grabbed the camera, shouting to Daisy as I walked towards the neighbor’s fence. I had planned to climb over the fence, but when I stopped to take a photograph from a distance, I was concerned when I saw Daisy’s face through the zoom lens. The mucous I had noted and wiped from Daisy’s left eye a few days before, had increased, spread to both eyes, and some of it appeared to weep down her face to her nose and mouth. I found Spirit just a few paces away from Daisy, and her left eye still seemed irritated as well, though not weepy like Daisy’s. I decided to leave them be, to rest and chew their cud. I headed back inside and watched them from the kitchen window. At times, Daisy curled up in a ball with her head tucked alongside her body, eyes closed.

When I saw Daisy get up about an hour later, I decided to head down the slope to the feeders to check the corn and refill the deer chow pans. I had managed to drain, clean, and fill the wildlife tub a couple of days prior, so the water was still clear and fresh. I have tried to do this once a week, but this winter’s weather has made it a fairly brutal task. After exposing my bare hands to water and the below-freezing air temperatures, they often became numb and solid red in color.

Daisy's face looks much improved after she allowed me to gently scrub her face.
Daisy’s face looks much improved after she allowed me to gently scrub her face.

Daisy and Spirit reached the feeders before I could get my buckets filled with feed and then navigate a safe path to the bottom of the slope. Spirit waited while I shook corn to the ground from the hanging feeder, while Daisy snooped around for fruity kibbles in the bucket I’d brought with me. One look at Daisy’s face and I knew I had to try to help her shed some of that frozen mucous. So back up the slope I went for a warm bucket of water and a soft dishcloth.

After Daisy gave her approval of the wash cloth, by sniffing and licking it, she allowed me to gently scrub her face. At one point she rubbed her face against the cloth herself, seeming to enjoy the feeling of “scratching the itch”. While cleaning Daisy up, I noticed the sclera (white area) of Spirit’s left eye was red and a small bit of white mucous was present at the corner. Her other eye looked fine. There was nothing I could do for Spirit.  I had never been able to get close enough to touch her.

Something has Daisy's attention!
Something has Daisy’s attention!
A lone raccoon is the source of Daisy's attention!
A lone raccoon is the source of Daisy’s attention!
Daisy ducks under the fence to go after the intruding raccoon!
Daisy ducks under the fence to go after the intruding raccoon!

After getting Daisy as cleaned up as she would tolerate, I left her and Spirit to feed a bit, and then came back down with the camera a while later. Daisy seemed on high alert, looking off to the north. In no time I saw a raccoon ambling down the animal trail along the fence line to the pecan orchard. Daisy moved forth in protective mode, ducking under the fence and stomping at the intruder. Daisy may not have agreed, but I thought how fortunate I was to see a raccoon during daylight hours! As it disappeared into the distance, Daisy began grazing on leaves and twigs in the area, and Spirit followed suit. I watched them work their way north, into the freezing fog of the pecan orchard.

At the top of the slope I walked to the bird feeders, checking to make sure there was plenty of bird seed to fill tiny bellies, helping to keep energy up and bodies warm. All sorts of winter birds swarmed the feeders. I saw a lone squirrel in the yard, nibbling on a pecan that had likely been stored for winter use. Every critter seemed to be doing the best they could to survive the most bitter winter I can remember in my twenty-four years in Oklahoma.

Spirit's left eye is showing the effects of a harsh winter.
Spirit’s left eye is showing the effects of a harsh winter.

This morning, the weather woman reports that we have just one more day of this arctic deep freeze and then the temperatures will be more spring-like. I hope a warm-up is just what Daisy and Spirit need to get past their eye troubles. I hope it gives nature a reprieve from the harshness it has endured for several months now. And I hope that the harsh days of winter are over. For in just two weeks, I normally start planting the early vegetables and herbs for my garden. I am ready to have my hands working the soil, and feel the warmth of sun on my shoulders, and to welcome the gentle rains of spring. I am ready to see the woodlands come alive again!

Daisy and Spirit graze on weeds beneath the snow, dead leaves and on various woodland browse. During the winter, deer reduce food intake (regardless of availability), relying on fat reserves for as much as 40% of daily nutritional needs.
Daisy and Spirit graze on weeds beneath the snow, dead leaves, and on various woodland browse. During the winter, deer reduce food intake (regardless of
availability), relying on fat reserves for as much as 40% of daily nutritional needs. Deer are less active during this time, intent on conserving energy.

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


37 thoughts on “A Hard Winter In The Woodlands

    1. That’s the hard part about living in the midst of so many wild things. It’s nearly impossible to help them when they are suffering or in a bad way. I just ask the Universe to take of them and I provide a bit of food and water to aid in survival and healing.

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  1. Not being able to help Spirit must have made you feel awful. I’m so sorry that those two precious deer are having eye problems. But at least you could help Daisy and you do keep the deer well fed. That is one consolation. Not many people go to the lengths that you do to keep all the wildlife fed in the woods near your home.

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    1. Thank you for such kind words, Yvonne. I was surprised Spirit stayed near when I shook the corn out for her, but I suppose she is used to us feeding them. We have never been able to touch her, but FD has gotten within inches before her “flight” kicked in! I’m just happy Spirit trusts us a little. It’s best that she is mostly wild. It makes me happy that Daisy allows us to pet her and help her in some way. I still get “licks” every now and then. Mostly, she will only lick if I have no perfumes, makeup or hair product on. She’s all about natural.

      It does make me feel good to be able to provide food for the animals and birds. I think nature give us much more than we provide for it.

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  2. Always a pleasure to catch up with Daisy and Spirit and the other creatures. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be able to be so close to an animal such as a deer, Lori – and to take such beautiful photos of them, too.

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    1. Thanks Sid. I find myself very fortunate at this point in my life. Raising Daisy helped me slow down and listen – to nature. FD and I have learned to be patient, quiet, and simply observe. Anyone can do that in a park, in the country or at the very least on a trip somewhere. It is a wonderful thing for me to share about my experiences here. I’m so glad people enjoy Daisy and her world.

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  3. Oh, I long to feel the woods come alive again too! It’s been so difficult this winter, for animals and people (as you’ll see in my post today). So glad you were able to wash Daisy’s face for her. Maybe Spirit’s youth will give her the extra energy to fight off whatever is going on with her.

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    1. Hello Kim. I’m feeling pretty low right now. I just saw the girls and they both have red eyes, and very inflamed-looking. In fact I believe it could be affecting their vision, as they both were very spooky. I’m checking with a farmer friend who has cattle, and I also happen to have an appointment for my little dog Zoe with an animal ophthalmologist tomorrow. I will ask her (it’s a lady doctor) if anything can be done. Everything I’ve read online is disturbing. I’m so worried.

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      1. Oh no, I’m sorry! Is there any way you can try to keep Daisy in an enclosure to help protect her temporarily? Maybe Spirit would go in to be with her mama. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they both heal quickly and safely. Please keep me posted. Hugs.

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        1. I was able to wash Daisy’s eyes with colloidal silver water this evening. She was very compliant, and even drank a little of the water. She and Spirit were licking each other’s faces so I imagine that’s the best way to heal. Their saliva has antibiotic qualities to it. Daisy has not gone in her pen in a while, but it’s open for her if she wants to. Occasionally she takes a stroll down memory lane – she tried so hard to get the fawns to bed down in there when they were little but they did not like it!

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  4. Lori, freezing red fingers are very painful! I’ve had to do this ice cracking routine almost every day for weeks now. You are so kind to your dear. I do hope that their eyes clear up with the warmer weather.

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    1. Hi Lynda. I was just writing Kim about thinking Daisy and Spirit may have pink eye. I read up on it online, and I’m worried. I have to take Zoe in to the animal ophthalmologist tomorrow and I’ll ask the doctor about it. From what I read it takes 3 weeks or more to clear up and can cause temporary blindness and scarring. Deer are subject to predation during that time. I’m just hoping for the best.

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        1. I tried colloidal silver tonight. I was able to wash Daisy’s eyes with the solution and she even drank a little, so we’ll see. There is nothing I can do for Spirit. I did notice they were mutual grooming, so they care for each other’s eyes. And their saliva does have antibiotic qualities so perhaps they manage on their own.

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  5. You always hope there’s some dry ground and a spot out of the wind for them. Food is good medicine. (Had to laugh with the head wiping – some animals love that) We’ve had some pretty big raccoons here, too. Called them enchanted forest people as a kid – they are such clowns…and clever scroungers.
    Hope the warm weather heads that way after leaving here – they say 70’s this weekend.
    Meanwhile stay warm

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    1. We are expecting a lovely week ahead with temps in the 50’s and 60’s. I’ll be happy with that. I’ll feel a whole lot better when the girl’s eyes heal up. I did manage to get Daisy’s eyes washed with colloidal silver water. Hopefully, keeping the areas clean will make a difference.

      Raccoons are hilarious. I always hope I don’t have to raise any. They’re so darned cute but full of mischief!

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  6. That’s so wonderful that you can care for the always lovely Daisy! Too bad you can’t get near her baby and hope she recovers fine.
    When will warmer weather get here? Even in SC we are freezing!

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    1. Daisy is lovely, and thank you for saying that! It was 59° here today and tomorrow should be in the 60’s. I can deal with that… except it is supposed to be windy so I won’t be gardening just yet! I hope your weather warms up soon!

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  7. Looks like Mr Puxatawny Phil was right! I wonder if we have an Aussie alternative … how about “Weather Wombat”? 😉 that mucuous looks like conjunctivitis. Daisy is very lucky to have a kind and attentive mum like you 🙂

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    1. Oh thank you Fran! A mother does what she can, eh? I visited with an animal ophthalmologist yesterday (Zoe has been visiting lately due to a trauma injury three weeks ago) and she felt also that it was conjunctivitis, due to the extreme dry conditions here, along with the airborne debris resulting from windy conditions. She had seen it in client’s horses a lot lately. So that is good news.

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  8. It always brings a smile to my heart when I read about you taking care of your girls. I love that Daisy returns almost daily, and that she lets you groom and tend to her when it’s needed. You have a beautiful story here, Big Sister!

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  9. I hope Daisy and Spirit will improve and also rejoice in warmer weather. I too am ready to get out in my garden. This year, for the first time, I will have my own garden to do as I please with – first thing is a vegetable and fruit patch, and creating a wilder area behind the shed, as I have recently noticed ancient woodland indicator wildflowers emerging – lesser celandine and lords and ladies 🙂

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    1. Thanks Rachel! I saw Daisy tonight. She still has a lot of matter under her eyes, but the whites of the eyes are looking improved – not so inflamed. I think if the weather improves Daisy and Spirit will too. I’ll be excited to hear all about your garden!!!

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  10. These animals don’t live with you but they know they can count on you for help and vice versa. That’s such an amazing bond to have. I can’t imagine having to be out in such cold, ugh. Nature is beautiful but so so rough.

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    1. It has been a very tough winter here, but animals are quite resilient. The woolly coats I’ve seen on the wildlife are thick and provide much warmth. As long as food and water sources hold out they seem to manage very well.

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