Do not worry. This post is not about Daisy deer and her pregnant status. It is hard to tell with her, but I suspect she is still two to three weeks from having her babies. FD and I saw her this morning and she was doing just fine. Spirit was a little way back in the woods having a nap. With the heat finally arriving in Oklahoma, animals and birds seek shady spots where a nice breeze might help to keep them cool. I noticed too, that the spring colors are back in outer-wear, and the deer are sporting their fabulous reds again. With their thinner summer coats, all of the animals of the woodland appear slender – well, except Miss Daisy, who is rather round in the middle these days.
The week of woes actually started in the old barn one night, when a raccoon found a weak spot in the wood and once inside, found another loose board up high on a door frame, and had his way with the chickens. As a result, we lost five young hens, and found one with a badly chewed neck. FD’s mom was upset. Most of our hens are older and do not produce very many eggs, so we rely on the younger stock for the larger portion of egg production. In this raccoon attack, we lost almost half of our young hens. So, being practical folks, we surprised Mom with ten poults for Mother’s Day, along with a couple of bags of feed, and a heating lamp because the weather had suddenly turned cool.
On a better note, that same weekend while FD was down in the canyon, he discovered the tiniest Ornate Box Turtle I had ever seen. He was very shy, likely having just emerged from hibernating. Oklahoma has had an odd cool spell lately, and this little fella seemed to enjoy the first warm week on the woodland floor. After photographing him, I placed him back where FD found him. Several minutes later, he finally ventured off to a tall patch of weeds, crawling in to hide under the thick mat of dried leaves. As he disappeared under the cool, damp debris, I wished him well in his life’s journey.
Monday morning, I was busy at the computer when I heard a strange noise. I could not say just what it was. I looked out the back door but saw nothing amiss on the porch, or at the swimming pool. I looked beyond, but still saw nothing out of place. Around lunch time, I ventured out to hang some bed sheets on the clothesline and noticed that something did not look right in the canyon. In only a few seconds, what was not right registered in my brain – a giant elm tree had snapped about fifteen feet above the ground and fallen across the buggy trail. I went down with the camera to look over and photograph the damage. After inspecting the tree, I noticed that most of the trunk was completely rotten. Only a small portion of the tree had been living and strong. I wondered what we would do with this mess? We could cut the smaller portions and leave the big trunk to deteriorate but, with a burn ban currently in effect for the whole western part of Oklahoma, we would not be able to burn the limbs as we went. And, in just a couple more weeks, it would be impossible to burn anyway. Once Daisy deer births her babies, we will have our own, self-imposed burn ban in effect, as we try to keep Daisy and her babies calm during the summer months. So, burning would be out of the question until autumn.
The silver lining to the fallen tree is that, on the following mornings, we spotted Daisy and Spirit and a few other deer eating the elm leaves that were now easily within reach. Daisy has always loved elm leaves, and apparently it is a “deer delicacy”. At least while the downed tree lies on the woodland floor until we can clean it up, the deer will enjoy the spoils. I have even seen the deer eating dead, crunchy leaves, but do not ask me why. It sounds completely unappealing to me.
On Wednesday, the phone rang during lunchtime. The caller ID indicated it was a local number, but not one I was familiar with. Having a sinking feeling, I answered and, sure enough, it was a wildlife rescue call – a man who was nearly hit in the head by a baby squirrel falling from the tree he was standing under. He thought it may have fallen from a nest, but he could not locate one. This man kept two dogs in his backyard so, not wanting to take a chance, he scooped the baby up and called the game warden, who gave him our phone number. FD and I both wondered later if this was a case of the mother booting the runt from the nest, or that maybe its siblings had ousted it. Sadly, this sort of thing happens with all mammals. Anyway, the poor little fella was stunned and scared when the man brought him over. So, while holding and offering quiet comfort to the shy critter, FD got online and determined our new little charge was about five or six weeks old. Baby squirrels should not be released on their own until they are twelve weeks old. With summer travel plans scheduled, FD and I knew we would not be able to raise this little guy through the weaning process, nor could we ask our house sitter to take on such a challenge. FD drove the baby squirrel to WildCare, a wildlife rehabilitation facility about an hour away. Here, the little guy will be among new friends, as they all get the care they need until the time for their release.
Thursday morning, after putting some fresh deer feed down in the canyon and spending some time scratching Daisy and picking ticks off of her, I headed quickly back up to the house to finish breakfast. Once I reached the back porch, I looked back to the feeding area to wish the girls a good day, but Daisy and Spirit had already vanished! Catching movement to the right of the feed pans, I discovered why the girls had disappeared so quickly! There stood a skinny coyote! I ran into the house to alert FD and grabbed my camera to try to capture a few shots of this unwanted visitor. As I made my way carefully to the porch railing, the coyote came up the slope to the backyard! I had never seen a coyote so close before. To me, the coyote’s eyes were creepy-looking. Its hair looked scraggly, though it was probably just that it was in the process of shedding its winter coat, like most other mammals. Despite me moving slightly, it still had not seen me, but seemed rather intently focused on something off in the distance to the east. I snapped two photographs hurriedly before the “click” noise and flash from the camera alerted the coyote. Spotting me on the porch, it headed quickly back down into the woods. I was not so worried about Daisy, for she is very alert and probably saw the coyote and bounded off deep into the woods. My thoughts were more about the timing of things. We did not need a predator on the place just before all of the deer in the area were approaching birthing season! So, for the rest of the week I was on coyote alert!
On Saturday, FD and I were busy working outside in the cool of the morning. Our smallest Japanese Chin, Zoe, had come out with us. She is my little ranch dog, always at the ready to ride in the buggy or simply lie nearby and watch me work. Occasionally though, she snoops around and gets herself into trouble. This morning, as one might imagine, it was not long before I was running to and fro, tackling my chores – I had soaker hoses going in the garden, and a couple of sprinklers to periodically move around the house. In between, I weeded the lettuce garden, the raspberry patch, and the flowerbeds around the house. After a while, I got to wondering where Zoe was. I yelled her name and walked around the house, but she was nowhere to be found. I moved on towards the garden, calling for her as I went.
Finally, I spotted FD over by the neighbor’s chain-link fence that divides our properties. Gladly, Zoe was beside him, but I had to wonder what on earth FD was doing bent over in my tiger lilies? FD was always good to help me out in the gardens when I needed it, but he was never really “into” posies! As I neared the fence, I saw something long and furry dangling from his right hand. Oh no! I hoped it wasn’t the little bunny that we had spotted for so many evenings, having a nibble in my lettuce garden. Each evening toward dusk, the bunny would appear in the lettuce. I never saw him come from the yard, so I assumed he or she might live under one of the shrubs near the house, just next to the lettuce bed. However, I had not looked for the rabbits home in the shrubs, lest I disturb a nest or send it off never to return. I have learned that some things in nature are best just left alone.
As I approached, FD explained that it appeared the rabbit tried to flee a predator of some kind, and wound up getting its head and upper torso through the chain-linked fence, but the hips got stuck. The bunny was trapped, and the predator had gutted it. The victim was not yet stiff with rigor mortis, so it probably had happened earlier that morning. I was sad. I took the soft, furry rabbit and buried it near the coon-ravaged hens that I had put to rest nearly two weeks before. For a moment, having never held a wild rabbit, I observed the lifeless body. The feet were smaller than I had imagined, and the fur was so very soft. As I dug a deep grave, I thanked the bunny for its life and the moments of happiness and delight it had provided me while I watched it nibble away at the various types of greens in my lettuce garden – spinach was its favorite.
Today, I went back to the fence to photograph the wisps of fur that remained on the wires of the fence where the bunny had been. Already, some of the fur had vanished. Perhaps a bird used some of the fluff to line its nest. A few green bottle flies and some other type of flesh flies were gathered around, likely working on some blood that remained in the soil. Not far away, the maiden grass, where I had put the tiny frog with severed legs just a couple of weeks ago, waved gently in the breeze. I had not gone back to check on the little frog since putting it there. It was not necessary. I simply kept the area watered just in case, so that my friend would have a moist spot to live if he chose to stay there. And, if he did not make it, then the flowers and grass would still benefit from a good soak.
As I stood there reflecting back on the fate of the rabbit, and the frog, and all the happenings of the past week, it occurred to me that life was just that simple. Nature did not look back. It did not have expectation of what should have happened. It did not project what could happen or what might be. There was no plan for the future. It lived in the moment. It died in the moment. It birthed, and healed, and endured in the moment.
Though I do not always like the outcome of a situation, I have learned to accept it, and to move on. What good would lamenting and worrying do, after all? It would not change the outcome of the tree, the squirrel, the rabbit, the frog, or the chickens. Thinking of the tree and these critters, everything I knew and experienced of them was still good. Death had not taken that from me. The mystery of what awaits me in the next moment will always be my gift, my freedom to experience whatever comes to me. And, when these gifts come my way, no matter what the outcome, I will not look back in sorrow, but will, instead, be happy to have experienced another of nature’s moments, and lived and known the wonder of being free.
© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…