Following Spirit

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

The twins are really growing! Daisy is still an always-alert mama!
The twins are really growing! Daisy is still an always-alert mama!
Daisy occasionally babysits while Dancer and Heidi make a new friend!
Daisy occasionally babysits while Dancer and Heidi make a new friend!

 

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

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

Spirit and Heidi_7138 Spirit and Heidi_7139 Spirit and Heidi_7238

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

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

Spirit carefully watches before approaching the water and feed area.
Spirit carefully watches before approaching the water and feed area.
Once she feels it is safe, she hurriedly drinks water and eats corn and deer chow. Soon she will return to her baby hidden in the woods.
Once she feels it is safe, she hurriedly drinks water and eats corn and deer chow. Soon she will return to her baby hidden in the woods.

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

Spirit, like all deer, loves to nibble cat brier. She is an eating machine while she's nursing!
Spirit, like all deer, loves to nibble cat brier. She is an eating machine while she’s nursing!
Sometimes Spirit bites at the horse flies. FD once saw her get one with her mouth and eat it!
Sometimes Spirit bites at the horse flies. FD once saw her get one with her mouth and eat it!
Spirit often just lays down to escape the biting horse flies.
Spirit often just lays down to escape the biting horse flies.

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

Spirit chews her cud while she rests in the cool shade.
Spirit chews her cud while she rests in the cool shade.
Spirit, nearly hidden in the lush liriope grass, watches me from a distance.
Spirit, nearly hidden in the lush liriope grass, watches me from a distance.

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

After getting food and water, Spirit makes her way carefully back to the woods.
After getting food and water, Spirit makes her way carefully back to the woods.
My beautiful yearling mama, in evening sunlight.
My beautiful yearling mama, in evening sunlight.

© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 


40 thoughts on “Following Spirit

    1. Oh, thank you Cherity! I am hopeful that I’ll be able to follow Spirit and she will allow me to photograph the baby nursing. That is usually how I found Daisy with her babies. I will be patient though… it could be a month or more before Spirit brings the baby out though.

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  1. One of my favourite reads. There is a curious peacefulness when following an animal like Spirit. We have to allow our own selves to float away, let time manage itself without checking on it every 5 minutes, we can drift right down. And even though you did not find her babies with your telephoto (which i am deeply envious of by the way).. Spirit did find you.. to herself this time.. lovely lovely, my darling sister in the woods.Thank you.. c

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    1. Oh thank you, Celi. Your comment touched my heart. The words, “curious peacefulness” really described how I felt with Spirit that morning. FD has always had more of a connection with Spirit than I, but that particular morning she did not mind me following her, and it was quite special to sit a small distance from her, quietly gazing at each other. I cannot explain what I feel when I spend time with Spirit… or Daisy for that matter. Kindred souls perhaps.

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    1. Thank you, Mandeep! I can’t tell you the times I’ve walked the woods and did not see a deer or other mammal until I was nearly on top of it! They blend in so well!

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  2. Your photography skills are incredible. The pictures are beautiful, and I love your stories about the deer. I hope Spirit brings her baby out soon, so you can name it!

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    1. What a nice compliment, Sue! I hope too that I am able to photograph our newest member of the herd soon. I am so proud of Spirit though, that she’s been so clever about keeping this baby hidden.

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  3. Hi Lori, I’ve just caught up with your last three posts. I took August off from my computer and it’s certainly nice to be disconnected for a while. You have quite a deer family now. Even though nature is just taking its course, you must be very proud. I loved your post about your grand nephew and nieces. What a great experience for them and teaching them to respect all living things is wonderful. I was impressed by all the trouble you took with the turtle. I know you’ve been blogging for a long time, but I do see your writing getting better and better. Can’t wait for the next installement xxxx

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    1. Thank you Henrietta! Isn’t August your holiday or vacation month in France? Do not be too impressed with the trouble I went to with that turtle. He was in a rain spout at my back porch… had I not rescued him he would have continued to make a racket and if he’d truly been stuck, he would have baked in that pipe in the sun the next day! We have had small mammals die down below the slope in the neighbors woods and the smell is horrendous for days. I can only imagine what that turtle stench would have been right there at the back porch! Ew!! 😀

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    1. Yes,Sandy, and I feel better that these second and third generations are more wild than Daisy is. It was a special moment that Spirit allowed me to follow her. I won’t do it often… I think she would move her baby, and I love that she decided to birth and hide it here on the very property she was raised on!

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  4. Hi Lori, I can see what you mean about Spirit looking somewhat ragged with her patchy coat. Does this mean she is preparing for her winter coat?
    I can also see you are continuing to cultivate patience in your endeavours to catch a glimpse and a precious photograph of the new fawn.

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    1. You are correct, Margaret. All of the deer are beginning to shed their summer coats, though not as thoroughly as Spirit. Soon the darker, blue-gray coats will emerge and the deer will get that “fuzzy” look they have in winter. And you are also right about my “cultivation” (I like that word!) of patience. It is very apparent to me that this walk of mine with nature has helped me let go of stress and rigidity in my life. It feels good.

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  5. How exciting! Although Spirit is being elusive, I still think she knows your ‘good folk’. I’m sure she’ll let you in on her secret baby stash soon! I can’t wait to see baby photos. I applaud you on your patience. I would get too antsy sitting in the woods like that. .. dam anxiety! 😂

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    1. Ha ha!! Well, I was antsy back in the early days… but deer are so unhurried when they graze and they often rest to digest their food. When Daisy was little I spent a lot of time following her through the woods, and during these times of rest, I was amazed at what passed by us – foxes, rabbits, birds landing just next to us! It was amazing. So I learned that patience has its rewards. It helps to take a snack along… if Daisy’s chewing her cud, I chew a few almonds or apple slices. It’s wonderful to allow yourself to be a deer every so often!

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  6. This was almost the Oklahoma summer that never was but it’s roaring back to show us that we won’t get off that easy. 🙂 I was curious if a portion of your land is connected to national forest or a larger forested area that the deer have access to or they sort of landlocked to a smaller area? Love the photos and Spirit does look a little rough around the edges but I’m sure that will change as the cooler weather sets in. Have a great Labor Day weekend and try to stay cool!

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    1. I’m counting on that rain that is forecast tonight and tomorrow! Hopefully, that will cool things down just a shade. Actually, we have no national forest or protected area near here, but our woodlands go all of the way to a nearby river (about a mile from here) that has constant flow. Along the river, and even much of the local farming community, there are vast areas of trees. So, the deer have a good water source and plenty of vegetation in the area. Our winters are often mild so that helps as well. The only downside to that is the deer do not get much of a reprieve from the insect population.

      You have a great weekend yourself! I’ll look forward to seeing what you capture with your camera this weekend! 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Paulette. It helps that Daisy’s herd is somewhat used to us, and even squirrels and birds feel safe in our presence because Daisy is so calm. It makes photographing so much easier when there is a sense of trust.

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    1. Thank you so much! Oh my goodness yes, when those ears go back and the eyes narrow, it’s battle time! It happens a lot when does have fawns – especially in May and June when the does are super protective. I don’t always get the best motion shots, but you get the general idea!

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    1. Thank you so much! Spending time in nature has been very beneficial to me the last eight years (since I quit my job and we moved on this ten acres). Living simply, in nature, and writing about what I observe and the messages or lessons that come forth, is what I love doing now. You can be sure I will continue to share about all of it! 🙂 Much love to you too, my friend.

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  7. We have horse flies here and they are an inch long. When Buddy goes out in summer he won’t linger long after doing his business because of them. In fact, the similar sound of a carpenter bee can put him into a leaping, snapping, frenzy and mad dash for the door!

    I must admit, that the sound of them buzzing me when I put the geese to bed makes me feel faint and my flesh crawl! Anything that can make Buddy that frantic must hurt awfully bad!

    As always, your photography is amazing! Thank you for sharing your world with us, Lori.

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    1. Thank you Lynda. Oh I dislike those horrible flies too. I can’t count the times I’ve gone running through the woods like a madwoman to flee from those creepy flies. I really don’t know how animals manage!

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  8. Spirit really does look run down doesn’t she? 😦 Poor girl! She is a great mum though and I think she will surprise you with her fawn sooner than later as the season starts to cool down and food becomes numero uno in the hierarchy of life.

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    1. Fran! Spirit is already looking better! The deer are beginning to get their bluish/gray coats for the fall and winter, and most of Spirit’s “patchy” look has disappeared. I think as a new mother she looked a tad worn out and then to have to deal with the heat we’ve had lately – well, she just looked a bit disheveled! I saw her grazing in the old deer pen (where we planted a deer mix) and she was an eating machine. She’ll be nursing for a while yet, and I wonder if she’ll even come into season this fall like most does do? It’ll be interesting… we won’t know until next May or June… or July and August!!

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  9. Your photos are beautiful as usual. I hope you will be able to get a picture of the little one soon. The flies here in NE Kansas came with the return of the heat as well. Our horses, donkey and cattle have been covered with them. Their eyes especially. We feel sorry for the baby calves. There is not much we can do for them.

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    1. Daisy will let me swat flies on her, but of course the other deer just suffer. Spirit never did like flies, so she reacts by running off sometimes. In the south we always hope for a bit of a cold snap in the winter just to get rid of the horrible pest and parasite infestation. That has to be a misery for all animals. Like you, I feel for them.

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