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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
© 2014 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…