A month has passed since I have written and published a blog post. To make an excuse, I could go on and on about how busy I have been (and this is true), as I never lack for things to do on our ten-acre ranch. But the real reason is that, after I wrote, “Too Many Hats And Too Many Irons In The Fire”, something strange happened – everything just fell into place.
My beloved winter work in the woodlands ended abruptly in mid-March, when the weather warmed up and the spring rains arrived. Overnight, it seemed, the woodlands transformed into a lush green jungle covered by a canopy of sun-dappled tree tops. This “jungle” included various native grasses and thick weeds that kept me from venturing too far into the dark of the woods to continue my work of clearing downed trees and limbs.
Also helping to relieve my burdens, Buddy and Francesca, the two little orphaned squirrels we “acquired” when we took the widow-maker down in Mom’s garden, are now a little easier to deal with. A couple of weeks ago, the pair were moved from the small cage in the house to the large “pre-release” squirrel complex on the back porch. In this larger cage, they are becoming very playful and growing quite rapidly. Additionally, their feeding routine has dwindled considerably over the past couple of days, with both refusing formula the last two feedings. This is normal (and easy on the caretaker!), as squirrels tend to “self-wean”.
So, with a little less time spent on squirrel duty, I have finally found time to weed the flower beds around the house and transplant a few perennials that needed dividing. FD tilled up the garden plot and, thanks to warm and breezy days in between rains, I have also managed to put in most of the vegetable plants and seeds that I purchased weeks before. I even got a lucky break in the streak of hot, dry weather we were having when my sweet potato vines arrived in the mail. An overcast day presented itself for the planting and light rains followed the next couple of days. I could not have asked for a better start for those persnickity sweet potato vines!
Along with the new plantings in this year’s garden, the clover plots we planted for Daisy deer last fall and earlier this spring are doing well and attracting scores of butterflies and bees, seen throughout the day alighting on the clover blossoms. I have been surprised to find that even hummingbirds love clover, and I am still hoping to manage a photograph of one of these tiny birds hovering at a blossom! Of course the clover also provides a lactating mother like Daisy with all sorts of greens to make milk to feed her babies. And the deer-feed patch – planted in Daisy’s old deer pen where she was raised as a little fawn herself – is again growing thick with oats, clover, chicory, canola, and sweet peas. You might recall from older posts that, last year, Daisy hid her week-old babies in these tall, lush plants in the deer pen. I wonder if she will do the same this year?
Another welcome sign of spring, is that birds of all sorts are back from their winter migrations south. Once again, we have the usual cardinal nests hidden away in low-growing shrubs around the house. This always bothers me a bit as snakes and squirrels are such a threat to steal their eggs or young. And there are the usual, territorial hummingbird fights over honeysuckle and nectar feeders. Even the Baltimore Orioles that come back every year think the Coral Honeysuckle that grows at the back porch is all theirs, scolding any critter that comes near it, including me. Along with the pair of Bewick’s Wrens I frequently see poking around the back porch, this often makes finding any peace in the mornings impossible. And let me not forget the drumming woodpeckers. Our area supports many different species of woodpecker, including that elusive piliated woodpecker that I have seldom seen, but I hear quite often. I cannot possibly list all of the bird species that thrive here, but I know they find plenty of weed and grass seed to feed on, and a bounty of sweet blossoms from which to find nectar. And, I am getting pretty good at recognizing all their calls, trills and tweets.
Though I have not seen it, I know there is a barn owl living, or perhaps just hunting, either next door at the neighbor’s property or just behind my mom-in-law’s house. Each morning in the dark, just before daylight, as I set out on the walk from our home at the edge of the woods, up the driveway to the street to open the entrance gate, I am often greeted by a hair-raising hiss. I try to remain calm but I am never quite sure what direction that eerie hiss will surprise me from. One particular morning, a sudden WHOOSH sounded just above my head – no flapping wings, just a strong sense of air rushing. I am just sure it was this elusive barn owl!
In early April, Daisy deer returned from her winter hiatus in the river bottom, spending time with the wild deer. She generally returns to her home territory (our ten-acre ranch) the month before she gives birth to her fawns. Before long, she will be setting up the nursery and protecting her territory of about five acres, more or less. She will soon begin running off every animal that she feels is a threat, from the neighbors dogs to feral cats and occasional raccoons – and, hopefully, the foxes. I love this particular time, as Daisy seems to need her “parents” to pamper her just a bit this last month of her pregnancy. It is as if she needs a little spa treatment before she gets busy with her fawns. So, FD and I brush her and pick ticks and fleas off of her, or just pull her favorite snack of elm leaves down within her reach, whenever we get the chance.
It will be interesting to see if Daisy manages to run off the two red foxes who have also set up housekeeping in the area this spring. I have not yet located just where in the pecan orchard it is that they have their kits, but it is apparent that they are feeding young over there somewhere. Along with the occasional dove, raccoon and opossum, they both have been eating deer feed and also our neighbor’s cat food on a fairly regular basis. And, sadly, I have seen them take a number of squirrels from our canyon, heading off to the north in the pecan orchard to share the catch with their young. Both foxes appear quite thin and are on the go constantly. I wonder how many little mouths they are feeding?
Fortunately, there are no worries concerning our orphaned juvenile squirrels who have been on their own since November. Punkin comes by the back porch on a daily basis, so we know she is doing just fine escaping the foxes. Most mornings, she enjoys two or three (or more pecans) if I have time to indulge her. I still see Mr. Gambini occasionally on a rainy day, but he is all business – simply after the vittles and definitely not wanting any ear scratches or petting like Miss Punkin does. Instead, he eats his grub and is soon on his way down to the canyon to join the other male squirrels, feasting on dropped corn from Daisy’s last visit at the corn feeder. Mr. Gambini is still small but he is very fast – and likely that is what keeps him safe from those clever foxes in the shadows.
As I write this, bountiful rains continue to fall, sometimes calling me to just stand in the middle of it all and marvel at the beauty. When the rains subside, my totem, the vultures, fly high above on the balmy, windy days that follow, and I remember to “Glide and Soar” and revel in the love and happiness that flourishes on this little piece of land. And then a happy little song comes to my mind… “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah Zip-a-Dee-A. My oh my, what a wonderful day. Plenty of sunshine heading my way. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Zip-a-Dee-A!”
© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…