The Ebb and Flow of Life

My work clearing downed branches and limbs in the orchard had come to a standstill for a few weeks, since early Autumn rains arrived as they generally do in September. But with the wind and rain, even more limbs came down. Many trees were already on overload with too many pecans and the rain only added to the weight – and the wind finally took its toll. We are now looking at a huge cleanup job in front of us, including a lot of chainsawing. Some of the larger sections can be sold for milling, and we will likely have to invest in a wood-splitter at some point to be able to make firewood out of the other portions. The project of cleaning up the pecan orchard seems endless at times, but I am thankful to be doing work I enjoy in an atmosphere I love.

Many limbs became too heavy with pecans, and either bow to the ground, or break from stress.
This giant limb will be a task to chainsaw. It will be sold for milling and firewood.
The orchard is beautiful except for branches and limbs that need to be cleared. We hope to do more mowing before the pecans begin falling on the ground!

After the wind and rain of September, the mosquitoes arrived in full force in October. All spring and summer, I had managed working each week in the orchard without having to deal with too much of an insect problem. During this time, the humidity and heat had been more of an issue for me, but I endured. Now, with the autumn rains, the population of mosquitoes exploded. The slough filled back up and, along with that, a new crop of pesky cockleburs took root. As I had throughout the summer, I armored myself with the usual arsenal of herbal bug potions and essential oil blends, but this strain of mosquitoes seemed undeterred. So I pulled cockleburs in the warmest part of the afternoons on the windiest days to avoid the worst of the mosquitoes and, like clockwork, they seemed to arrive by 4:00 in the afternoon in a relentless fashion. I had enjoyed my short hair all year, until now. I did not realize how my longer hair had protected my neck and ears from biting insects. Still, I had to be thankful that most of this year, I was able to keep working with minimal misery.

I was glad to see Punkin had become a mother over the summer months, and had returned to visit and have a few pecans before heading back to the north where she lives in the neighbor’s woodlands.
We see Buddy often. He has set up digs just south of the house in an old hackberry tree, but he’s very social, making the rounds over about a three-acre area.

There were also some wonderful nuances in the change of season. Punkin the squirrel, who was three years old in February, came by for a visit one rainy morning. We had not seen Punkin since April, and there is always the worry that a hawk or fox might have gotten to her. But finally one morning, she came looking for pecans, and when I left a few for her I noticed she had been busy being a mother. Her teats were prominent, but it was clear she had weaned her babies. I saw Buddy the squirrel most every day. He roams a large area – sometimes I saw him near the deer pen, other times out in the pasture or near the burn pile, but most often he is down in the canyon at the water tub, or hanging out with numerous other male squirrels in the woods nearby, gathering pecans or eating hackberries. Buddy turned three in August this year.

It has also been a good autumn to observe large numbers of butterflies on the move. I saw more monarchs this year than I had since late September of 2012. The woodlands became a stunning garden of monarchs that year, with thousands of the delicate beauties dripping from tree branches. We did not see 2012 types of numbers this year, but the population was certainly heavier than it had been since then. I did not photograph them much, knowing I could never top the photos I had from 2012, but I still delighted in their presence.

And of course Emma, Ronnie and Spike often showed up about mid morning as I worked in the orchard. Only Emma stayed nearby for very long, grazing and often bedding down to do a little ruminating. When I moved, she moved. Spike and Ronnie often took to sparring, and would eventually take off to the west towards the old river channel. In the evening, the trio joined together again. I wondered about so many things regarding how the rut season would go. Would Ronnie and Emma mate, or would Spike challenge Ronnie? Or would other bigger bucks show up? And would Emma leave in search of a buck, or choose to stay around home? After all, I understood that the doe chooses her buck. And was Ronnie hanging near her because it was what he had always done, or was he vying for her attention? Would he strike out on his own, traveling miles away to look for does? Lately, it seems that Ronnie has the advantage over Spike with his fine antlers, and has become the dominant buck of the two, often chasing Spike away from Emma. But that sure has not kept Spike from coming around anyway.

There has also been new life in the orchard this year. A doe delivered a set of twins in late May. The twins flourished at the west end of our property throughout the summer, despite my worry about the coyote population in the area. Most of the time we avoided the west end of the property to respect their space, but often spotted them when we drove the buggy to check game cameras that we have placed all over the property. And later this summer, we noticed game camera video of another doe frequenting the same area. It was evident she was very pregnant and seemed to be friendly with the mama doe who had the twins, leading us to believe they were related. We had observed friendliness like this with Daisy deer and  her fawn, Spirit, when Spirit had her first offspring.  FD was just sure this robust doe would have triplets. By late August, we could not believe she had not yet delivered. Finally, in early September we saw her on game camera footage with two spotted fawns. They appeared quite healthy and spry. Being born so late in the season, we hoped they would continue to do well to survive the winter. But by mid-September, we noticed the doe had moved her babies into our woodlands just west of the house, and often took them on day trips into the pecan orchard. I was delighted about this since I often caught sight of them while I was working in the orchard. And the odd thing was, the mama doe did not seem afraid of us. She had to be a local doe that was familiar with us and used to our presence.

The doe who delivered late season fawns was often seen down in the canyon near the feeder.

In early October,  we made an interesting discovery while viewing game camera video – that late season mama doe actually did have triplets! For some reason, she mostly keeps two of them together, with one in a separate area. Mama keeps watch nearby while they are bedded down in the tall grasses of the pecan orchard, and FD and I often see them run between the orchard and the old river channel. Just yesterday evening, as FD and I drove the buggy to the west end, we saw the older twin fawns,which we have now determined to be a buck and a doe, hanging out with the triplets.  All five scampered off as we drove through, apparently not too alarmed, having seen the buggy traverse through the orchard many times since their birth.

But this week, as I did my work in the orchard, my thoughts were with Emma, Ronnie and Spike. Last week, Spike and Ronnie had ventured off as they do each day, but they did not return that evening. With the boys gone, Emma hung around close to home for a couple of days, following me around in the mornings before taking off to the shade in the woods during the heat of the day, and then returning in the evening. But then she too eventually disappeared. Each day I worked in the orchard I kept watch, but saw no sign of the kids. I thought about so many scenarios. Had they become bored here and ventured off towards the river to parts unknown? Was this the early stages of the rut and hormones were beginning to rise? Was Emma in search of her first buck? Were Ronnie and Spike chasing does? I hoped they were well, wherever they had gone. For the first time since their release, I was alone in my work. I missed Emma’s companionship, even though many times she was a snoop, getting into my tools, nibbling at my clothing or licking my arms as I worked, or occasionally coming up behind me when I wasn’t watching and clobbering me with a hoof to let me know she was present. Yes, I missed all of that. But I also knew this time of independence would come. And I wanted them to be wild and on their own – just as life should be for them.

Then this morning Spike showed up at the feeder. His only antler had been broken partway off and was now about three inches tall. He did not stay long, but ate a quick nibble of feed and then went off to the orchard. I wondered how his first rut would be without ample antlers to defend himself against other bucks, or how he might show a doe that he was a capable suitor? And where were Emma and Ronnie?

I hope Spike has better luck next year with his antlers.

I will likely not have answers to most of my questions. I will only be able to wait and watch, comparing notes with what I have learned from Daisy deer over the years. And no matter what patterns and similarities I try to find in the life of the Whitetail deer, I know there will be just as many oddities and surprises that will confuse me entirely. Life is like that. There is an ebb and flow to everything, and it is completely unpredictable.

© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


34 thoughts on “The Ebb and Flow of Life

    1. I wonder how big the bat colony would have to be? Years ago, FD discovered an old, abandoned house about a mile from here that had been taken over by brown bats. We see bats at dusk during the summer months. They swoop around in the wooded area just behind our house – they seem to fly over the swimming pool just as it’s getting dark. I am sure they are also housed just a short distance from here, in the walls of a deep ravine that I walk near as I follow an animal trail to the river. They are around alright, and I bet they have plenty to feast on right now! Thanks for reminding me about bats!! I should be thankful we have them!

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  1. I was reading a blog last week, written by a zen follower and basically he said all of life is filled with random events and our job is to learn to ‘go with the flow’. Your post reminded me of that on many levels. The pecan orchard is so beautiful. Hugs.

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    1. Thank you, Ardys. The orchard is the best it’s looked in years. People in the area are noticing too. What you wrote is how I feel too, though I find it very difficult to “go with the flow” many times I wonder if I’ll be working on that my whole life! At least I am cognizant and mindful when I start veering. 🙂

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  2. This was a wonderful post – I TOTALLY get the ebb and flow. Those pecan trees are huge – do you have a market for them? The nuts? In the apple orchards we often put props under the branches that were too heavy but your trees are so big there is no chance of doing such a thing. I guess you are never short of firewood. I would definitely INVEST in the splitter. John has one that is driven by the tractor and it is a miraculous machine – I can split piles and piles of wood all by myself and get it really small too without wearing myself out. Just stacking it all gives me the workout. Your life will change when you get that splitter – I promise! c

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    1. I know you totally get the ebb and flow… I loved your post this morning! Maybe you can tell me what kind/brand of splitter you have? I am sure we would get one powered by the tractor too (there’s another expense – we may need a bigger tractor). You have me stoked now!

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    1. I wish I could send the rain your way, Paulette. We got another 1.5 inches last night. I’m afraid it will be a couple of months before I can get to the other side of the slough again. And unless we get a freeze, the mosquitoes will be even worse now.

      I saw mama and two of the triplets down below at the feeder this morning. I don’t know if the third fawn was bedded down or off where I couldn’t see it, but the mother seemed calm. I’m determined to find out who this mama is… since she does not fear us at all. I’ll have to look back at Daisy and Spirit’s photos and see if it could be Spirit or maybe one of the other local deer.

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  3. Lori, I always enjoy your stories no matter the subject. It’s good to know that the squirrels are alive and well at three years of age. And oh my, that is quite a discovery to see a doe with three fawns. I love the photos so much The huge pecan limb will be quite a chore to deal with but it will make some fine lumber. You are fortunate to have a mill that will cut it into lumber. I can imagine a beautiful table or some wooden bowls, vases, and various sculptures made from the beautiful wood. In my town there is a yearly convention/exhibition of wood turners- I think that is what they are called. I have missed the shows every year but have seen photos in the newspaper, of the gorgeous art pieces. If I were younger I think that is one hobby that I would want to pursue.

    Anyhow I digress and again you really do have a mosquito problem. I don’t know how you manage to deal with those pests. I am very afraid of getting a mosquito borne illness that can kill a person and cause untold misery for many years. Fortunately mosquitoes don’t care for me and thus far I’ve yet to be bitten. They land on me but don’t bite -yet. It is a good thing that bats are nearby and that they help in some ways to keep the mosquito population in control. Is there a chance that FD could create a drainage channel so that the water does not create a slough?

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    1. Thank you, Yvonne. FD works with a guy who has a mill, and that is who we’ve used so far for wood we will keep for ourselves. We need to try to sell the wood as is. We just haven’t had a lot of time to devote to researching how to market it. For sure we’ll need a wood splitter so that the smaller hunks can be sold for firewood.

      The slough is kind of a mess really, and I believe part of the problem is because of runoff from a nearby neighborhood, and part is from the city park across the road. We could not do much good ourselves – it’s too big of a project for us to handle. The entire fifty-two acres that the orchard sits on is actually a natural wetlands region. We are looking into a government wetlands restoration project which will still allow pecan production. Mosquitoes are a natural part of the ecosystem, as is the slough. I may just have to be patient and wait for the first couple of freezes, and then work through the winter as I can. 🙂

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    1. The only reason we can still tell the squirrels are some we’ve raised is because they come to us at the back porch. Buddy has a small rip on his right ear. Punkin climbs up the back door and looks in the window. Otherwise, we couldn’t tell them from any other squirrels! As for the deer, most of them have peculiarities, injuries, markings, or habits I might recognize them by. After a couple of years though, it does get to be more difficult to identify them.

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    1. Thanks, Monica. The orchard is shaping up, but I think the darned weevils and borers got to a lot of the pecans. Still there is hope as not all of the trees are dropping pecans yet. We still have a little time to pick up branches and mow.

      I can’t help but love Spike. Without Emma and Ronnie around, I find myself content and happy with his presence in the early mornings.

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  4. Poor Spike. Good he’s had lots of practice sparring – it may be a rough season for the spunky little guy.
    I’m glad you are making plans to use that large limb – so many would just let it “return to the soil” and rot. Brought up with too much of “waste not want not”. The orchard is looking like an enchanted forest. Lovely. All the work worth it.
    Nice portrait of your 3 kids (and the video of the triplets)
    Winer is coming – enjoy being outdoors now – maybe the mosquitoes will chill shortly.

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    1. We have our first really chilly morning this morning. I’m tucked indoors painting (we’ve needed an update around here for a while) but I need to head out later to get ready for the first hard freeze on Friday night. You know the work – hoses need disconnecting, draining and put up, flower pots brought to the back porch for sheltering, pull remaining peppers and tomatoes from the vine, heated bird bath out and heater set up for wildlife bathtub. Yes, winter is just around the corner. Even in the south we must be ready!

      I hope to be able to work in the orchard all winter. Unless it’s blustery cold, it should be pleasant work without those mosquitoes. Of course the slough is full again so I won’t be able to work the east side until that dries up some. The east side of the orchard is a real mess. I could keep busy all winter on that end alone – and FD will have a lot of chainsawing to do there too.

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  5. I’m wondering if you ever considered putting up bat houses near the areas where you work often. I know you said there are bats around, so maybe you can get them to roost closer to where you need their services. Or you could try putting up a purple martin house too. A colony of those swallows would make a nice dent in the skeeter population too. 🙂

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    1. Years ago when we first put in our swimming pool, we researched purple martin houses because we wanted the area to be more comfortable in the evenings. We discovered that the idea that they are an effective mosquito controller is a myth = mostly a clever marketing gimmick to sell purple martin houses. This link was the best I found on the explanation: http://chuckspurplemartinpage.com/myths.htm Bats are probably a much better option, but even then, the number of mosquitoes ingested is a very small ratio compared to other insects that they enjoy feasting on.

      I guess I’ll just have to rely on the Mother Nature to provide mosquito control. The slough, is a natural part of the wetlands property that the orchard sits on. It is the main cause for the mosquito population. Keeping the weeds mowed down helps, and last year’s drought kept the mosquito population down too. We are supposed to have a hard freeze Friday night – that should do the trick this time of year!

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  6. The first time I saw a real pecan orchard, it was in Mississippi in the springtime, and it was one of the most beautiful places I’d seen. Yours clearly rivals it, and outdoes it in terms of tree size. I’ve seen some of our squirrels carrying around pecans, but most are feasting on acorns. I’ve seen reports from places as far-flung as New York that the crop seems especially good this year, and I’m thinking that it might be a mast year. I do know the deer hunters here are a little frustrated that deer aren’t coming to the corn because of all the acorns, and the hogs certainly are enjoying them.

    I don’t mind deer season, because the meat feeds a lot of people for the next year, including veterans at a wonderful local PTSD facility, but I confess I sometimes turn off conversation on our outdoors show during squirrel season. I’m entirely too attached to squirrels generally to enjoy thinking of them on the table. On the other hand, squirrel season always brings back memories of my dad and uncles having to live by my mom’s ironclad rule: you shoot ’em, you clean ’em and cook ’em.”

    After Harvey, the mosquitos here were loathsome. Then, they did some aerial spraying and a lot of mowing, and it’s helped considerably. I’m not a fan of spraying generally, but in this situation it really was necessary. On the other hand, some areas had almost no mosquitos, and the theory is that so much water running to the Gulf just swept the larvae right along with it.

    One of the best pieces I ever saw made from pecan was a long bench with a backrest. It’s still sitting out on a porch in the hill country, and it’s as pleasurable for looking as for sitting.

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    1. Oh, Linda, I had a good laugh about your mom’s “ironclad rule”. I don’t mind cooking up wild meat, but I often have to go to Google if it’s something out of the norm. I have noticed a few does coming up on the place to nibble at acorns from my mom-in-law’s big oak. Here, we do not have the bumper crop of acorns that we had last year. Thinking on that, I am so glad last year was productive since I was foraging for native eats for Emma and Ronnie when they were still fawns. We are enjoying a slow autumn here and there is still plenty of great plant life and browse for the deer and other wildlife. They should all be in good shape for winter.

      FD and I went for a country drive yesterday and on the way home took the road that runs past our orchard (north looking south). I only see the view from the south looking north as I work in the orchard. I was filled with pride and felt such a sense of accomplishment as I viewed it as the public would. It’s beautiful and those trees are outstanding. It renewed my spirit about the hard work – I think I need to see it from the main road perspective every so often to keep me energized about it! And to think that this year it supported so many deer/fawns. We now realize we had two does with twins, and one doe with triplets. Of course we notice the comeback of the coyotes – some are young and likely pups from this year. Ah, the ebb and flow of nature.

      I wondered about the mosquitoes down in your area. That theory you mentioned does make sense. I am glad to report that we’ve had two nights with freezing temperatures and I have not been bothered by mosquitoes the last days. Perhaps I won’t have to worry about those pesky varmints until spring!

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