When the Mind is Still…

I was up early this morning. For many weeks, I have been restless at night, awakening every hour or two, often managing my day without more than four or five hours of sleep. The autumn time change only added to the problem. Often, I just get up and quietly get started with my day. It’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on a little computer work, reading, and if I have a story formulating in my head, I write.

Last Saturday, Forrest and I were both up early. He had rented a U-haul trailer to take furniture and household goods to Lubbock, Texas, to help a great-niece get set up in her first apartment. Having acquired Forrest’s grandparent’s antique furniture after his mother’s passing, we decided to share most of it with family. As soon as he took off down the road, I got busy with my usual morning chores and daily tasks. By afternoon I decided to get cleaned up and forego my earlier plan to chainsaw tree limbs from the ice storm and get the burn pile going. It was the weekend. Forrest would return tomorrow. Why shouldn’t I kick back for the rest of the day?

Forrest and I were up early to load a U-Haul trailer, filled with furniture and items to help a great-niece get started out in her first apartment.

But I never really just “kicked back”. Instead, I worked on a few cleaning tasks in the house, and did a bit of ironing while watching a movie. My ironing board is set up at sliding glass doors where I can look out to the woods beyond the back porch. As soon as I completed the ironing and finished the movie, I went out to fill the wildlife feeders and water tub down in the canyon. I had about an hour of daylight left, and I still needed to feed the fawns and get the chickens shut in for the night.

Two gravity feeders hold Double Down deer feed to help nourish fawns when we release them. They also help with supplementing nutritional needs of lactating does in spring and summer, and to help bucks on the run during the rut. Smaller fawns and other mammals and birds eat the feed that drops to the ground.

I had no more than carried two five-gallon buckets of deer feed down the slope, when I sensed something watching me. There was Tukker, walking slowly toward the feeders, nose to the ground. We had been seeing him most evenings. I assumed he was after his usual apple and carrot snack, but he walked past me, lingering and sniffing a couple of times on a tall weed. He bypassed the feeders and walked on towards a small knoll just a short distance away. I abandoned my buckets and followed.

Tukker took the steep route up to the knoll, while I took an easier route around it. At the top I found a lot of deer scat. Either Tukker frequented this area a lot, or other deer perhaps found a prime view of the canyon and took rest here. I also noted quite a few blister beetles (this one genus Meloe) moving around lethargically. I sure didn’t want to accidentally have a brush against one of these toxic insects! Tukker’s thick hair would protect him, but my human skin would offer no protection from the toxic compound they emit.

Tukker climbed the hill near the gully where we burn brush. I did not follow the steep route he took, but walked around the burn area, taking an easier path to the knoll. So many times I marveled at how efficient those deer hooves were, capable of quiet travel to places a human’s big feet could not as easily manage.

After nibbling honeysuckle and having a few hard sniffs up the length of a couple of dried weeds, Tukker folded his legs and plopped down to rest in front of me. I did the same. There was to be no mutual grooming, and gentle talking did not seem appropriate. Instead, we both sat quietly, sometimes gazing at each other, and sometimes looking out in the distance, I, with my own thoughts and he, I assumed, with his. Eventually, Tukker dozed for short periods, and once, actually slipped into rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. In all of the years we have rehabilitated wildlife, I have never observed REM sleep in a mammal.

After a few minutes of this hard sleep, Tukker’s eyes opened quickly at the sound of a squirrel scampering across dried leaves nearby. My cell phone indicated that forty minutes had passed since Tukker and I began our rest at the knoll, and I noted darkness was ebbing in. I stood up to photograph Tukker and speak to him gently before I ambled back down the knoll the way I had come. I finished filling the wildlife feeders, and moved on to setting the fawns up for the night and closing the chicken barn before complete darkness cloaked the earth. When these chores were complete, I returned to the knoll, but Tukker had disappeared into the night.

I have not seen Tukker in the week that has passed. In fact, the only deer we have observed lately have been fawns who appear to be alone in the nighttime hours. Perhaps their mothers are off taking part in rutting activity. I have also noticed the feeders are not being used as much. The rut, or breeding season, is an exciting and yet dangerous time for deer. Bucks especially, face injury and even death when engaging in sparring and antler fights to establish dominance or claim a doe. Both does and bucks often run blindly in the chase. Fawns may try to follow their mothers, finding themselves in unfamiliar places, and sometimes fall prey to predators. We have witnessed all of these things over the years we’ve cared for deer. It’s fascinating, and yet sometimes tragic.

I sat on the knoll for a while yesterday under overcast skies, while a gentle breeze stirred leaves around me. The earth felt warm under my legs, and for a long time I sat still, with not a thought in my head. This was the knoll where Daisy deer often rested with her fawns, where Emma and Ronnie ruminated, and where I many times found Ronnie resting just before his first rut. Tukker too, had shown me how sacred this place is, and how to be watchful, safe, and quiet from this perch above the canyon. I thanked Universe and all the deer I have loved and spent time with, for taking me to this place and leading me down the path of living in the moment, and finding freedom in just… being.

© 2020 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


35 thoughts on “When the Mind is Still…

  1. It seems like taking a bit of a break was a good thing, as it put you in a contemplative mood.

    In the video, it looks like Tukker had his visible eye open, and I see fluttering. Is that the REM you referred to? If so, it seems he was sleeping with at least one eye open. Is that the case, or am I seeing/interpreting wrong?

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    1. I appreciate opportunities to sit or walk with the deer. It seems I will have a lot of that coming up when we release the four fawns, January 16th. Generally, after release, I try to spend a lot of time walking with them, watching them evolve in their new freedom. There’s nothing more thrilling! And I am sure to have my camera with me every bit of the way.

      I based my observation on REM sleep from descriptions and documentation by Dr. Leonard Lee Rue III, a long-time authority on whitetail deer behavior. He has seen deer sleep with their heads in a variety of positions and with their eyes both opened and closed. He says they sleep with their eyes open more often than closed and that the eyelids fluttering is REM sleep and that it suggests deer can dream. I do not know about the dreaming aspect, but it makes sense since we humans dream during that period. Deer are continually monitoring what is going on around them. Their ears are never lowered, and they can wake up instantly. Dr. Rue feels their ears may even be more important than their nose while they are sleeping.

      Another oddity that I forgot to mention, is that I observed Tukker getting the urge to chew cud or ruminate, but he swallowed without chewing – as if to put off the ruminating process. This happened four times, where the food was being sent back up to the mouth, but he chose not to chew his cud at that time. I could not find anything in Dr. Rue’s writings about that observation.

      Liked by 4 people

    1. Aw, Margaret, it certainly is gentle and soothing to sit next to a big boy like Tukker. I do know too, though, to respect his size and abilities. It is the rut after all, and bucks can be dangerous too. This day, he was more interested in a little rest!

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  2. Wow, how amazing to see a buck in slumber. I’ve often wondered if they get a chance to just relax from all the nervous looking around that they have to do. It seems so exhausting to be a deer in the wild. Tukker sure has a fine rack this year. Wasn’t he the one with one antler last season? Or was that Ronnie? Thank you so much for this sneak peek!

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    1. I’ve read that deer sleep intermittently, and that they’re dozing mostly – always aware of noise and scent. When I spent time with Daisy deer, I rarely saw her sleep when she became a mother. Their lives are so much about surveillance and constant eating when they’re raising young. We were actually happy that Tukker’s fine rack had no brow tines. This would make him less attractive to a hunter who primarily hunts bucks. But, he is a very nice-sized buck so if a hunter was after meat, he’d still be hunted. Normally, I patrol our orchard and leased area to the river, but the ice storm brought down so many limbs that the usual paths are all impassable. We must get to some clearing so I can keep an eye out for any poachers in the area, and so that I can find more plentiful browse for the fawns.

      Ronnie had a nice rack, back in 2017. We have no way of knowing if he’s still in this area or not. Unless there is a marked identifier – like a split or notch in an ear, a blemish of some sort on the head or body, or a physical injury or scar, it’s hard to know if any of the local deer might be some we’ve raised. Spike, we suspect, could still be in this area, and we’ve often wondered if Spike is the older deer who kept Tukker company this autumn. If so, the lost antler was not a permanent injury. Tukker’s friend seemed unafraid of us, and was comfortable roaming around the house and barn. No wild deer would do that!

      I also sometimes wonder if Spirit (Daisy’s first doe fawn) or Emma deer have raised young in this area. We’ve noted a couple of does who seem more comfortable when we’re around. They are careful, but they are not afraid of us, and bring their young up to the fawns pen sometimes. Regardless, it’s very cool to be surrounded by so many deer. I often wonder about Daisy – if she’s alive and still nearby somewhere. If so, she would be nine years old now.

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  3. How beautifully you have told this story. Your sense of being in the present is evident. And what a privilege to have the trust of a wild animal who will sleep in your presence. Tukker is so handsome, well done Deer Mamma!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ardys. Sometimes we encounter something to be held sacred or we have a meeting with a life form that affects us greatly. Nearly every day there is a message or a sign from nature, if I’m present enough to see and feel it. I know you understand this deep connection where you live. Being present allows us to see so much more. It’s quite a gift.

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      1. I agree, staying present enough to see the messages and make the connections is key. Apparently it’s one of the things we tend to get better at doing as we age! xx

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    1. Yes, Anne. My walk with the deer especially, but all wildlife, has been magical and life-changing. We can all find that “knoll” in life, to be still and find rest and comfort. Nature offers us this respite, if only we take the time to venture there.

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  4. What a wonder-full interlude for you both despite the difference in your species but with the familiarity of each other and the commonality of the need to rest to find your special place to do it in the comfort of each other’s presence. Tukker really is a magnificent being. The REM sleep was interesting to note… animals have consciousness, souls… so it makes sense.

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    1. I love that last sentence you wrote. I have always believed animals have souls. If Tukker was dreaming, it would be lovely to understand that more, but I suppose like with each of us and our dreaming, it serves a purpose only to us. That day on the knoll was very emotional for me. To sit quietly, in the presence of a creature so great and magnificent is nearly indescribable. I was emotional for several days after. To walk with the wild things (and rest with them) is truly a gift of nature. I’ve learned not to talk with them, with my human chatter, but to just “be” and enjoy the experience.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Anne. Yes, Tukker allows us to pet him and he even lets us pick ticks off of him. All of the deer we have raised seem to understand us removing ticks gives them comfort. They love to be scratched, especially on the forehead. Even Punkin the squirrel, who is seven years old now, allows us to gently pet her. We still see her off and on, especially in the winter months. She loves pecans you know!! Ha ha!

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  5. I very much enjoyed reading about Tuckker’s manhood. He has matured so quickly, it seems but time passes so quickly and it all seems like yesterday. He is quite a beautiful specimen with his rack seemingly so perfect. It must be the most wonderous thing for you to follow your rehab orphans and observe their transition from fawn to adult deer and all within walking distance on your beautiful property.

    I have thought of you often since summer and into the fall and hoped that you an Forrest have remained safe. Keeping the old furniture in the family and putting it to good use is certainly ideal.

    My computer has been on blink off and on and so I think that I have missed some posts. I will need to check that out. I am convinced that I need to stop buying HP computers. The one I am using now has been a headache as well as the previous one.

    Wishing you and Forrest a safe and happy thanksgiving. .

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    1. Hello, Yvonne. I often think of you too, and hope you are doing well. We have been well here, with Forrest working from home mostly, and us continuing to keep to home, and not venturing out much. You’ll be happy to know Forrest will be retiring soon, and I will have help with the tasks we face here. There is much renovating and repairing to do with the rock house (we have a renter now), and we have months of cleanup facing us from that ice storm. I’ve wondered over the years, how you’ve managed to do so much on your own. This work is difficult for a woman. I will be thankful to have help finally!

      Tukker has no brow tines, so maybe he will be safe from trophy hunters. Tukker is big, so his size would make him a target if a hunter was after meat, maybe. Forrest and I will be working hard to clear the paths through the orchard and leased property, made impassible by the recent ice storm, so that we can do a better job of monitoring unauthorized hunters in the area. I generally take the Kawasaki Mule out daily to check for trespassers. That has been impossible so far this hunting season. Tukker has been seen on game cameras on the west end of the property, so he’s doing well. Hopefully, he’s enjoying his first rut.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. A lovely post and so well described I can imagine sitting there quietly with you. Tukker is so handsome and he looks like he’s dreaming in the video. There is such peace to be had, just siting with a loved one in a wood.
    I hope you and your family are well. We and mine are, so far, and being very careful, always masking up outside etc. Take care xxx

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    1. That day was certainly special! Tukker has been different than our other deer. There is something deep and almost spiritual about him. The rut is slowing down now, and we’ve seen Tukker and his friend together, getting water and feed below the slope. I am so thankful he’s done well this rutting season.

      We are doing well here too, though my brother in Nebraska and his wife did come down with Covid recently, and they had been so careful to take precautions. We had another friend who landed in the hospital ICU for two weeks with it, and after two months is still trying to gain his stamina back. Take care, Henrie xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for sharing this special day and the wonderful peaceful time with you and Tukker. Your writing was so enjoyable, Lori. I envy your wildlife experiences with the deer you foster and the continued relationship you maintain with them once they are set loose. I don’t think I would have it in me to accept the possibility of Tukker or any of the others becoming a meal, by a predator or predatory human. Knowing a fact of natural life and being comfortable with it are two different things.
    Best wishes for the holiday to you and Forrest. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Steve. We enjoyed a quiet holiday. I suspect Christmas will be similar. Keeping healthy is what I wish for everyone. 🙂

      It has been since 2011 that we started rehabilitating fawns, and certainly the deer have taught us much along the way. I try to remember that the day of release is the kindest thing I can offer the deer – to be free to roam and live in the wild as they should. To control and attempt to protect from all difficulty in life – even for humans with their children, is not living free and allowing them to evolve as they should. I am thankful that when they take off at some point, that I don’t know what happens. I still think of all of them, and hope they’re doing well. We still have Punkin the squirrel, who comes to visit (mostly to get pecans when the pickings are slim in the wild) from time to time. She’s six years old now. That’s amazing.

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      1. Oh, I understand that release into the wild is best which is why, with my bleeding heart, I could never do what you do. Of course I base that on my relationships with my dogs which is entirely different. Maybe I would be more comfortable with a wild foster. I have a hard enough time when one of my cacti dies. 🙂

        We had a too quiet holiday as the turkey was still frozen. So today is the day with just Mary Beth, her sister, and me. Well Bentley too but he won’t be at the table. I got the bird out of the mini fridge (where I used to keep film long, long ago) at 4 this morning to be sure and still had to remove some ice. Let it sit in a deep basin for an hour. The mini fridge is a little colder than the big one but nothing freezes in there, at least not often.

        Yes, that is a long life on average for a squirrel. Good for Punkin.

        We’ll spend Christmas much the same as Thanksgiving although without the frozen dinner. As I saw in a Meme…A zoom Thanksgiving is better than an ICU Christmas or since that is next New Years. Too bad more people don’t recognize that.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I agree that the relationships with wild things are much different. Everything we’ve raised has shown me where instinct carries them though – and they are very capable of surviving. Life is brutal in the wild, so it’s done me good to see that we continue to see many of our wild things from year to year. Our dogs are conditioned to a life of dependency on us. I’m terribly emotional when I lose a pet. And I’m a plant person too. Anything that is a life form is difficult for me to let go of.

          I hope that long-awaited turkey is DEE LICIOUS!! :).

          Liked by 1 person

  8. We had our first really cold front come through last night. Few were outside wither because of TV sports or shopping or something – which made it almost peaceful. Walking the dog reminded me so much of Thanksgivings at the farm with wet fallen leaves and a flock of loud blackbirds/grackles flying overhead complaining. That sound just is rural fall/early winter.
    That last picture is also fall. Somehow it is a deer, yet also the spirit of some humans who also feel nature and the Universe. Does that make sense – a deer yet also a person as the deer? Common souls and spirits.
    Anyway, glad you and yours are staying well – you do what you can to stay clear of it.
    how nice to help a young one set up an apartment – and she appreciates things that are not brand new – a good sign for the future being smart like that.
    Perfect Thanksgiving post with nice comments, too

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    1. I believe there are common souls and spirits – with all life forms. It’s difficult to describe the feelings I had that day sitting with Tukker. I could say a “knowing” as if we both understood he would be venturing on, into the rut, no longer as a yearling, but as a mature buck. I was more emotional than I could express, not weepy or sad, just knowing that his life was changing as it does for all of us as we evolve.

      All things have moved along as they should for us after acquiring the rock house. Many could use the furniture and we were happy to have a place for it to go! We now have a family member who is renting the house, so we’ve had to kick into gear with a lot of repairing and renovating before we were really ready. But these things we grasp hold of and see where the ride takes us. Being open and willing to see where an experience can take us is often the best thing to happen!

      Take care and keep safe!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. A beautifully written post, sister! Tukker is so handsome, his eyes so kind. I love that you are still visited by Tukker and Punkin; they obviously love their human family!!

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  10. AWESOME POST! It would be incredible to get that close to deer. The video was AWESOME! Last week, during the evening, I saw two does walking slowly in front of the barn. They walked on down to the pond. Thanks for sharing.

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