Watching the Grass Grow

For most of my life, I have considered waiting on anything a waste of good time. I have a plan for the day that only changes with the weather forecast and the seasons. Ranch work revolves around what chore or activity might be pressing and of importance – and weather conditions are always a factor in determining which pressing or important chores will be accomplished on any particular day. I can be flexible about plans, and I often have to shift gears, but I never just stall work. Instead, I am dedicated about moving on to whatever task can be done under current conditions and, once that is finished, I’m ready to move on to the next chore. In the end, there is always work to be done here, and if any of it is put off to wait for perfect conditions, projects pile up. If I am interrupted or I have to wait on someone or something, I’m irritated by thoughts of what I could be accomplishing. Lately, I have had to remind myself that what goes on here is often about wildlife and what Mother Earth dictates, rather than being determined by the “Lori Measuring Stick” of how things should be!

I knew that our endeavor to allow Gracie deer to be a wet nurse to Ruthie’s fawn Jojo, was going to take some doing. Jojo would have to be kept in the deer pen until she developed stamina and strength in her legs. She would also need to bond with Gracie enough to listen to her grunting and buzzing vocals to know whether to come to her, or stay put. In the wild, fawns must know the commands of their mothers and other adult deer, or it can cost them their lives.

Nursing too, is accomplished in a hidden place and at different times each day. To keep to a schedule and/or common place to nurse, would draw attention to a predator seeking prey. After three weeks of nursing from Gracie, Jojo has improved physically by leaps and bounds. But we still do not see Jojo answering to Gracie’s grunts and buzzing noises. Instead, Jojo seems to have a mind of her own – which means she does not mind Gracie as a fawn should with her mother. And sometimes, it’s Gracie who seems to give up too quickly on the bonding aspect of their relationship.

There are times where Gracie cleans Jojo and stays with her an hour or two. She will continue to lick her while they lie near each other, one sleeping as the other stays alert. But just the same, Gracie sometimes wants out before stimulating the bathroom business, or thinks she needs to get out of the pen to run off Scout, Ruthie or Penelope. Patrolling and running off anything she considers a danger takes precedent over a feeding or nurturing. It is a mother’s way of protecting her young, by leading would-be troublemakers and predators away. So, not only do we sometimes wait an hour or more for Gracie to show up for a feeding, but we also might have to wait an hour or two after one of Gracie’s quick exits, for Jojo to settle down and find a hiding spot in the deer pen until the next feeding.

The positive aspect of “babysitting” JoJo while we wait, like many parents do, for their children to settle down and nap, is that we are often delighted with Jojo’s antics and silliness. But, when you factor in the 90º to 100º degree temperatures, with a 65% dewpoint, a barrage of biting summer insects, and my mind making jabs at me about all of the work I am not getting done while I wait, the entertainment provided is not enough to keep me from becoming fairly grumpy and feeling defeated some days.

Gracie is a very patient wet nurse. She positions her legs for Jojo to easily nurse, and takes all of the time Jojo needs.
Stimulating the bathroom business and ingesting the urine and feces is instinctual in keeping the scent of a fawn minimal. Gracie will even lick up and clean the grass in the area to make sure there is no scent. She will give Jojo a thorough licking bath to clean and bond with her.
Sometimes Gracie rests alongside Jojo.
Jojo isn’t always ready to lie down, so Gracie patiently waits.
Clean ears and removal of ticks and other parasites are important grooming skills mother’s teach their young. Jojo will mutual groom with Gracie at some point, and maybe with her sibling and cousins someday as well!

Thankfully, Gracie is nursing Jojo three times a day now instead of the four feedings we were providing, and she often comes to us when she wants in the deer pen. Early mornings find Forrest and I having our coffee on the front porch, waiting for Gracie to show up while watching the sun rise and observing our little ranch come alive. Hummingbirds, Cardinals, and Mockingbirds provide sweet music while, one by one, the deer arrive to nibble pellets and drink water from buckets. Gracie generally arrives by 6:30 a.m. to nurse Jojo, but does not usually spend a lot of time with her during these early-morning feedings. Instead, she leaves it to us to babysit Jojo while she exercises a bit before bedding back down. To make it easier and more comfortable to pass the time while we watch over JoJo, Forrest put a couple of lawn chairs in the pen. Sitting in the lawn chairs, we continue to have coffee and watch Jojo play until she picks a place of shelter in which to bed down.

By 11:30, we get ready to watch for the second nursing of the day. Because of this, I have learned to work in the shade of the flowerbeds or the garden so I can still get things done while I watch for Gracie’s arrival. Forrest starts work around the house or in his shop, keeping an eye out for Gracie as well. Then, we do it all again before the evening feeding, which is usually somewhere around 6:30 – the hottest part of the day. Most of the time, I try to watch through the big kitchen window for Gracie’s arrival while I prepare dinner. Yesterday evening neither Forrest nor I saw Gracie arrive from the woods. Then, just as we began to wonder about her, we heard a noise on the front porch. Gracie had climbed the steps to the house and was on the porch making her buzzing noise to let us know she was ready to go to the deer pen!

Even though Gracie might feel the deer pen is safe for her baby, she continues to patrol for danger and predators prior to entering the pen, and practices caution when leaving the pen. So sometimes, even if Gracie has arrived near the deer pen, she might take fifteen or more minutes to feel safe about entering. All this watching and waiting that is involved with allowing Gracie and JoJo to work on their relationship and to move and live as deer do, is time consuming and sometimes frustrating. But the reward for Forrest and me is seeing how Jojo has blossomed with Gracie’s milk and caring.

This special arrangement of Gracie’s wet nursing abilities, and Jojo’s resilience in adapting to a new mother, has been nothing short of amazing. Given time and patience, I am sure our wet nurse and her little charge will eventually find a way to make it out into the woodlands together and join the rest of the herd. For now, we wait – and watch the grass grow – as we monitor the situation.

© 2021 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way


24 thoughts on “Watching the Grass Grow

  1. Thank you for the clear descriptions and excellent supporting photos about your life and Gracie and JoJo’s journey to bond. It’s all fascinating. Your hot summer weather reminds me that ours is coming in a couple of months and I will slow down. In the winter I get much more done in a day! But we don’t have the very cold temps and nasty winter weather that some places have, though it does get down to freezing at night. Keep well.

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    1. Thank you, Ardys. This was a difficult post to put together, since there was so much to touch on in this endeavor with Gracie and Jojo. I try to take photos daily, and Forrest keeps a journal of each feeding, which helps put the pieces of a post together. Morning is my favorite quiet time because the temperatures are much nicer and we can sit comfortably watching Jojo while she runs and snoops around. It’s truly lovely to watch the sun come up and witness everything come to life!

      The weather tends to wear me down more each year. So many times I wish we could cut back on work and slow down. There is just so much to do. But on the bright side, one of Forrest’s sisters and her husband rent the rock house and they share in the work around here. Once October and November roll around, things should get a bit easier.

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    1. Aw, thank you, Paulette! I really long to be in the orchard along the slough in the early mornings. There’s something mesmerizing about the water, and watching wildlife as the sun begins to rise. Unfortunately, the insects are terrible this year and I’m just not willing to battle the bites! One morning Forrest and I headed to the old river channel dike to cut Siberian elm branches for the deer, and found three young bucks in velvet, eating some kind of plant in the pasture. It was meant to be a quick trip, so I did not have my camera and zoom lens with me, but oh what a sight! I shall never forget the magnificence of those bucks in early morning. We humans are not the only species to enjoy early mornings!

      Gracie is doing a great job with Jojo. We are learning a lot about deer mothers!

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  2. You have been presented with an opportunity that 99% of the general population will never experience. Absorb it. Learn from it. Enjoy it! This is what you were meant to do. By the way, I watched one of our new mommies give herself a bath the other day. Dang, that girl was flexible! She got to places I would never suspect she could.

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    1. Ha ha!! I too marvel at how flexible and agile wildlife can be. I love how positive your comment is, Ellen. I tend to get weary at both the mental and physical aspect of things. You are correct!! This is an amazing opportunity to observe and learn.

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  3. As you know, I fully understand the stresses of work that’s dependent on so many forces outside our control: like weather.. Beyond that, the unpredictability of animals’ responses, and the need to keep things rolling on a human level add levels of stress, but I’d say you’re doing remarkably well. Sometimes I remind myself of a very good saying, whose source I no longer can remember: “You can do everything; you just can’t do everything at once.”

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    1. You pointed out something that I am coming to deal with as I age… I cannot do everything in one day. As much as I push to keep up, the body doesn’t lie to me – it can’t do what it did 20 years ago. And, pushing so much to get things done, is a rather poor coping skill I can’t seem to shake. It’s been this way my whole life. So, maybe my body is saying, “slow down and alter your pace… or I will do it for you (the body)”. Gracie takes all of the time she needs to patrol and make sure everything is safe and right for her to nurse Jojo. She doesn’t have a plan for the day, and I’m pretty sure she is quite content to “watch the grass grow” and then eat it!! Oh the things we can learn from the wild things…

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  4. Another very interesting post. Apparently I missed a post a few weeks back because I had no idea that you had a surrogate mother for JoJo. It really is remarkable that wild species can also become a substitute feeder, the same as cats. dog, horses, cattle, and other domesticated animals. I can well imagine you are just a bit impatient as Gracie and JoJo dawdle a bit. I know how really like to get things going as planned. Lori, the photos are great to see as per usual. I love the documentation and also the clarity of the photos.

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    1. Thank you, Yvonne. I find I must rely on photo information (especially the date and time) to remember what happened when. The iPhone makes it very easy for me.

      We have not bottle fed Jojo for a week now, and both she and Gracie are doing well. Gracie’s up to par on milk production, and Jojo is growing like a weed!! Now it is a matter of Jojo bonding better with Gracie. She allows Gracie to clean her and potty her, but Jojo doesn’t mind Gracie or follow her. Until we see better bonding and paying attention, we do not feel good about turning her loose outside of the pen. Gracie is doing her best by making the mama buzzing noise and walking around to get Jojo to follow. Hopefully, this too will work itself out. We truly want Jojo and Gracie to live normally as a fawn and mother would in the wild.

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  5. I laughed as I related to the your description of frustration of impediments to getting the day’s tasks done. Despite some of those which occurs here being pleasant -like this morning’s drop in for coffee visitors- I no less frustrated at the missed opportunity to accomplish my mission. However, I can believe that watching Gracie and Jojo would be bearable enough that I’d cope. Such delightful photos 👏

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    1. That is the plus side of this, watching the beauty of it all unfold, and know that we’re witnessing something not often seen or heard about. I suppose sitting and waiting and watching would be much more pleasant without those pesky, biting insects buzzing around. Oh, and the humidity and heat too! Ha ha!

      My iPhone makes documenting so easy. I refer back to the dates and times on the photos a lot, and the clarity and options for editing are amazing. I rarely carry my DSLR unless I venture to the woods or pecan orchard.

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  6. Your “Lori Measuring Stick” is funny.

    Your mention of putting lawn chairs out to make it easier to observe has me wondering how the various deer would react if the person in one of those chairs was someone other than one of you two.

    Your talk of perpetual tasks needing to be done makes me wonder what will become of your ranch once you finally retire—assuming you ever do.

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    1. I’m not sure everyone thinks my measuring stick is funny, but Forrest does give me a hard time about it and says I need to lose it. I sure hope that happens!

      None of our deer are friendly to other people, and fawns are extremely skittish around strangers. They might carefully walk near a person and try to get a sniff of them, but if it is not a familiar scent, off they run with tails flagging warning! Oddly, we do have a neighbor across the street that has led the girls back home a few times (back in March and April when they went gallivanting around the neighborhood) and they seemed calm around him. Sometimes I think they sense energy. Apparently Leroy smells good and puts off good vibes!

      I feel myself slowing down a lot in the last years. We will have to let some of the grooming go around here when it becomes too much. I suppose Forrest’s grandfather had the same thoughts when he left this place to Forrest (who at the time was the only grandchild living in town) hoping it would be cared for and open to family for refuge. Times are different now – we cannot find young people to hire to help with the work. And we have no children to help us, and most nieces and nephews are out-of-state. I try not to think about what will happen – my measuring stick says there is no one that will ever feel like I do about it, nor love it as I do.

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  7. I, too, have been struggling mightily with my internal ‘self-talk’ that has run a litany while, in external world, I always feel pushed to hurry up…only to wait….on so many fronts! Yesterday, I awoke early with aching joints, and drug myself out of bed at o’dark thirty, because it’s cool, and if I work inside, on computer, and all goes well, then perhaps, I can ‘sneak in’ some outdoor time before it get’s blazing hot, only to retreat back into the house and do computer work that doesn’t require much but just paying attention to the steps I know how to do.
    That said, my mid morning yesterday, I was hot, sticky and grumpy, even though the day dawned overcast and cooler than it had been for some time – (explaining my aching joints)
    It took me nearly all day to finally figure out…
    IT’s HUMID! ARGHHH!!! My greatest foe!
    100 outside? Fine – it’s a dry heat!!

    74 degrees with nearly 60% humidity? (I can hear ya laughing, now, but that’s all but triple the humidity I generally see displayed on the hygrometer, unless, of course, it’s raining.

    At some point, I just grumpily puttered around, washing up some dishes, starting a load of laundry, organizing a pile of papers, doing some filing, listening into a few episodes of Perception (which I just discovered and am enjoying…).

    And all in all? Some things got done, but not the things I planned on – and I finally gave up and went to bed.
    Woke up early, to still day, and still more humid than I deal well with –
    But a flurry of work, creative time spent, catching up, helping a friend move and more reading/catching up here, when I arrived back home worn out.

    Only 9 more posts to read and I’m recharged to whip out a few more things, then greet Monday morning…

    All while, often, the past few days, I’ve muttered, grumbled and cursed under my breath at lost time, waiting time, time frame slippage (my own or others) etc., etc., etc.

    Maybe someday, I’ll get better at flying by the seat of my pants, or sitting still and doing nothing – without the running monologue about how things SHOULD be other than they are, just now…

    But I start to doubt I’ll ever get really good at either extreme – LOL

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    1. You are preaching to the choir here!! Ha ha! I know all of this is an opportunity to slow down and examine what is important in life. If we do not slow down, then Universe/God will give us more opportunities to do so. The body doesn’t lie, and do I ever feel it more the last few years. I’m not unhappy with things – the busy-ness of life, that is, I just try so hard to manage it all in an organized manner. Life isn’t organized and manageable. Therefore, I need to adjust!

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      1. I usually try not to ‘control Life through pre-planning’ and all, ONCE Life just shows up and Laughs at all my attempts to try and make it orderly/non-chaotic – – it is, afterall, a way of being or coping mechanism adopted, long, long ago – and yet? Every day, I walk the ‘thin line’ between – “Okay, let’s plan on this, have a backup in place for this/that, and down to the wire? It is What it Is and now I scramble or check out and refuse to participate – LOL – – I’m still walking’recognizing’ my overloads/wishes for ‘organized’ well before my crankiness, body hurts, etc., show up to ‘deliver the message’ of how I still suck at such things – but – little by little – it get’s better, I think – even though some things are let go for awhile or forever, that I can’t bear the burden of continuing to hold on to. It is what it is has been, overall, my ‘mantra’ to calm myself the heck down, for so long now, I would love to explore the possibility of just doing that every day – alas, I just feel guilty – if I do that? I’m dumping chaos into the lives of others through my lack of planning – – somewhere, in between the two polar fronts of me, there has to be a happy medium, no? LOL – – At least I can still laugh about it all – see the comedy in it all….even if it takes me awhile to see….

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    1. Yes, Steve, that de-stress part is good. I think I did a better job of that when we took on that very first fawn, Daisy. I was so tired and weary raising her and trying to do everything right, that I often fell asleep in the pen with her. There is a photo that Forrest took from our front porch, across the yard of me in the deer pen asleep on the ground, and Daisy positioned just next to me, wide awake, watching for predators. I’m not so sure the deer aren’t here to save me from myself sometimes! 😊

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