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.
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