Gracie’s Invitation

By the first week of August, Gracie deer was making it clear she was ready to move little JoJo out of the confines of the deer pen and into the real world. Both Forrest and I struggled to know when the timing for such a big move would be right, since we were not yet sure we could trust JoJo to mind Gracie. But Gracie’s urgency increased, and we knew, regardless of the outcome, it was the right thing to do for both JoJo and Gracie. We would just have to trust both of them to follow instinct.

The first time we opened the gates to the pen with the intent to let JoJo go with Gracie, things were looking good until the neighbor’s large dogs began to bark. Gracie immediately alerted JoJo to potential danger and deftly led her away in the opposite direction of the barking. Quickly leaving the openness of the yard and pasture near the deer pen and our home, they wound their way down into the woods and on into the orchard. Keeping good distance so as not to distract JoJo, Forrest followed along to make sure Jojo continued to stick with Gracie and not go wandering on her own.

Once Forrest reached the pecan orchard area, he found them near the slough, where Ruthie and Scout were present. However, when Forrest turned to head back home, JoJo spotted him and came running. Gracie came running too, mooing all of the way, but JoJo was insistent in following Forrest, actually leading most of the way back home. With this unfortunate end to the first trial run of JoJo being free, Forrest shut JoJo back in the pen for the evening with intentions to try again the next day. Still, that little adventure at least let us know that JoJo knew her way back home.

After the midday nursing the next day, we made a second attempt at letting JoJo go with Gracie, and this also went well at the start. JoJo followed Gracie down the slope keeping close to her. But then Gracie jumped the fence to the neighbor’s bottom land, and JoJo didn’t stay long at the fence when she couldn’t jump or get through it. Instead, she high-tailed it back up the slope and followed Forrest into the pen. However, just after Forrest closed the pen back up and considered the morning another failed exercise, Gracie returned for JoJo.

We have definitely noticed that Gracie’s mama’s milk was so much healthier than the formula we were giving her. Here JoJo eats some dirt while Gracie fills up on Double Down feed pellets.
Gracie and JoJo set off for the woods after the neighbor’s dogs started barking.

With Gracie back at the pen so quickly, Forrest opened the gate back up for Gracie to enter and see that JoJo was there and all was well. As she often did, Gracie urinated just inside the pen, and then turned back through the gate and squatted briefly to urinate again just outside of the pen. We had wondered if this was to leave a scent trail for JoJo to follow in case they were separated. In any event, JoJo followed Gracie out of the pen and across the yard. This time, we opted to stay home, watching them take off to the slope and head down towards the willows area and on towards the slough. It bothered both of us not knowing for sure how things went after that, but we did see Gracie out and about later that afternoon and evening, doing her usual patrol, and squatting to pee quite often. As darkness set in, we hoped all went well for JoJo that night. I fell asleep asking Universe to protect everyone.

The next morning, Forrest and I decided we would go out on the front porch as we had been doing, just to see if Gracie showed up. Scout arrived first, then Ruthie. Both had a nibble of feed before setting off for the morning. Then Gracie arrived, mooing. We tried to be confident the mooing didn’t mean she was looking for JoJo and that all was well. After all, Gracie’s udder looked normal, it was the usual feeding time, and Gracie had always mooed when she arrived to feed JoJo in the pen.

So to satisfy our curiosity and Gracie’s insistence, Forrest and I donned our Muck boots and followed Gracie, who led us a ways down the buggy path, and then turned to walk through the orchard. There, knee-high and six-foot tall weeds surrounded us, and stick tights from hedge parsley clung to our clothing and boots. I had a difficult time focusing on looking for JoJo, as all I could think about was the amount of the chigger bites I would end up with. Thankfully, at least the mosquitoes had not been as bad lately.

While Forrest stayed with Gracie, I decided to take off towards the slough and comb the orchard from a different angle. I continued to call JoJo’s name while trudging through the mass of grasses and young, thorny trees, trying to stay clear of the larger areas of hedge parsley, and remembering to lift my feet in order not to fall over unseen limbs and branches that lay hidden under the matt of downed grasses and weeds. Miserable at this point, I continued to walk the orchard, while looking and calling for JoJo. And then my cell dinged with a message.

After making four passes through the entire orchard, Gracie finally led Forrest right to JoJo, who had been bedded down near a thicket under a pecan tree. On hearing her mama Gracie’s buzz call, JoJo jumped up from her bed and came running for her morning milk. A short time later, we all met near the slough, where Ruthie and JoJo’s sister Ellie where nibbling greens, and Scout was wading in the water. I stayed for a bit to watch, and then headed home, meeting Penelope and her baby on the way back – they looked to be heading to the slough as well.

Gracie knows exactly where her baby is, and JoJo certainly knows exactly who her mama is!

It has been a week since that day, and Gracie still comes to the front of our house to have a few nibbles of feed, and to moo her invitation at Forrest until he follows her for feeding time. Forrest usually walks with her each day for the early morning and afternoon feedings. But the evening feeding often comes as darkness is beginning to fall and is just too miserable with insects.

Gracie never takes a direct route to JoJo at feeding time – instead it is a long meander through the orchard, often with Forrest in tow, to ensure there are no predators around and everything is safe. Along the way, she defecates frequently and stops often to release short streams of urine. Gracie is a cautious and protective mother and, even though JoJo will still come up to Forrest or me and give a quick lick or get a little pet, it’s clear she knows her real mama is Gracie.

Gracie leads the way each morning, and Forrest follows toting his cup of coffee. Scout is tagging along this trip.
Penelope (eating from the feed tub in the distance) brings her baby with her for an early morning jaunt. Scout happened to be around that morning, giving the baby a little sniff. Penelope has been very secretive about where she keeps her baby, and she doesn’t bring her fawn out often.
Ruthie is still very thin, but she seems to be doing well after healing from the snake bite. We see her in our yard a lot of days feeding on plants (my flowers too), and getting plenty of water and deer feed. She keeps her baby, Ellie, over at the neighbor’s back yard most of the time.
Not a great photo, but you can see Ruthie’s little Ellie isn’t groomed as well as most fawns are by their moms. We wonder if the damage to Ruthie’s mouth from the snake bite limits her ability to groom her baby and herself. We hope that as the fawns all grow and play together that mutual grooming among the fawns will help Ellie get the attention she needs. Most of the stick tights clinging to her are from hedge parsley.
Scout is always the first to the feed when I set it out at 6:00 in the morning. She’s also the first to check to see if any fruit fell off of the apple or pear trees in the night. We never saw Scout’s baby(ies) and we never saw her go through a grieving period. We simply noted that she slimmed up, and within a few days her udder shrunk. Whatever happened, Scout seems to be resilient in moving on, and is enjoying frolicking and playing again.
JoJo is still quite fond of Forrest. Forrest has spent a lot of time in the orchard and the slough area in the last month.
The slough area is ever-changing. This year cattails and lots of willow trees have taken over. We see a number of cottonwoods taking root too. Fortunately, we have had plenty of rain this year to keep the water level fairly high. When we bought the orchard the slough was just a little mud hole. When we quit allowing cattle grazing and mowing, and allowed the orchard to go back to the wild, the slough has come to life, as has the entire orchard. Here Gracie keeps watch while JoJo plays nearby.
One would never know today that JoJo started life out with two wobbly, front legs. She actually appears to be the healthiest of all of the fawns.
All four yearling does are getting back to some normalcy, joining together and enjoying all that the orchard property has to offer. These cool mornings at the slough must feel pretty good to these frisky girls!
Mama Gracie knows when it is time to head back into the woods and find a shady spot in which to bed JoJo down!

© 2021 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


42 thoughts on “Gracie’s Invitation

  1. All your work, love and chigger bites have fostered a lot of healing and further deer family possibilities. I am glad for you as well as for these lovely animals. Take good care of yourselves as well. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story; it is so well presented.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jeannette, for your kind words. Things are a bit easier now in many ways, but the lessons and new observations keep coming. Oddly, some of what has taken place has helped old wounds of my own to heal. It’s interesting how life works.

      Like

    1. Forrest has always been a natural with animals. After all of these years (since 2011) I have managed the rehabilitation work, so I was glad to hand most of it over to him, and take more of a role of assisting this year. Forrest has done well. If it hadn’t been for him, Ruthie wouldn’t have been able to trust just anyone when she was so ill, especially when she had to have that surgery. He’s much more patient than I am… and his willingness to see this endeavor through is nothing short of amazing. That photograph shows his patience with and love of the deer. Thank you for following this story, Paulette.

      Like

    1. The four yearlings were released to the wild last December. Generally, the first year is more of a soft release where they venture further out as they feel comfortable. The deer we have raised in the past have all joined up with deer in the vicinity, and during the rut they usually take off to parts unknown. Our first rescue fawn stayed in the area for seven years and raised all of her babies nearby. Though they are familiar with Forrest and I, they’re quite standoffish with strangers and we purposefully do not allow people interaction with them while they are in our care. I suppose they could be easy pickings, but most responsible hunters would not kill a fawn or yearling. Or at least I hope they would not. 😦

      Liked by 4 people

      1. sadly some out in the woods are neither responsible nor sportsmen. I gave up hunting several years ago not because didn’t enjoy the hunt and the meat for my family, but because of too many drunks with guns on the weekend.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That is sad. Poaching is a bigger problem here year around. We visit with the game warden quite a bit, since we do rehabilitation work and he often refers folks to us. He tells us about some of the situations he’s had to handle. I’m always aghast at the wildlife crimes people commit. Do you have a blog, or is your profile on WordPress just for reading and commenting? I enjoyed your profile description on your Gravatar, but I did not see a link to a blog.

          Like

          1. no i don’t have a blog. don’t have much to say. but i enjoy your blog and a few others. sometimes they bring up a memory or a random thought and i comment.

            Like

  2. What a wonderful job you and Forrest are doing in returning Gracie and Ruthie back to health and their natural habitat. Mother Nature is so resilient (when humans don’t interfere in a negative way) and never ceases to amaze me. Adored your photos. This morning I had a group of kangaroos outside my bedroom window with a joey now out of his mother’s pouch dashing backwards and forwards across the banking on our dam with youthful exuberance. Although they are cheeky enough to come right up to our house, they are quite shy and will hop away if they detect any movement. This makes it difficult to get a decent photo but I enjoy watching this family early in the morning while enjoying my coffee. So pleased that your deer friends are doing so well Lori.

    Like

    1. Ah, kangaroos must be fun to watch. They’re so darned cute! We are enjoying watching the fawns, and the four yearlings are sure going through a lot of deer feed and that supplement for extra nutrition. I often feel like I work in a soup kitchen – constantly whooping up a new pan of feed for the girls! And I found the other morning that Scout and Gracie love tomatoes. I pick, and they eat! Ha ha! Be well, Lynn.

      Like

      1. When our neighbours went away for a family holiday two months ago, Bolly and I were bucket feeding their two orphaned poddy calves. They were the sloppiest eaters with me wearing some of the formula! So I get your analogy about the soup kitchen. You travel lightly too my friend.

        Like

    1. Good question! I knew adult deer could swim, but it wasn’t until last year that we saw a very small fawn swim across the slough to meet its mother on the other side, that we understood fawns can swim too. This little fawn couldn’t have been very old, so they must instinctually know how to swim.

      Like

  3. Thank you for the update… you always “capture” the moment so wonderfully with your works and pictures… thank you so much!

    Like

  4. What a wonderful update. Forrest is so caring and gentle with JoJo. What a wonderful job you two are doing helping nature and these beautiful creatures enjoy their life. Following your hard work is such a joy. Take care.

    Like

    1. Hello, Mamie. It’s been a bit of work and great trust in all involved. I’m still amazed at how everything worked out. We are learning a lot this year about does raising young. It’s really changed how we “thought” doe mother’s raised young.

      Like

  5. Funny how things worked out… Gracie and Jojo both got what they needed with a little help from their human friends. I’m so pleased to read this chapter in their story, and thank you also for the wonderful pics as always.

    Like

    1. Thank you, Dale. Carrying a small cell phone around makes getting pics of those moments so easy and handy. I am so amazed at all that we’ve learned with these four does and their babies. It’s been a very interesting endeavor.

      Like

  6. Hi, I am sure you and Forrest are very proud of the progress Jojo has made given her unpromising start. I am also sure you are delighted to see the 4 does interacting once again as the fawns grow.

    Like

    1. Yes, Margaret, we are enjoying a quiet season now. Gracie brings Jojo up here from the canyon daily. We see Penelope and her little one most mornings. Ruthie sometimes has Ellie with her, but not as much as the other two, and we believe Ellie is much more independent. Forrest goes down to the slough with Gracie every once in a while and it’s often that all deer join up down there and the little ones play and run together. We’re just learning so much about mama does and their babies this year. It’s changed what we’ve thought about how does raise fawns.

      Like

  7. Gracie is a very good mama and it is good that Jojo realizes who is to be looked to for guidance. Eventually you will both be on to your next fawns and everyone else will be independent. I bet you were both nervous indeed when Gracie and Jojo took off and you stayed behind.

    I saw Steve’s question about deer swimming and that reminded me of my first experience at a well known pond in Baxter State Park in Maine. We were there for the moose and there were several. They are so tall with long awkward looking legs but they do swim and very well at that. Later on we saw a deer swimming also.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was indeed very difficult to trust that all would turn out with Gracie and Jojo, but we knew at some point it was the way it needed to be with both of them. Gracie’s invites showed us all was well, and that what we hoped would happen, did happen. We continue to learn from all of the deer, and it’s changed what we know and how we will deal with fawns in the future.

      It is interesting how such big beasts with “long, awkward-looking” legs can swim so well. Forrest and I were surprised last year to see no more than a week-old fawn swim across the slough to get to its mama on the other side. We had no idea they could manage swimming so young!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. So happy and thankful that things are working out so well for Gracie and Jojo. And for Ruthie and Elle. Such fun to watch the videos. You are wonderful people and have a beautiful place.

    Like

    1. Thank you! We’ve worked hard to make the property wildlife-friendly. The orchard is a real snarl since we let it go wild. Ice storms and various types of vegetation have taken it over, and it’s provided great cover and food for the deer. It did our hearts good to see how things unfolded with all of the deer this year.

      Like

  9. i am always fascinated as I learn something new each time that you post. It is a never ending learning process probably with you and Forrest as well. It is heartwarming to see the attachment of little JoJo to Forrest and I am in awe of how much work ya’ll have put into raising the deer to assimilate into the wild. It surely has to be a passion or you would not be able to do the work that is required. I loved all the photos that accompanied your writing.

    Like

    1. Oh, Yvonne, it has been fascinating for us too, to learn so much this year. It is especially interesting to have had so many strange things happen that I could not find documentation about online. From the snake bite, to premature birthing, and Gracie taking on little Jojo – we had no idea how any of it would turn out. We’re so thankful.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Your deer always are wonderful, but it was equally interesting to see the slough, and to learn about how it’s changed as your approach to the land has changed.

    Comments about the swimming reminded me that bison swim, too — and they do it very well. I know people in their 70s who remember seeing bison swimming in the areas across Galveston Bay. Trinity Bay at the upper end still is pretty wild, and there’s a lot of area over there where the bison are gone, but cougars, bobcats, foxes and such still are common. Black bears are re-emerging in east Texas, too, and there have been reports of them across the bay, but no photographic/game cam evidence yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t imagine a couple of years ago, that us giving up maintaining the orchard, would have so many rewards. The orchard itself provided cover and eats for all of the deer, including a wild doe and her babies, not to mention other forms of wildlife. The slough is the grand gathering place for the deer and their young. We’ve also noted a beaver lodge on the north end of the slough, and Forrest located a second one further in the slough to the south and east. They’ve been cutting a lot of willow. And cattails are abundant, as is new willow and cottonwood tree growth. I don’t know how long the water will last in this heat, but it’s been interesting to see how the slough has changed dramatically in just two-year’s time. We’ve observed the deer eating cattail leaves, along with willow leaves, so it’s providing cool respite and food. It’s just too bad the mosquitoes and chiggars also seem to flourish in the area.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. So cheered by the updates on all of them!
    laughter at a the video – kids use want to have fun – no matter what kind of kid
    Cool to see how the slough area is changing. Nature is always redecorating – better when humans stay out of the way?
    Little Ellie. Despite everything, her mom is doing her best. I never considered all the impact of that snake bite.
    Life is so hard, but good will survive somehow.
    Smiles sent to you and Forest. Thanks for sending these

    Like

    1. We’re very happy things have turned out as they have. Gracie and Jojo (and Ruthie) are quite resilient. It’s been a marvel to watch and learn. I still laugh watching that video of Jojo whirling around like a goofball. We had little hope of improvement those first couple of days, and on hearing disheartening news from the vets we felt even more glum. Now… it’s just a miracle!

      Ellie’s probably the toughest. Small, spry and unkempt, she’s a miracle in her own right. Ruthie is doing her best. That too has been a miracle to watch. We feel pretty darned blessed, I can tell ya that! Thanks for well wishes and positive vibes. It means so much!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.