Flora and Fauna, mostly Fauna

(Today’s annual pool opening prompted me to post this, from a previous FB post in January)

I love our property. Our little acre-and-a-quarter slice of heaven is the main reason we bought the place. It is a lot to take care of. I quickly adopted a more naturalistic approach to property maintenance, over the more heavy-handed manicured look. Nature can have the edges. Which seem to encroach more each year.

We love our trees, despite the quantity of leaves that cover the ground each fall. Some are raked, some continue the circle of leaf-life – fall, settle, decay, enrich, grow, fall. (reference naturalistic approach noted above.) There are now fewer trees than 18 years ago when we moved here. We had four fruit trees – three apple and a pear. Our old dog loved the pears. The deer claimed the apples. I attempted a few batches of homemade apple sauce. All four are now gone. A visual and culinary void.

The dozen blueberry bushes still survive, though their yield has dropped off dramatically. Recent attempts at pruning and soil restoration have yet to return us to more fruitful (ha!) times. We could fill many gallon freezer bags of these blue nuggets, along with enough for many muffins, pancakes and yogurt toppings. After a few weeks of harvesting, the birds would descend and strip the bushes bare in a day. Same time next year, fellas.

Our water feature – the pool – is the other reason I fell in love with this place. It’s my summertime oasis. I end each day with a dip in the pool, recently with the first dog we’ve had who willingly swims. It’s a wonderful way to unwind. I often imagine the pool filter is full of my worries, along with the dog hair, bugs and leaves.

In the off season the pool looks more like a pond. The cover holds rain water and melted snow, plus leaves and sticks and the odd pieces of manmade flotsam and jetsam. In the early spring the peeper frogs return, followed shortly by billions of frog eggs. As the weather warms, the eggs become tadpoles. By the time I’m ready to remove the cover and again convert from pond to pool, the little guys have tails and hind legs. Exterminating them is no fun. But I see it as doing my Darwinian duty – stupid frogs for procreating and leaving their spawn in a pool.

Speaking of fauna, our property is a veritable Wild Kingdom. Deer, fox, a rogue urban coyote a few years ago, raccoon, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunk, mice, moles, the aforementioned peepers, tons of birds, including a beautiful hawk and the very rare owl. And snakes. I hate snakes. Deathly afraid. Shriek like a little child whenever I encounter one while working outside. One Saturday morning as I was performing my weekly pool maintenance, I opened one of the skimmers, only to see a snake swimming around. In my mind I recall it as a gigantic Amazon anaconda, ready to try to see if it could detach its serpent jaws wide enough to consume me. In reality I think it was a foot-long garter snake. Regardless, it was him or me, and I had work to do. So I grabbed a badminton racquet and used the handle end to try to fish him out. In my adrenaline-fueled state, I’m afraid the planned gentle flick of the beast out to the yard instead became a ballistic missile launch. The poor guy quickly disappeared from sight. To this day I have no idea where – or if – he landed. Darwin’s will.

The current tribe of bunnies seem to relish in torturing our dogs. During each trek around the yard, we seem to encounter three different rabbits, each exhibiting their own personality. Brazen Bunny takes great joy in staying just out the lunging dogs’ reaches, hopping away just far enough each time to avoid their gnashing teeth. Bashful Bunny, on the other hand, scampers away as soon as the hounds appear. And Bear Bunny – the largest of them all – seems to make the earth shake as he “hops” away from us.

Finally, there’s my near-death experience shortly after we moved here. Like many people, we used have the Sun delivered each day. On one of my morning strolls up to the head of the driveway to retrieve the paper, as I was passing under a since-removed giant Tulip Poplar tree, I heard above me the most god-awful crashing amongst the branches. The next thing I know, an enormous raccoon thuds at my feet, mere inches from me. He landed like a sack of wet cement, only to get up, shake himself off and slink off into the nearby bushes as if that was his daily means of leaving the tree. Once I restarted my heart and checked my drawers, I began to imagine what might have been. Had I been just a few inches ahead, this story may have ended very differently. I imagined the next-day’s Sun headline being “Catonsville Man Killed by Falling Raccoon – Authorities Not Ruling Out Foul-play”.

Darwin gave us both a pass that morning.

Published by Toes in the Sand

Travel-loving architect, self-proclaimed foodie and future retired beach-bum who is a spouse, brother and son of English teachers, hoping to share thoughts, memories and musings with anyone who is interested, curious or bored.

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