Tag Archive 'wildlife'

Aug 30 2018

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Wild, Not Wild

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A flock of turkeys wandered into my back yard yesterday morning. About a dozen of them fed along the edge between the mowed grass and where I have let my yard go wild. My wife Judy also saw the birds, as did our dog Matika who barked at them once. They weren’t much impressed by that.

Later on, as Matika was in the other room sleeping, I spotted a turkey trotting right along the edge of the patio, about 15 feet from the door. Several others followed. Clearly these turkeys have no concept of the difference between a wild landscape and a domesticated one. Either that or they simply don’t care.

A barred owl swooped across the yard the other day, landing on top of my car. When Judy and I poked our heads out the door to get a good look at it, the owl flew to the next door neighbor’s roof. We have heard owls nearly every night since then. I usually associate owls with the wild, but two miles from town my home hardly qualifies as a wild place even though it does back up against a good patch of woods. Evidently, owls aren’t as skittish around people as I thought they were. Either that or they find the hunting around here too good to pass up.

Deer passing through, spiders making webs in the siding of my house, hummingbirds at the planters, toads in the grass, and the occasional garter snake slithering into the garage – my turf is overrun with creatures that simply do not acknowledge the boundary between what is cultivated and what is wild. The other night I saw a bat flying in circles overhead, no doubt feasting on mosquitoes. Better than citronella candles to be sure.

Along the edge between the grass and the wild part of my back yard, I have planted a few domestic bushes and flowers that also happen to grow naturally in the wild. I have pulled out grass, dandelions and other undesirables there, as well, making room for the ferns and other wild plants that I prefer. “Unnatural selection,” I call it. Judy calls it “cultivating the wildness,” in a somewhat humorous reference to a book of mine. Yeah, I’ve muddled matters in my back yard to say the least.

For a while now, I’ve been pondering wildness and being human, trying to get a bead on exactly what it is that separates us from the rest of nature. It’s not an easy task. And the creatures wandering into my back yard don’t make the matter any easier. Perhaps the difference between what is wild and what is not wild is not nearly as distinct as we like to think it is. Perhaps it is just a matter of degree.

 

 

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Apr 15 2011

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Mud and Water

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After a week on the road, I wanted to reconnect with my home turf.  French Hill seemed like just the place to do that, so I parked my car in front of a closed gate yesterday and tramped into the quasi-public reserve there.  I went looking for signs of spring, of course.  It’s that time of year.

Matika ran about, wild and free.  She was absolutely elated to be in the woods again.  My reaction was a bit more subdued.  I felt relief, pure and simple.  The world is mad.  The quiet forest is the only thing that makes any sense to me.

Nearly a thousand feet above the Champlain Valley, the high rolling ground around French Hill is still recovering from winter.  Patches of snow linger on the forest floor, and both beaver ponds are still half covered with ice.  I visited the larger one first since it was close to the logging trail.  My boots sank deep into the mud.  My tracks filled with water.  Here in Vermont, you don’t enter the woods this time of year unless you’re okay with mud and water.

A few peepers chirped from the edges of the large pond – hardly the chorus I had hoped for.  Spring is coming late this year, thanks to all the snow that fell this winter.  That’s okay.  It felt good to have soft earth underfoot regardless.

I had to bushwhack to reach the smaller beaver pond.  I followed the tiny stream flowing down from the larger pond then approached smaller one slowly.  Three mallards were floating there.  I didn’t want to disturb them so I kept Matika behind me.

Woodpeckers had been busy digging in a dead tree along the edge of the pond.  The beaver lodge on the far end of the pond had a few new sticks piled on top of it.  The mallards swam over to the icy half of the pond then went for a short walk.  I watched them for a while before following a fresh set of deer tracks back to the logging trail.  Matika and I spooked the deer a few minutes later.

Before leaving the smaller pond, I found the bright green shoots of false hellebore breaking through the forest duff.  I almost stepped on them.  Didn’t think much about it until I reached my car, but those shoots were the first new vegetation I’ve seen in the Vermont woods this year.  John Burroughs once wrote that the first signs of spring are always down low in the wet spots, not on the high, dry ridges.  It makes sense really.  After all, mud and water is what early spring is all about.

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