Friday, March 12, 2010


Living in "the country" has many advantages. There are the obvious ones, like trees (for which I gave up fantastic sunsets at the shore house; it was a fair trade). Neighbors you don’t have to bless when they sneeze. Property large enough to actually wander around in. And there are the unexpected perks, such as the anticipation of what will show up in your yard next.

Like a rainbow…? How cool was that?! The end was actually in the yard next to the house when I arrived home, but by the time I had raced down the drive for the camera and back out for this shot, it was starting to diminish. Alas, no pot of gold. (If you don’t count the house itself.)

Often it is quite straightforward, such as a species of bird you hadn’t noticed before. My yard list is over 100; the bald eagle flying over less than two months after I moved in was, however, not expected. I went out looking for a bobwhite I thought I had heard. As I was grumbling at a local mockingbird for mocking me, I happened to look up in time to see the eagle. Still to this day haven’t seen or heard bobwhite in the yard, but I have had a few more eagle sightings since that first one. (And anticipate more as the number of nesting pairs in the county rapidly increases.)

Sometimes it is exciting—hearing coyotes sing in your backyard; how cool is that? Sometimes it is terrifying—hearing coyotes sing right under your bedroom window in your backyard at an ungodly hour of what could loosely be termed very early "morning". (Ah, what a rush when the old primitive brain stem kicks in to tell you "Hey, stupid, you’re prey!" EEK! I’m never going outside after dark again…)

It is usually a stray pet that wanders through. And gets kidnapped and brought inside.

I had once considered adopting a dog from a shelter. I even went looking for one. Always ended up playing with the cats first, so when I brought home a cat instead of a dog, I firmly stated "I’ll get a dog if one shows up on my doorstep." Now, this wasn’t as prophetic as I like to make it sound, given where I live. That "not a cat" is Fidget within a day or so of her showing up at my door, found and not being turned into the pound (the fresh hair cut was the answer to fur so matted on her ears it was thicker than a heavy wool felt cape I own; and I'm happy to report she shed the excess 7 pounds with which she also arrived).

Eventually, just about anything might show up on my doorstep. The five lined skinks love-love-love my decks and the debris accumulated thereupon (and I love-love-love the skinks!). Had a rabbit that used to hop around the decks occasionally, and toads still do. Still waiting with breathless anticipation for one of the deer to figure out the steps; apparently I haven’t yet container-gardened anything enticing enough; but if the herd keeps increasing and I get ambitious, one day it will happen.

Sometimes something shows up that wouldn’t have occurred to you, but in hindsight you should have seen it coming.

There used to be a well-used riding center behind my house—barn, indoor arena, pastures—but it was abandoned before I moved here. The county claimed it as Green Acre land (a dubious classification for protection despite the fancy name; they sold Green Acres containing state-endangered salamanders to a local college a few years back on the basis that education of the children was more important than an obscure little amphibian. Goodness knows we needed the school, but you would have thought there would have been just-as-suitable land somewhere elsewhere… What’s the point of calling land "protected" from development if you don’t protect it?). A handful of years ago, a woman leased the property to start a horse rescue. We needed that, too. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the best person for the job. The least of the problems were that they had missed a few places when repairing fencing, and the horses were smarter than they may have been given credit for being…

Granted, I did have some lovely, green, uncut grass on my side of the hedgerow that year. And I didn’t mind the horses—free lawn service, mowing and fertilizing both!—but my nice, long, well-grassed drive leads straight out to a blind curve on a major highway. Not good, so the horses were sent home again to their side of the eventually-repaired fence.

The horses were not really all that unusual, given where I live. The large llama I spotted through the trees one day was, although technically it stayed on its side of the fence and was never actually in my yard. But as the folks had, apparently, been taking in other stray beasties than horses (I’m sure the dog and two of my cats came from back there) and what showed up one drizzly spring Sunday morning really shouldn’t have surprised me…