Being with plants makes me happy, but that's not all. I've loved animals for as long as I can remember.
Watching how wildlife feeds my soul
There was a family of raccoons who ate outside next to our cats. I always watched her and thought about how cool it was that they got along. Daisy (yes, I'll call her) was a skunk who regularly wandered the back yard. My mom is afraid of snakes, but not me – I caught them when the cats brought them home and then released them elsewhere.
I volunteered at the nature center for one summer, caring for and feeding lots of different animals – from goats to turkeys and mini cows on the farm (cows scare me by the way) to more adventurous species like peacocks, a great horned owl, a parrot, gophers -Turtle and Python. There were reptiles to look after and ferrets to run, including a skunk. I made friends with a corn snake and fell in love with Ralph the iguana. He enjoyed scratching his head every day.
My poppy used to have wildlife in his back yard. I was there one summer and was allowed to help them feed. As I sat on the back stairs, my heart racing with excitement, little animals came out of the trees and came straight at me … raccoons, an opossum, a skunk. Poppy gave me some fruit and assured me it was okay (he had been doing this for decades) so I put out my hand and the little skunk grabbed a grape and scuttled away. I was so amazed! I frozen that moment in time and carried it around with me all my adult life.
While I don't recommend getting that close to wildlife, I think creating a wildlife habitat in your yard is a lovely thing. In fact, I wholeheartedly believe that wildlife horticulture benefits us all. I have always lived near forest areas so it goes without saying for me to have wildlife. Nevertheless, I wanted an area of my garden especially for them, a place where they would be happy to be visited and I could enjoy them.
I planted a variety of native shrubs and perennials, added feeding stations and water features, and of course a place to sit. I even had it certified. It's only been a couple of years and the plants aren't fully mature yet but the wildlife is still coming and with the current situation of staying home I've spent more time observing wildlife than before. In fact, Covid hasn't slowed them down at all. They like to do their thing – no social distancing required.
Backyard wildlife habitat antics
Not only do I have squirrels, I have "squirrels" (squirrel pigs). They have their own food but literally eat all day and seem to be consuming EVERYTHING this year, or is that what I just noticed? It's fun to watch their garden antics. Pac-Man has claimed his own feeder, but doesn't mind visiting Blue Jays or curious rabbits (I call them Izzy). I was lucky enough to capture their first meeting.
At first I was worried, unsure how it would turn out, but they started playing. It was funny to see Pac-Man seem confused why Miss Izzy couldn't run around the tree with him like the other squirrels. Now they're all hanging out together. I've seen a number of other animals eat, play and get along TOGETHER! Just mix and enjoy life. Maybe we humans could learn from it. Diversity is welcome here (aliens too, but that's another story)!
In addition to various plantings, I throw out leftovers for them at the edge of the forest. Someone enjoyed an apple that I left out there, only half eaten, so I'll adopt one of the rabbits or maybe a squirrel. Do you eat apples? I thought the raccoons or possums ate it whole. A worn path leads directly behind the garden into the wooded area. Something was sleeping in a part of the garden at the tree line. I wanted to put a night camera out there. It's a pretty big place, maybe a deer? There is one person, Sam, who makes his rounds early in the morning when it's still dark. I caught him walking the dog a couple of times (or is it her).
The birds enjoy the mulberries and wild cherry fruits almost as much as the bird and game feeders. Woodpeckers galore are full of life this season. Toady still comes out every night and even has a house in the garden. Fred the little box turtle enjoys the time in the garden. I once visited a young opossum. Then there is Chip (he has a broken ear), my other backyard rabbit. He likes to watch me in the garden and will hop pretty close just to see what I'm doing.
Unfortunately I haven't seen Little George this year, the black snake that was there last season. In previous years there was Big George who kept the mole population under control until one evening someone saw him crossing the street and decided that it would be fun to run him over and over again, not just once. I've never been so mad. I was hoping Little George would stay here. I think he found a home elsewhere (I have to believe that). The mole tunnels are an indicator of its absence, along with my last visitor – Tiger, a chipmunk who loves my strawberries and always digs up my potted plants. It was also interesting to watch.
Oh, let's not leave out my "buggies", the good ones anyway. There's the constant sound of buzzing bees and fluttering butterflies wandering from flower to flower and so many more … ladybugs in the yarrow, praying mantises dancing among the leaves, garden spiders (and I usually don't like these) that Spin webs and catch annoying insects. I even have a couple of lizards that make their home here and a couple of bats that come out at night – my skeeter eaters. No chemicals are required here. I have wildlife for pest control. I miss chickens that are good for this too. I had both a hen and a rooster, Ethel and Ruben. They were very loving and would usually sit in my lap to be stroked.
I could go on and on about wildlife in the garden. I have a natural love for animals and plants make me happy too. What could be nicer than bringing them all together in one place – a wildlife habitat that we can all enjoy!