Wild Life Lessons from a Reluctant Homesteader

I was raised in the suburbs where there was relatively little wildlife.  Our house backed up to the bayou so we did see some critters growing up.  Raccoons raiding the cat food bowl and snakes and turtles could be found on exploration of the bayou, an assortment of birds and squirrels, nothing too unusual.  When my husband and I purchased our little half acre of land that backed up to the woods I wasn’t quite prepared for all the wildlife encounters that we would have.

Lesson 1: Sadie vs the Skunk

Within a few months of bringing home a dog, we discovered our area harbored skunks. Our poor dog fell victim to an encounter one dark morning around 6am.  I learned that day that you should always keep Blue Dawn Dish Soap, Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide on hand if you live in the country.  After we layered the mixture on the dog by the evening she smelled tolerable enough to be let back in the house. I will say once you smell skunk up close and personal, skunk never smells the same ever again.

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Lesson 2: There will be Bugs

Since living on our homestead, I have to say I’ve learned a lot more about bugs than I ever wanted to know.  I never encountered such a large array of bugs as I have living on our little piece of country, near the city.  Centipedes, millipedes, beetles, stink bugs, velvet ants, carpenter ants, fire ants, grasshoppers, crickets, cicada’s, flies, praying mantis, worms, silverfish, grubs, mosquitos, ladybugs, bees, spiders, caterpillars, butterflies and a host of other bugs I can’t identify.  I’ve come to terms that for the most part the bugs are harmless.  I let them do their thing and as long as they don’t come in the house or touch me we live a relatively harmonious relationship.  If they do happen to venture inside or decide to land on me they will find they have put their little bug lives in peril.

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Lesson 3: Rapacious Reptiles

Bugs attract a host of other animals that’s diet consists of bugs, especially reptiles.  We’ve seen tons of lizards: Gecko’s, anoles, skinks (these are the ones that look like snakes because they have long bodies and tiny legs), I even spotted a huge salamander.  We see a variety of toads and frogs, including little green tree frogs and leopard frogs.  We’ve also seen a few of my least favorite of the reptiles. . . snakes.  We’ve had visits from one water mocassin and one copperhead and we also have a recurring visitor, a sizeable garter snake.  This one still freaks me out as he likes to make regular appearances, but I remind myself that he is one of the good guys and I stop thinking about making a run for the shovel when he surprises me, the poisonous variety are not as lucky.

Lesson 4: Rodents

When you live near untamed trees you are going to see the usual array of residence that make their homes there.  We have lots of squirrels scampering about and we have pesky moles burrowing holes through the yard.  There are also mice and rats that lurk in the woods nearby.  Luckily we don’t have a mouse or rat problem as the outside cats are avid hunters.  I have yet to see a live mouse or rat that wasn’t specifically brought into the yard by one of the cats and the poor little critters don’t usually last long once they are in the yard.  I’ve also learned from these rodents the appeal of squeaky toys to dogs, as when she discovers that cats have a new “toy” she also wants in on the playtime.

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Lesson 5: Do we have Bats or Birds?

The first year we moved into our house I kept hearing a squeaky sounding critter flying around outside.  I was convinced we had bats, and while we might have bats drifting about I have never encountered one.  Upon further inspection of the squeaky noise I figured out it was coming from Wood Ducks. These ducks nest in trees near water sources (we have a creek just down the road) and make it a habit of flying through our area on a regular basis.  Ducks in trees and balancing on power lines was a new experience for me, but I find myself looking for them whenever I hear the squeaky cries they make. Other birds I’ve seen and heard are cardinals, blue jay’s, doves, pigeons, crows, chimney swifts, woodpeckers, robins, warblers, vultures, hawks, owls, my favorite the hummingbirds, and a host of others that I am unsure of the genus.

Lesson 6: Bunnies, Opossums and Raccoons, Oh My!

While I’ve never seen Raccoons on our property, when we first moved in I frequently saw some huge ones in the neighbors backyard.  I wonder if our outside cats and crazy dog discourage the raccoons from taking up residence or if the family moved on to a different place of residence.  And while we don’t have a resident Opossum that I know about, we have had them make an appearance now and again.  They like to go after that cat food if there happen to be any remnants left in the bowls on the front porch and they take a lot of convincing (usually in the form of a broom) to get off the porch and go away.  My favorite resident who makes frequent appearances are the bunnies.  We must have some tasty grass because they are often make their dusk and dawn appearances despite the presence of the dog (who often fails to notice them until they are on the other side of the fence).

 

I’m sure there are many other untamed creatures we have yet to meet that reside nearby. (I’ve seen deer, armadillo’s and even a coyote while driving a few miles away from the house).  I try to not bother these critters too much as we have moved into their territory as much as they have moved into ours and for the most part I have learned that we can live in harmony amongst each other.  All the little lessons the wildlife teach me just reinforce the reason we moved to our little piece of property.  What better wonderland for a child than to be able to explore a backyard billowing with wildlife.

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