Here with my wife on my little piece of Heaven, November brings with it signs of Thanksgiving even here in Florida. Oh, we don't get the beautiful change of leaves, except for a few maples and cottonwoods. Mostly, the trees just turn quickly from green to brown near the outset of winter. Right now things are still pretty green and the grass has stopped growing so fast.
But there is one thing that is more noticeable in the autumn and that's the wild animals around. There is a lot of good and a little bit of bad in that, but I still find nature in all of its splendor to be utterly captivating.
First the good: turkeys, lots and lots of wild turkeys. We are to have them in abundance and while they can be seen from time to time during most of the year, in the Fall they show up even closer to the house, sometimes even in the side yard instead of the pasture. Now I'm not a hunter and I am sure they know that my property is a safe zone, so they congregate in my fields very boldly. They peacefully coexist with the horses and, in fact, they actually provide a great service. They scratch and pick through the horse applies for undigested seed, thereby breaking down the piles and spreading the nutrients throughout the soil. Machinery couldn't do it any better.
Next are the deer. We see them year round, but in the hunting season, which is now, they often hide in the portion of my property which is wooded when the hunting dogs come a runnin'. When I hear their commotion, I know that the deer are near and, voila, just like clockwork there they are. I used to have problems with the hunting dogs running all over my property and frequently getting themselves disoriented and unable to find their way out through the maize of fences and nearby property barriers. It's not a problem any longer with a Great Dane in the area as they give me a wide path.
In Virginia where I grew up dogs were not part of hunting. It was just man versus animal and it seemed a lot more sporting. There is just something about watching men standing by with weapons waiting for the dogs to run the deer out that seems a little bit unfair to me, but that's just my opinion.
The raccoons and possum, the two "wild things" I see year round, are even more pesky in late year. Their natural food supply becomes more scarce so they focus on what they can find from their human neighbors. Some would call them a nuisance, but I figure that since I moved into their territory I need to take it in stride. And the opportunity to see them with their young is priceless.
The last two of our local visitors I do really consider a problem. First is the armadillo. Looking kind of like a possum with armor, they are constantly rooting around in the fields and yard looking for grubs and other such morsels to eat and in so doing can make parts of the yard look like a former small Army encampment of foxholes. But they do aerate the soil, almost like a small hand plow, and I just wait for a wet spell to easily even the yard back out and it will grow back nicely in March.
Finally, this nuisance, while beautiful in its own way, is deadly and we are constantly on guard. Coyotes are ever present in the forest and always looking for prey. Pets, chickens, geese, even new born calves are targets when they get the chance. And they are very smart. They will lurk in the shadows at any time of day just watching and identifying your pattern of movement. Then, stealthily approaching in the dead of night, they strike suddenly and depart just as quick.
When we first moved to the country, we lost a lot of our geese and chickens. Our barn dogs probably kept us from losing more, but they still managed to sneak in and out. Getting a really large dog, a Great Dane, has been our best line of defense. With his sidekick Jack rat terrier to alert him, the two patrol the property line at the sound of any warning and the coyotes have now retreated to other more favorable places. Even though I still hear them in the distance late at night, I haven't seen them near my coops and pens since the big fella' came to live with us.
Anyone reading this can probably tell that I immensely love my lifestyle and that is certainly correct. While I grew up as a "city slicker" and didn't move to the country until my 50's, I find it to be very enriching and it brings me much closer to God. Watching natural life cycles in action and seeing first hand how our barn animals and our pets react tells me that our limited sensory capacity by comparison puts us at a major disadvantage. And, frankly, although we have a higher level of intelligence through brainpower, I sense that in many ways we have lost that advantage through the often way to easy and materialistic lifestyle to which man has become accustomed. I wonder if we as humans can survive effectively should a huge catastrophic event happen. To the contrary, I think many of our animal friends will do better.
Dear God, Give us the strength to use our many human gifts to the fullest extent of our being and help us to always remember that our dominion over all living things requires us to treat them humanely and with care, regardless of their purpose. Show us how we can learn so much from them, things that will make us better people and better stewards of your world. We ask in His name, Amen.
My life with animals: a glorious and wonderful way to spend the final phase of my life. May it be a long and prosperous one. Praise God for all my blessings.
If you want to learn more about my love for animals, you might enjoy my new book, Honey, We Shoulda' Bought the Ark. It is the story of life in the country with many animals including horses, dogs, cats, varieties of birds and a few "wild things. All true, all just as they happened. www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark or check the homepage of this website.