“There are fairies at the bottom of our garden……..”
So wrote the poet, Rose Fyleman. I wish I had them too, but I don’t. What I have is a skunk under the front doorstep, raccoons at the back door, possums down the window-wells and ground squirrels up the drain pipes.
Ever since we took up residence at our current abode it has become a veritable Holiday Inn for the local animal population. I wouldn’t say that I’ve necessarily gone out of my way to encourage them. Perhaps they just like the English cottage-garden style that I’ve adopted. Or could it be that word has got out that I take pictures?
“I say, Mrs. Rabbit, have you had your portrait done by that woman who lives in the corner house?”
“Yes, Mrs. Mouse. She did a nice one of me and the kids eating all the lettuces last week.”
Yes, that’s me, folks! Whereas some people might reach for the shotgun when their vegetable garden is being invaded by leaf-munching bunnies, I’m crawling about out there with the camera. I’m sure the neighbors were convinced that I was completely out of my mind when I sat for hours one summer, at the foot of the downspout, waiting to get a shot of the ground squirrel that occasionally took refuge there. After several weeks I managed to get so close that his little nose was practically pressed up against the camera lens and I think he became quite used to my being there whenever he stuck his head out of the pipe to look around.
One morning I opened the back door to find two young raccoons looking in. I don’t know who was more surprised, them or me. They may look cute, but take it from me, even at that age they can be very aggressive. Their snarls and hisses kept me at a safe distance.
Life in the garden is not without it’s share of drama either. On one extremely damp and chilly morning I awoke to a scene of absolute carnage in the garden rather reminiscent of a Stephen King movie. The half-eaten remains of several baby possums, possible victims of a fox that likes to ramble through the flower beds late at night, lay scattered about the lawn, and the mother, with a lone survivor clinging desperately to her back, was frantically scratching at one of the outside window-well covers. Investigation showed that another of her offspring, in an attempt to save itself, had fallen down into the well, so grabbing a thick pair of gloves, I chased Ma Possum off to a safe distance and climbed down to effect a rescue, feeling well rewarded by the sight of mother and babies as they tottered off to safer ground.
I have not, as yet, taken a picture of the skunk. He used to sit waiting for me by the doorstep when I got home from a hectic night of fencing, his eyes shining eerily back at me in the headlights as I drove up to the house. He still ambles around outside late at night but I’m not about to go stalking him with the camera. Discretion is the better part of valor where skunks are concerned!
Squirrels can always be relied upon to supply hours of comic entertainment. Watch them hanging upside-down from the bird feeder, running across the overhead wires as though on a tightrope at a circus, or shinning up a metal pole in the backyard, specially greased to provide extra amusement, and you’ll find yourself rewarded with a multitude of picture-taking opportunities.
Mice are cute as long as they stay outside. I’ve taken pictures of them reaching up to eat the seeds from a moss rose or sitting washing their whiskers prior to going out on a date with another mouse. Let them set one miniscule paw over the threshold of our house however, and they are quickly given their marching orders.
The most unexpected thing to turn up in our garden was a deer, and if you knew the neighborhood where we live, you would readily appreciate how surprised I was when, going out early one morning to inspect the roses, armed only with a cup of tea, I did a double-take as the animal strolled casually past me and off up the road towards the school on the next block. For several weeks afterwards I made it a point never to set foot outside the door without a camera, but the only things I succeeded in shooting were a dead bat and an army of red ants that had declared war and taken over the sidewalk.
I have an ongoing love-hate relationship with the rabbits. I love taking pictures of them; I hate when they treat my flower-beds like a neighborhood smorgasbord. I’ll see one sitting nibbling on some newly-emerged lily leaves and walk out to have words with it. It looks back at me defiantly, holding it’s ground, its jaws gently masticating.
Me; “What do you think you’re doing?”
Rabbit; “Nothing much. Just having a bit of lunch. You don’t happen to have anything with a little more of a robust flavor, do you?”
Well, really! Of all the nerve! I bet the fairies wouldn’t have given me such a hard time.