The large expanse of yard at my cottage is an open invitation to a variety of animal and bird life. I loving refer to the constant incoming and outgoing visitors as my Grass Menagerie. I have a lot of grass ….along with a multitude of trees, bushes and flora that draw all the fauna. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not enchanted, captivated, filled with wonder or just plain tickled by what I find going on outside my window. The photos I share here are Google images and not my own….because mostly I get so excited when I see something that I forget to grab my camera…..until it dawns on me that I should get my camera….and by the time I return to whatever thing had so stunned me, either the moment passed or whatever it was took off for greener pastures. I’ve got scads of pictures on my Iphone, but somehow they fail to put you, the reader, up close and personal so to speak, with my Grass Menagerie. That said…..
Deer are a near constant in my yard. I have a love/hate relationship with them. On the one hand, I think they are amazing creatures and for the most part I let them graze across my yard. On the other hand, I do take umbrage against those who nibble my precious plants down to the ground or who disfigure them horribly with huge chunks taken out of leaf and stem. Mostly I have planted what some refer to as “deer resistant” plants. I would like to know who it was that polled the general deer population about their culinary choices because what I planted sometimes seems like a huge temptation to which they succumb. Especially with the up-and-coming fawns that turn into juvenile delinquent deer, who forget to check the menu options, and figure that my garden is a private smorgasbord I planted expressly for their earthly delight. I often have conversations with the deer about what they can eat, and what they can’t eat. Most of the time they listen and stay away, but this year….I had one juvenile delinquent deer who ignored those conversations. Grrrr. Hydrangea leaves and flowers with a side of dill, black-eyed susan and daylily slaw with a heaping helping of fuchsias for dessert. I sprinkled granulated coyote urine over all the places the deer nibbled. It was a “sure-fire guarantee” to keep the deer away. While standing there in the stink of things, I had a sudden thought: there are no coyotes on this island, so how will that deer even know that what I sprinkled out there was predator pee? I thought it kept them away, as I hadn’t noticed too many deer after the initial sprinkling. Then I spotted the after-effects of a late afternoon lunch. The general consensus….among the deer and I….granulated coyote urine may or may not work. It’s a crap shoot.
Several lovely does with with their adorable fawns have graced my yard this summer. We even had two does with their twins! But I want to tell you about Faline. Faline is a little doe that wandered into my backyard a couple of years ago, late winter, just after we moved here. I discovered her sleeping under my big, blooming cherry tree. She was a skinny little thing, still with her spots, likely abandoned way to soon and mostly deer hide and bones. We made eye contact and I stepped out to my kitchen porch, a half-stone’s throw away from where she hunkered. She was alert. I didn’t move an inch. She stood. Through either accident or a problem during the birth process, her right knee was completely disjointed and hung uselessly. She turned from me and hobbled on that useless leg, which nearly took her to the ground on the right side as her femur made contact with the ground, the rest of her leg parallel to the ground. I cried for her. She was so thin and I have no idea how she even came to be in my back yard, but I was so thankful. I went back inside as I didn’t want to frighten her. She nibbled half-heartedly on whatever foliage she could find and settled herself against the fence near the bluff at the end of my yard. She stayed there for nearly a week. I called the local animal rescue agency to see if they could help. I explained her plight, her skinniness, her condition, my sadness over her. They asked me if she would let me approach her. I actually tried to approach her. Once. She didn’t run off, but would have if she could have and I didn’t want to get too close to her. The conversation with the animal rescue folks went something like this: She is skinny because there is a large parasite population in the deer on the island (ew!) and she will likely die either because of that or due to her bad leg and her inability to take care of herself. There is nothing we can do, except put her out of her misery.” I gasped (really) and asked about a tranquilizer gun. They laughed. I cried. I totally cried over the phone. I opened the door and shouted to Faline….”You live, do you hear me? You LIVE!” It would have made a spectacular movie moment. Cue the music…..
All winter long I prayed over Faline. Really. I did. And I cheered for her. She grew stronger and got around on that poor leg, even to the point where she could skedaddle good if she got scared. When she jumped over the wire fence that separates our house from the house next door, I wanted to hold up a card with the number 10 written on it….she was that accomplished. Those innate things that deer just somehow know kicked in and she managed to take care of herself very well. She just didn’t grow much. I figured she couldn’t get too big or her leg wouldn’t support her. I kept a good eye on her and by the end of the first summer, I was so proud of her. The next year, a much stronger and more confident Faline sauntered into my yard after a couple of month’s hiatus. Another deer wandered in beside her. Faline had a Bestie! I so kid you not! It was the sweetest thing to see them so companionable. They groomed each other and watched out for each other and they were always together….completely inseparable! Where there was one, there was the other. I took delight in knowing that even earth’s creatures have best friends. Faline’s Bestie had a fawn and Faline was like the favorite aunt. One day, I watched a very tender scene take place outside my kitchen window. Faline was on the other side of the fence, hobbling up and down the length of it, foraging for leaves. The doe and her fawn were on my side of the fence. The mama nibbled blackberry leaves and her little fawn stood staring at Faline. I mean….staring. Hard. The mama looked up, saw the fawn staring, walked over to it, nuzzled it and turned it away. I’ve seen the same scene played out when children look at someone different than they are due to disfigurement or deformity….staring out of curiosity and nothing more, their mothers shepherding them away. Same deal. The little fawn nibbled for a moment, cast a discreet eye back in Faline’s direction and then wandered back over to where Faline stood. And stared. The mama doe walked back over to her fawn and this time, nosed him gently away from Faline, as if to say, “Didn’t I tell you it isn’t nice to stare?” The fawn looked back over his shoulder as his mama moved him down the length of the fence line. Amazing, right?
So this year…..guess what? FALINE HAD A BABY!!!! The first time I saw her this late spring, she was with another doe. The doe had twins. I thought it was the same mama and her babies that had been wandering the neighborhood. At first. But then I watched. One of the fawns was definitely smaller than the other and this little guy yippee-skippeed and did jump-aroundies all over my yard. He started at one side of it and hoppity-hopped for a minute or two, broke into a few jump-aroundies, then ran and ran and ran at top speed to the other side of the yard, stopped on a dime and completed the routine with a perfect yippee-skippee followed by a jump-aroundie…..and enjoyed every minute of it. Then he wandered on over to Faline and…..started to nurse! IT WAS FALINE’S! I was so happy that I ran outside to my porch. “Faline! You had a baby! I am so happy for you!” I did a few yippee-skippees myself, although not to the degree her little fawn did, but quite nice nonetheless. I frightened her fawn, whose little tail shot up into the air revealing the white beware-of-danger patch on the underside of his tail. Faline wasn’t bothered by me at all because she knows me. She nuzzled her baby and somehow communicated to him that I was the crazy human that lived here, but was totally harmless. And then it was back to nursing, business as usual for that little guy.
I named him Bucky. I didn’t ask him if he was going to be a great stag when he grew up. I didn’t check, either, as I mostly know the general area of where to check, but….um, I figured Bucky would be a little shy. My thinking is that any fawn that can yippee-skippee and do jump-aroundies and stop on a dime like he can….and then start all over playing his deer games so enthusiastically and taking so much joy in the sheer doing of that….well, he just has to be a buck. I so want him to be a buck. A grand big buck of the finest order. One from a crippled but determined little doe that is still on the skinny and short side, but who proved that with grit and courage and a strong will to live, anything wonderful can happen.