Home for the Holidays
By: Charles Giuliano - Nov 20, 2007
The other night driving home for a few moments there was a fox blinded in our headlights. I had to swerve not to hit it. Astrid thought it might be a large cat. But I swear it was a fox.
We have seen them a few times but it is not a common sighting. When the crows made an enormous racket last summer we discovered what had got them riled up. In the meadow, that was formerly a cow pasture and connects our back yard to a neighboring former farm house, we saw the creature emerging from the woods and making its way across the mowed lawn. On other occasions when the crows made a fuss we knew that a fox was on the prowl.
Here in the Berkshires these sightings of wild animals have become fairly common. The first time the groundhog family emerged from under our back deck we thought they were cute. Until the flower beds we had labored so hard to create started to get chomped up. On one occasion some perennials I set out in the morning were gone by noon. After that they weren't so cute and I began to explore ways to get rid of them even getting lucky now and then with a humane trap. I tossed the critter, cage and all, into the back trunk and went on a little witness protection excursion up to Mt. Greylock. There I let the critter out of the cage and watched it running down the path and into the brush. There to reproduce like crazy no doubt and find their way back our flower beds.
This summer when we were finally around full time, having relocated from the city, I took to yelling like crazy scaring them off when they were bold enough to take a munch on the hostas. Hopefully by now they have gotten the drift and the word is out in groundhog land that this is not a friendly place to hang out.
A couple of years ago during one of our weekends we first spotted the wild turkeys. I kind of freaked out and urgently called for Astrid to come take a look from the small window in the former bathroom. There were about twenty of them wandering along pecking at the grass for grubs.
This fall the turkeys more or less became a daily occurrence. Then we went away for three weeks and haven't seen them since. Perhaps it's too close to Thanksgiving and they know the drill. Every time I saw them I thought of soup. They are said to be real tough and not that good to eat. Which puts a damper on all those stories of the Pilgrims chowing down with the Natives. Perhaps they had terrific recipes.
Mostly when I hear the term Wild Turkey I think of strong bourbon. Now and then I have taken a taste. But these turkeys running around our back yard are the real deal. And, close as I can tell, they are teetotalers. But I could be wrong on that. They didn't seem to waver when I chased them with my camera and they headed for the cover of the woods.
We also enjoyed the growth and progress of a doe and her fawns. In spring the babies were so small, and covered with dots. One time a fawn got confused and headed the wrong way, back into the woods, while the mother and her other fawn crossed the road and headed up into the woods. We were worried that they wouldn't find each other. The doe returned and looked but then abandoned the hunt and went back the wrong way. Would that story end in tragedy we wondered?
Later we saw her again with her two fawns which are now almost as big as she is. Our property in addition to being a pasture was also once an orchard. Nobody tends to the apples now. We have a couple of trees on our property and I have tasted the apples and they are a bit scruffy. But the deer come and feast on them just as the crows pick clean the cherry trees and manicure the blueberry bushes.
When we first bought our country home I had visions of being a gentleman farmer. I was going to grow vast amounts of basil and put out my own line of pesto. But the gardens were a bust this year for lots of reasons including laziness. And weeds.
I went down to clear out the lettuce bed for next year when I got into a heap of trouble. While down on my hands and knees pulling out the weeds in one of the three raised beds I felt a sting in my armpit. I slapped at it. Then another. Slapped at that. I was wearing a short sleeve shirt as it was still kindah warm.
Then I jumped to my feet and took off at a fast clip with a swarm of hornets following me. I had stumbled, literally, into a nest buried into the ground. Man did those bites hurt. For days. That night I couldn't sleep and Astrid suggested I put an ice pack on them andapply rubbing alcohol.
But, I didn't get mad, I got even. For the next few days I would bundle up with hoodie, hat, gloves, and goggles and hit the hive with powerful bug spray. As they emerged I got them good. It was like Pearl Harbor. Hope I got them all. We'll find out next spring when I plant the lettuce.
These encounters and adventures make me think back to the founding fathers and their tough times getting started in New England. How the Natives helped them through those first devastating winters. Then the Colonists returned the favor by wiping them out. Those who are left here in Massachusetts want to start casinos. And for that, I suppose, there should be some Thanksgiving.
Like those flower and vegetable beds for the past few years Thanksgiving has been a bit of a bust. Years ago there were those big family gatherings. But Astrid always had to pull a certain number of holiday shifts at the hospital. She worked on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve so we could take the week from Christmas and New Years and spend it in the country. So we used to meet pn Thanksgiving afternoon and have our turkey dinner in the cafeteria. It was real romantic. This year we were thinking of driving back to Cambridge just to sustain what had become a tradition. But there is too much traffic and today it even snowed. So we have reservations for the Williams Inn.
And, best as I can tell, the wild turkeys and other critters will be hunkered down in the forest in our back yard. To all those animal folks best wishes for the Holidays. Except for them damned hornets. Let them rot in hell.