As I have mentioned in the past, April is my least favourite month. Typically, it signals the end of winter, with minimal signs of warm weather and pretty gardens. Only grey hoping desperately to become green and endless mud. As I own two dogs this month heralds eight paws to be washed after each outdoor foray. It seems that that every blade of grass has managed during the thaw to have a foundation of soft mud that is particularly adherent to rough paws and long nails. Even the gravel is sticky – clinging to the soft underbelly tendrils as we walk on roads instead of the quagmires which will eventually become trails. And then there’s the spring battle with nature’s creatures.
For the past two years we have been full time country dwellers. For the prior 24 we were part time inhabitants of our 172-year-old farmhouse. We acknowledged that we were sharing the space and property with the wild. We made allowances for the swallows that insisted on building their nest each year on the light fixture above our back door. We practiced consideration by keeping it switched off and using the other door. We patiently scrubbed the endless bird poop off the porch floor. When a robin moved in a few feet away to build her homestead atop our grape vine wreath we afforded her similar attention. We gingerly and quietly made our way in the night blackness to our back door while she sat patiently on her four blue eggs and then nurtured the chicks until they took flight.
This year our robin decided she wanted to build her nest on a square beam at the back of the house. For a full week she pecked on the glass of the large window that sits in front of her desired spot, not comprehending that the beam is inside our living room. I hung an owl, draped a bright coloured tablecloth over our extended pool skimmer and leaned it against the window, and talked with her daily about the futility of her quest. She persevered, her belly full and round, determined she had found the perfect spot.
We naively believed that once we were full time residents, mother nature would move her delegates to a less populated location. We are now keenly aware that despite our permanency, we are sharing our home and land.
The greatest challenge we have faced has been with Rochelle (raccoon) and her offspring, and their offspring, and their offspring, and so on. Several years ago she found a perfect nursery for her bandit faced kits – in a window well that lies under our side porch. We have live-trapped several generations of Rochelle’s and set them free miles away, only to have a new litter mewing beneath the floorboards each April. We managed once to catch our neighbours’ cat – drawn in by the tin of tuna. We have cleaned the space with ammonia-soaked rags, filled it with old bricks and rusted paint tins, blocked all entry points with large rocks and slabs of slate, and prayed that our dogs would scare her away. Only to watch out the window on lovely June evenings as Rochelle teaches her young how to climb our willow tree and then rest on top of our chicken coop munching on seeds and dried corn. Our hens oblivious to the intrusion. They don’t even mind when the chipmunk fills his cheeks with pellets and the squirrel chirps angrily at them to get out of the way. With head bobs and clumsy long toes they waddle over to the garden to unearth bugs and kick my fresh mulch all over the grass.
As though we needed further proof of our irrelevance and lack of ownership, we have a warren of rabbits living in our gated pool area. In a stroke of brilliance, they have figured out that they are safe behind the fence from the foxes and coyotes (also guests here). Multiplying and eating our gardens, they are hopping, happy, and prolific turd producers.
I am humbled by the power and ingenuity of nature. I am blessed with a deep love and respect for all creatures (a little less for the mice in our basement). I am energized by the optimism and harmony that defies the darkness of April.
At least, that is my experience.