gardening

Accommodating critters

“She has a memory of trees and fields and nothing more.” James Thurber, The White Deer

This morning, when the light was still low enough to be magical, a family walked down the sidewalk outside our house and headed for the school bus stop. Oddly enough, they all had four legs.

The kids at the bus stop and I — who went out to see what would happen — just watched, amazed. A six-point buck, a doe and two fawns of the year halted at the sight of the open-mouthed adolescents. They seemed to discuss the matter, then sauntered off onto a side street instead of proceeding into the wooded hillside beyond the bus stop.

I did not actually catch these deer in the garden, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was what made them overstay their safety window for neighborhood roaming. They’ve devoured the unfenced pots in the front yard. They’ve pruned the vines in the backyard, as well. If I could only get them to eat more strategically, it would almost be like having a gardener.

Yes, it’s that time of year. The deer do what they do — eat. I do what I do — prune. And, all through the garden, other critters make plans for a future that likely does not include them, just their progeny.

It’s true. There are egg packets and webs popping up all over the place. This year, I’m letting most of them stay, having read a gardening piece about the importance of not doing a thorough clean up until spring to save cover for small animals and avoid destroying insect eggs. Even the persistent spider who’s trying its best to make the front door look like the Addams family is in residence remains.

We’re accommodating “our” critters, in fact. Annuals such as zinnias and marigolds will soon be trimmed and hung upside down in bouquets for the birds to harvest. Perennials will remain knee high this year, a bit messy, but more like the wild nature for which we have tried to make an oasis.

Limited fall clean up is our most recent experiment in winter wild yarding. For several years, we’ve left a brush pile at the side of the house and mounded pine cones gathered from the woods atop all our yearround pots. The latter is pretty and it’s a delight to see the squirrels and chipmunks sneak onto a pot, grab a cone and head up a nearby tree. One window box, just outside the kitchen, attracts chickadees. They feel comfortable enough to perch there and eat, even when we’re having lunch just this side of the glass.

It’s hard to say who’s more at home this autumn. The deer, the squirrels, the chickadees, the garden spiders — or us.

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