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Coexisting with Mother Nature

Food For Thought

For the past 46 years, I’ve been trying extra hard to live peacefully with Mother Nature and all her children. Like the old woman in the shoe, it seems she sometimes has too many children and doesn’t know what to do with them. Recently, I’ve begun to suspect she commandeered me to be babysitter, whether I’m willing or not.
When we first moved to my present home site and began to build our house, we promised ourselves a few things about getting along with the creatures who had long been in possession of this small territory. By erecting a house and garage, removing unsightly and unwanted brush and weeds from what would be our lawn and garden and pursuing our outdoor human activities, we knew we were bound to alter their world as it had been for many of their generations. Since we, as homo sapiens, are just as much a part of nature as all the other creatures, we felt we had the right to our share of habitat, so to speak. First rule; no tree shall be removed to make room for the house. Consequently, it sits askew, at an odd angle from the road.
We also felt an obligation to make an attempt to replace, in some fashion, some of the things we destroyed in the process. Thus we tried to think of improvements benefiting the other inhabitants, as well as ourselves. We not only fed the birds at bird feeders but planted extra flowers and crops beneficial to them. We benefit, aside from our share of the grapes and berries, from the pleasure of watching the various birds and learning from them, but also by the amount of weed seeds and pesky insects they consume. We even thought kindly of the bats who patrolled the air above us on summer evenings, catching vast numbers of insect pests.
We enjoyed watching a cautious doe guarding her frolicking fawns in our woods, seeing the occasional noble buck drinking from the pond early on a summer morning, and were not too upset when a few spears of asparagus disappeared from our garden, the culprit evidenced by the cloven footprints left behind. We laughed when geese plucked out all our sprouting onion sets then abandoned them once they realized they were not corn sprouts, and we simply poked them back into the ground- no harm done. We learned to pay more attention to the ripening blueberries and to pick our share before the birds got to them.
We enlarged the pond and stocked it with more fish; and enjoyed the migrating birds it attracted. My children learned about turtles, delighted in the croaking of bullfrogs and the twinkling of fireflies in our woods. We’ve tolerated robin nests built atop the outdoor light fixtures, chipmunks in the rain spouts, flickers hammering holes in the siding of our house, squirrels digging up the flower bulbs I planted. We felt slightly guilty but amused when early robins grew tipsy from eating the fermented grapes left on the vines over the winter. And marveled at an oak tree laden with monarch butterflies drying their wings early one autumn morning– a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.
During the past year, the majority of trees and undergrowth that provided habitat for a wide variety of beasts, birds and bugs in this section of land was cleared away, leaving a legion of refugees seeking new homes and food. My few acres are only a small fraction of that mostly denuded square mile of land, and I suspect they already housed and fed more critters per acre than the surrounding area. Mother Nature’s children and I managed to get along peacefully since 1971– nearly 50 years– but I fear there is a saturation point. There will soon come a time when the competition for food and space becomes a war– just as starvation and over-population have fostered wars in human history. In fact, I am beginning to suspect such a conflict has already begun.
In spite of my best efforts at living democratically and peacefully with other members of Mother Nature’s family, my space has been invaded and vandalized by some of those displaced children of hers. Raccoons, to be specific, some of nature’s cleverest and most determined creatures. They climbed onto my roof, damaged one of the attic ventilators enough to force their way into the attic, and took up residence. Help was summoned and we’re in the process of trapping them so the mess can be cleared away and damage repaired. It will all require smelly, hot, unpleasant work, not to mention the expense. And, I’m sure I am not the only one affected by the drastic loss of habitat. My neighbors on all sides of that stripped land will undoubtedly experience similar problems.