November 30th, 2014
Living here in a fairly rural part of Maryland, I see things that the average suburbanite wouldn’t encounter in a year living in a sanitized and manicured neighborhood.
I can sit in my favorite chair and watch red foxes play fight in the back field. In spring, the tulip trees look like Christmas trees with twinkling fireflies in the night. I have stared in awe to see an eagle fly not 20 feet over where I was walking my little dogs. I was tickled when bluebirds colonized my hugely expensive and unused purple martin gourds. And one memorable day I watched on as turkeys fornicated on my front lawn.
On the other hand, I have had to boldly intervene when Tina Turner, a beautiful Polish chicken, was chased down by a hawk who wasn’t at all impressed with my windmill arms and lunatic shrieking. I have stumbled upon dead moles, dead snakes, dead woodchucks and dead baby bunnies, only to return a short time later to haul them off to the woods with a shovel to find that they had disappeared. And one time during an early morning run, my husband encountered a stillborn deer in the middle of our driveway.
At 10 in the morning this past Halloween Day a bloody-footed raccoon walked across our front porch just between the door sill and the mat, leaving a pool of blood to one side and dripping blood down the sidewalk before ambling across the lawn and into the woods.
You don’t see that every day in the burbs.
Recently I was out for my run when I slammed into a force field of stench. It was just up the driveway from the house where an ominous band of silent black vultures had congregated. The odor was so overpowering I was forced to sprint past holding my nose and mouth breathing. My eyes were watering like a spigot. The smell attached itself to my clothes and followed me up the road.
No small corpse could be causing such an impressive stink. Surely it was something quite large. Maybe an elephant. Or a brontosaurus.
Maybe some animal had taken the next step on the Circle of Life ride.
Then my mind raced. What if it wasn’t a dead animal? What if it was really human remains out there in the woods near my driveway? What should I do? Should I investigate?
But maybe someone had dumped a dead and putrefying body there and I would stumble across it, accidentally planting my DNA on the corpse and when I called the county sheriff they would come out to investigate and conclude that I bludgeoned and dumped the body of a blogger who had written a mean review about my book and they would take me off to prison and I would be all like Orange is the New Black, let myself go and have to get a gangsta nickname like Ugly Stretch and have an interesting but diverse new group of friends and never put up another jar of jam, although maybe I could get a job in the prison kitchen if I was really nice to the terrifying Russian lady in charge, but really they would probably make me work in the electrical shop as part of my rehabilitation but instead I would get electrocuted and die young because I’m not good at fixing things.
My husband could totally deal with prison better than me.
But he wasn’t home to go look instead of me, so I finally worked up my courage to investigate. I put on my big rubber boots and gloves and tied a pretty scarf around my face bandito-style. Might as well go out in style, right?
I shoed away the black vultures (gosh, they’re scary) and carefully tiptoed into the woods so I wouldn’t disturb any evidence. A couple of feet past the tree line I spied the enormous, bloated dead deer that was causing the stink.
I’m sorry, Bambi, but thank you, Jesus! I am not going to prison! I’m free! I went home to celebrate my freedom with a plate of cookies.
Boy howdy. That stench had staying power. It took four days for nature’s cleanup crew to finish their picnic and for the smell to disperse. In the meantime the driveway to our home looked like a more Mafioso version of The Birds.
Since I’m not going to prison after all I’m enjoying the fresh air of freedom. It feels wonderful not to be behind bars, to savor the quiet and shower all by myself.
Ah, rural living! I think I would be bored living in the suburbs.
Posted In: Nature and Wildlife
August 22nd, 2012
Some of nature’s wonders require that you stop, pause and look closely. This isn’t one of them. There’s a reason the Buddleia is called a butterfly bush. It’s covered in swallowtail butterflies!
This butterfly bush is the Buddleia davidii ‘White Splendour’ (I think). It is approximately 8′ in diameter and nearly 10′ tall. It was relocated a couple of years ago to a more roomy location because I didn’t believe it could possibly grow this big.
All summer long the butterflies are numerous and industrious in our garden. It’s one of the reasons I grow dill but hardly ever get to eat any. The caterpillars eat it all. Gluttons. Glorious gluttons.
By far the Eastern Tiger Swallowtails outnumber the other butterflies. But we also have Painted Admirals, Black Swallowtails and—the glorious Zebra Swallowtail. (You can see those in the video below.)
A while back a friend of mine was envying our prolific Pawpaw patch because it is host to the larval Zebra Swallowtail. If you don’t know Pawpaws, they are a fruit tree native to North America. The fruit of the Pawpaw is rather sweet and mushy. For some it’s an acquired taste. But Zebra Swallowtails just love Pawpaws. In fact, it is also called the Pawpaw butterfly.
I wish I were a better photographer and videographer to share how the bush comes alive. This is definitely one of nature’s bigger shows in my garden.
Posted In: Nature and Wildlife