Sunday, September 25, 2011

Watching the Fauna

     We saw the blue heron at the bottom of the lake. He stood statue-like, with that long, long neck and beak, the stilt-like legs. Watching him balanced on the dock, I was reminded of the dance of the ostriches in Fantasia. He looked as if he might be that awkward. But then he unfolded his wings and took off in a graceful arch, commanding the sky. I couldn't take my eyes off him.

     Back in Montclair, I encountered a young groundhog in my backyard.
     "You're back!" I said.
     He scurried into the driveway and stood about 12 feet from me, looking directly in my eyes, waiting for my next move.
     "Where do you live?" I asked. He's very cute-smaller than my large cat and quite fuzzy. But I don't want him to over winter on my property. He, or someone from his family, did enough damage to our garden this season.
      I took a few steps toward him and he crept along the narrow strip of hostas next to the house. He, or a sibling had made many tunnels there and settled under our sun-room. I had blocked all those holes several weeks ago. Not finding a hole-or perhaps not wanting me to know where his entrance was-he went into our open basement window.
     I called to my husband and ran into the house. We both hurried to the basement to find the young creature standing on top of the TV, just under the window. My husband encouraged him to leave with the straw end of a broom. Returning outside we tried again to find where he was planning to live. But he scooted into some thick bushes and we lost him.
     As adorable as he is, I really don't want him staying and eating more than his share of our vegetables.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rain Again

            Only an hour ago the radio weatherman said, “Chance of showers.” But now heavy rain is falling. While we are disappointed, we may be in the minority because it sounds as if there is a small crowd on my roof applauding. Strangely, the lake appears almost smooth, like a large field of slate. I wonder how that can be with so much activity. Thousands of concurrent raindrop wave patterns are rapidly intersecting each other.
            There had been a brief shower earlier and the sun peeked out of the gray. We took the opportunity to walk the path around the lake. Evidence of Hurricane Irene, plus the previous week of showers, was everywhere evident in stacks of sawed wood and erosion along the road’s edge.
            It began raining again—lightly at first—when we were two thirds of the way around. Luckily we got inside before we were soaked and in time to view the slate-like lake effects.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Groundhogs' Departure

My groundhogs have abandoned ship. At least they have vacated my property, presumably moving to higher ground. I can’t blame them—fully half of the days of the last two weeks their dens have been under water.
One dry day last week the mother groundhog appeared. She posed fetchingly in begging position and looked me in the eye.
I said, “There you are! Your place under the stump is still muddy. Where have you been staying?”
Perhaps for an answer, she turned and ran toward the back corner of the yard and crouched down in the tall grass. (My son has been happy to use the rain as an excuse for not mowing the lawn.) There had been a back door—a hole she had dug from under the stump—there. But we had blocked it quite a while ago with a large rock. I felt a pang of guilt. Poor creature, like many of the humans in nearby Wayne, she had been flooded out of her home.
“I’m so sorry,” I began.
But she dashed away under the fence to our back neighbor’s yard.
One of her offspring lived under our sunroom. One day after Irene had left everything soggy, I walked out the back door, surprising the kid, who was only two feet away at the entrance of the vegetable garden. The little guy ran around the corner of the house. I followed and saw the flash of a tail as it disappeared into a hole. Deciding I’d trap him and somehow relocate him, I blocked the hole with a rock.
Half an hour later I walked out to hang my wash—and there he was again! Once again he ran around the house. Once again I followed, to see him dash into a different hole. I took a good look then—and found two more holes to his den. Very enterprising youngster! After giving him several hours to leave home, I blocked all his exits and entrances.
I haven’t seen mother or son, nor evidence of their presence since then. While I do feel badly for them, I am grateful. The few vegetables mother and offspring left us in the garden now have a chance to ripen. However, our neighbors have recently found a groundhog hole. I believe they are not so grateful.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Good Grief-Irene!

Mother Nature in the avatar of Hurricane Irene dumped more water on New Jersey than I’ve seen in one storm. The southeast corner of my garden is now a small lake. It covers the upended stump of the black walnut tree which toppled in Montclair’s ‘microburst’ about five years ago.  I believe the groundhog made its home under that stump. With the area now more appropriate for a beaver, I hope the groundhog vacated in time. I would not mind at all if it never returns. Neither would my neighbor. She had been extremely displeased by ‘our groundhog’s’ dining on her extensive vegetable garden.
            I’m grateful that our electricity did not go out. The sump pump was—and still is—working overtime. Nevertheless, we had to bail water out of the basement’s utility area.
On Tuesday we came to check things out at the lake—only had to take one detour, courtesy of flooding. Again I am grateful. Our power had only been off a few hours. The only damage was some serious erosion in the parking area.
We walked around the lake, saw a power line down in the road. Out here, where everyone has a well, no power means no water—and in some cases—not even the ability to flush. We passed a teen telling her friend that she took a shower at another friend’s home. Also passed a man and wife who were loading large, dripping wet bags of food stuff in their trunk.
“They don’t know when it will be fixed,” he said in disgust.
            We were surprised to find our small garden intact. There is plenty of lettuce, a yellow squash filling out, and a few cherry tomatoes. I thought they’d have blown away. There was even an Italian tomato that both my husband and I judged would be ripe for picking in two days.
Then it disappeared!
My husband accused a chipmunk he saw in the garden.
“How could a chipmunk carry off a plum tomato? It was as big as he,” I said.
We searched and found the tomato—with a few bites out of it—in a crevice between two rocks. Obviously somecritter thought it already ripe.