Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Living in a natural world.

This roadrunner was outside my window this afternoon.
We live in a rural subdivision on 13 acres.  We wanted to live where we could experience nature, be a part of its cycles and be amazed by its wonders. As is sure to be the case, when you put yourself in the middle of the natural world, sometimes you bump up against – well, nature.
Last Monday, upon hearing our dog erupt into barking (unusual during daylight), we looked out to see a coyote – twice. Once, it was within 20 yards of our house. We figure there are a few possible explanations for such sightings.
First and foremost, we took delivery last week of 50 meat chicks. These are fast-growing chickens we plan to eat. They are currently living in a brood pen on the porch of our storage building. They emit a high-pitched cheeping that shouts to any sharp-eared predators, “EAT ME! C’MON, I’M A TASTY MORSEL!!” As further proof for this theory, Iris lit up barking again today and ran in that direction, though I did not see a coyote.
Other explanations put forth included 1) it’s thirsty, 2) it’s trying to lure Iris out to the pack, or 3) (my contribution as head worrier), it’s rabid. I told my girl to stay close to the house for a few days.
We’ve also crossed paths with a few snakes. My husband found a 5.5-foot rat snake in our chicken coop last Tuesday morning with four lumps distending its body. Those would be three of our newly hatched chicks and one egg.  While we espouse a live and let live philosophy with critters, snakes in the chicken coop are exceptions.
Several weeks ago at dusk I found a snake tangled up in the poultry wire Dan had put down to protect my beds from rampaging chickens. Husband gone, I called on my nineteen-year-old son to consult on identification and disposition. He decided it bore some resemblance to a cottonmouth (poisonous), and as it was near the house, it, too, was dispatched.
It sounds like we are cold-blooded snake killers, but we are not. My daughter loves to hold the non-poisonous varieties. She has decided she might like to be a herpetologist, after having a ball python wrapped around her neck a few weeks ago.
Less exciting but still fun, I recently met up with a tarantula as I was out walking by flashlight.  Walking sticks have begun to appear on the outside walls of the house this week, and my daughter has discovered she can pick them up and carry them around without repercussions (i.e., they don’t bite). We also have lots of roadrunners, and see them multiple times daily as they scurry past on their never-ending quest for snake or lizard snacks. With binoculars, I can sometimes see a lizard hanging out of one’s beak. We also have the ubiquitous squirrel and white-tailed deer, and an occasional rabbit.
For all the cool critters we do see, there are hundreds of them out there that we never glimpse, scurrying through the underbrush, slithering through the leaf litter, taking a sip of our water, climbing the trees. I must keep my eyes peeled!

Favorite spot in the garden:
Outside my office window, in a very dry bed that receives rain only from roof run-off, prairie brazoria (Warnockia scutellarioideshas volunteered and multiplied. This   native blooms April through June in calcareous soils in central Texas. With abundant rainfall last year, they grew en masse, but this year their number is fewer. I am so happy to see them, the few, the proud, the prairie brazoria!


  1. It is fun to hear about all your animal encounters. I prefer my snakes to be not venomous though.

  2. We have coyotes around here a lot. Usually they just pass through, but I don't have chickens enticing them! And I love seeing roadrunners - tarantulas and snakes not so much!

  3. @HG - Yes, tarantulas and snakes do require some respectful distance. It is all part of the fun, isn't it?

  4. Wow, having a ball python around my neck was the highlight of my day. There goes my identity!