Busy as bees… not much honey…
I can add yet another explanation to the mysterious lack of time we always seem to be suffering from–one of the main reasons I don’t update our farm blog as often as I mean to. While it is certainly true that we both have a whole lot going on in addition to working on starting up our small farm again, it is often the case that even when we do set aside time for farm chores, something always seems to come along to derail our plans.
Recently, distraction arrived in a small, feathered package.
It was mid-morning when I heard a weird hooting bird call outside. I looked out back and saw what looked like a strange kind of pigeon sitting on the elk fence. This time of year, odd birds start moving through the neighbourhood on their way south, so I just thought it was one of them, and that it would soon move on.
The next time I looked it was sitting on the electrical wire right above our back door, hooting and looking down at me. Eddie and Squeaky were very excited by this tremendously large and friendly bird sitting about 15 feet above them looking tantalizingly plump and tasty. I called out to Packy, interrupting him from his rather critical project: getting our farm taxes ready to send to our tax preparer, who had recently informed us of the exciting news that thanks to a change in schedule at the IRS, our taxes were now due on September 15, not October 15 as we had been planning on. Thanks IRS!
Once he and I wrangled the over-excited felines back into the house, he figured out that the odd bird that was causing all the fuss was a Eurasian Collared Dove.
“They’re not native,” he informed me. “They were first seen in Florida a few years ago, and have been making their way across the country ever since. I wonder where it came from?”
We stood looking up at the bird for a while, and then both thought about our enormous to-do lists that day.
“Well, let’s keep the cats inside until it flies away,” I suggested. We went back to work.
I was on a massive clean-up tear, and was at the moment organizing the many baskets we use for farmers markets and farm events, sorting out how to store them best so that they don’t take over the house. I was using the front porch as a place to spread everything out on, as it was one of the only open spaces available at that time. (Hence the much needed organizing project.)
The hooting got closer. I looked up, and there sitting in the rhodedendron next to the porch was the Collard Dove, staring at me intently. It was a little creepy. It hopped closer, now sitting on the firewood-holder-thing. Squeaky sat in the window inside, very annoyed to not be participating in the encounter in a more meaningful way. As I stood there wondering what this bird wanted, it suddenly flew at me, apparently trying to land in the region of my head. My shrieking impersonation of Tippi Hedren in The Birds caught Packy’s attention.
“What the…?!?!??” he asked breathlessly, taking the stairs two at a time to find out what was trying to kill me.
“This is a really weird bird,” I told him. “I think it’s following me around the house, and it tried to land on my head.”
I mean, I like birds. But I find it just a wee bit unsettling when they fly at me and try to land on me when I’m not really expecting it. We stood there looking at the bird, who sat looking back at us. This bird was not afraid of people at all. In fact, it just seemed to want to hang out with us. There was no way we could let the cats out as long as it was around, and it showed no inclination to move on.
“This has got to be someone’s pet”, Packy said. “I wonder where it came from?”
So we called our wonderful neighbors, the Wildlife Center of the North Coast, and asked them for their opinion on the matter.
“Well, if you can get it into some kind of cage, you can bring it down here and we can re-locate it somewhere else,” they offered. ” Or we can keep it here for a bit while you try to find who owns it, or find a home for it.” We had a good discussion on the finer points of bird capturing techniques, including the towel toss trick, and we hung up the phone feeling good about having a plan.
Packy then spent the next 45 minutes trying to wrangle an ornery bird–who either wanted to sit on his head or eat sunflower seeds out of his hand, but definitely did not want to get into our cat carrier–into our cat carrier.
He eventually prevailed, but not before some very colorful language ensued. I was definitely not very helpful, but stood by waiting to be of some sort of assistance that did not involve actual bird handling.
Once the bird was in the cat carrier, we thought about it a bit more. It really did seem way too accustomed to people to be a wild bird that was moving into the area. We decided to go ask the neighbours if anyone knew of someone who had lost a pet dove. We walked up the road to our neighbour Kevin’s house, and hit the jackpot on the first try.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “That sounds like the bird that was hanging around at the Big O the last few weeks. They finally had to shoo it away, it kept flying into the store and the bar mooching peanuts off people. I think Shawrron was calling it Dale.”
Shawrron and Dale are the wonderful owners of the very cool Olney General Store and Big O Saloon just down the road from us.
“O-Kay… well, they won’t be wanting Dale the Dove back I guess”, Packy said glumly. We had a lovely chat with Kevin about various neighborly things, then walked back to the farm, collecting discarded Diet Pepsi bottle from along the roadside as we went. Someone around here sure likes Diet Pepsi.
When we got home, I called the Wildlife Center back and asked if we could take them up on their offer of bird sitting until we could maybe find a home for the Dale the Dove. Packy went back to tax wrangling, and I set out walking the cat carrier down through the farm, which is the quickest and most scenic way to get to them.
Their songbird cage was pretty much empty, and Sharnelle Fee (the founder of WCNC) directed me to just let Dale go in there. It took a little coaxing, but he soon hopped out of the carrier and explored the enclosure. It’s lovely– full of native shrubs, and more importantly for Dale the Dove, had an ample supply of bird seed.
Sharnelle and I stood around chatting for a while about wildlife and nature and some of the unfortunate aspects of human nature with regards to wildlife. The whole time we were talking, a small fawn was lurking nearby, occasionally getting bold and loping towards Sharnelle, who kept swatting it away. She looked at me somewhat resigned.
“Unfortunately, we had to raise him on his own without any other deer around to socialize him, so he’s gotten a bit messed up, and is way too used to people.”
Of course, we both immediately thought of the legendary Fawn-Fawn, who sadly passed away this past winter.
She was WCNC’s very first patient, and lived to be over 11 years old, which is pretty much an unheard of age for a deer not actually in captivity She was also completely unafraid of people, and quite a charming mooch. We were sad when we figured out what had happened–she just didn’t show up for well over a month–but it also helped me to not feel quite so guilty about putting up the elk fences. Fawn Fawn was pretty used to strolling right past the greenhouse (and occasionally right through it) on her way across the farm, and I would have hated to try and re-direct her.
Eventually I said my good byes to Sharnelle, and began walking back up through the tall grass towards my long-ago abandoned to-do list.
Have you ever had that feeling that someone is following you? I hadn’t been walking more than a couple of minutes before I turned around and saw the fawn, standing about ten feet behind me.
“Oh no,” I said. “Shoo. Go Home. Go back.” I turned around and kept walking, using the theory that if I ignored it, it would get bored and abandon this journey into unknown territory.
A minute later I turned around again. The fawn was ten feet behind me, casually looking off into the distance. We made eye contact, and it loped forwards excitedly, terrifyingly not unlike a golden retriever puppy. “Arrgh!” I said calmly. “Go back. Seriously. Do not follow me, you damn impossibly cute Disney-esque Fawn-Demon from Hell!” Well, I was thinking that, anyway.
Of course this went on all the way back to the house. I set the cat carrier down while the Impossibly Cute Fawn-Demon from Hell set about discovering all the tasty plants in our herb garden, and even showed great interest in exploring our basement. I shooed it away and shouted for Packy–interrupting tax time yet again–while the cats tried to decide if this weird not-quite-a-dog thing was a good exchange for the tantalizing bird. I think they were disappointed in my trade efforts.
Packy was very little help, even once he stopped laughing hysterically. I struggled desperately to stay mad at the damn thing as it darted around tasting things and trying to entice Squeaky into playing with it.
I think it is deeply unfair that fawns are so cute– those huge liquid eyes and the big wet nose. The way they hop around like over-excited bunny rabbits… it is Just Not Fair.
We ended up walking the Impossibly Cute Fawn-Demon from Hell all the way back to the Wildlife Center, herding it along with an old broken rake when it started to veer off into the pasture too far.
Sharnelle smiled apologetically when we got back.
“Did he follow you home? He’s never left the property before this, but then most people leave in cars, they don’t walk here…”
She got him into the bird cage she was working in to hold him so he wouldn’t follow us back, and we walked slowly back to the farm.
“What was I working on again?” I asked. It was now late afternoon, and I had so far managed to cross nothing off my farm chore list.
“I think you were organizing baskets, but didn’t you say you had to do some watering today as well?” Packy reminded me, as he trudged back upstairs to the sweltering office to once again try to make sense out of our paperwork.
“Oh yeah. Watering.”
I watered the plants until it started to get dark (next year we are so installing drip irrigation) and then went in to try and figure out something to cook for dinner involving zucchini and lemon cucumbers, both of which are growing with great enthusiasm right now.
The baskets are still on the front porch, but at least the taxes got done. Maybe next weekend….
Somehow, Eddie the Cat's Farm Chore list always includes a lot of napping, supervising other people's Farm Chores, and catnip monitoring.
Happy Ending Update: Dale the Dove was adopted by one of the Wildlife Center volunteers who had another pet dove already. Hopefully they don’t mind him sitting on their head on occasion.
No update on the Fawn-Demon from Hell yet….