Notes to my garden denizens, Part II

A few suggestions for porcupines, mice, bears – and rocks – as winter begins.

Linda Bleck

Memo to field mice: When we said “guest” bedroom, we didn’t mean you. We admire your initiative in gathering such a big pile of seeds. Was it a coincidence that you chose the same mix of seeds that we use in our feeders? Those chickadees and titmice (no relation) eat the seeds, while you mice plan for the future. We respect that. But hiding your cache in our guest bed was not a good idea. Guests scream when they find they’ve been sleeping in a rodent’s den. (By the way, how did you get all those seeds between the sheets without rumpling the covers?) 

It’s probably another coincidence that the guests have not been eager to return. Next time, just stash your stuff in the barn. Everyone else does. 

Memo to wild turkeys: Benjamin Franklin was right. You wild turkeys deserve to be our national bird. Eagles soar, build noble nests, and stand out nicely against a clear blue sky. Poets and cameras love them. But all those “bald eagle cams” (25 in North America at last count) are livestreaming images of eagles and their prey that may be disturbing to children – think “pet kitty.” This gives you turkeys a fresh chance to make a case for yourself. You are nothing like those sad specimens wrapped in plastic and pumped full of fat, sugar, and brine in the supermarkets. You never accepted the indignity of a Thanksgiving “pardon” at the White House. You have mighty wings and talons to defend family and flock. Yet you also dance and work well with others. Your country needs more of that today.

Memo to porcupines: Your people and mine have been on bad terms for as long as I can remember. With that coat of quills, you look as though you walked straight out of the forest primeval. You tear up fruit trees and torment beloved family dogs. I get the appeal of all that prowling around at night, stripping off bark, and strewing twigs and leaves all over the yard. But what’s with the anti­pathy toward dogs? Remember that big black dog that used to guard my cradle under the tree? He was just curious and your people filled his face with quills, many times. That’s why my kindly grandmother once knocked a porky out of an apple tree by whacking the branch it was on with a baseball bat. But I am coming to admire you. With all the bobcats and fishers around, creatures your size tend to move fast and look scared. You plod on, fearless. The last time we met, you were nibbling clover in the moonlight. So, ancient family foe, how about a truce? Growl all you want, tear up the branches. But go easy on the dogs. 

Memo to the big black bear: We’ve never met face-to-face. (Thank you for that!) But I just measured your rear paw prints in the mud out by the fire pit at eight inches from heel to toe. Neighbors told us that you are a seriously large bear, and that print confirms it. The kids at the bus stop you once visited think you’re cool; their parents, not so much. The neighbor you surprised weeding flowers under her kitchen window now tells the story for laughs. But it’s clear that you black bears are often confused with those psycho brown bears that stalk people in the movies.

Black bears stalk blueberries and stale donuts. Some folks know this. Remember the neighbor you met on his driveway late one night? He backed up. You continued toward him, then paused. (Could you tell he was armed?) Then you pivoted on those big paws of yours and ambled off into the woods. “He was a chill bear,” said Ben, with respect. So, find a good spot to hibernate, Chill Bear. I’m thinking that far from here would be great. Love to see you in the spring. At a distance.

Memo to rocks: Many people think of you rocks as inanimate, but we in the Granite State know better. We put a rock formation, the Old Man of the Mountain, on our state license plate. When rocks broke off that iconic profile in 2003, people laid flowers at the base of Cannon Mountain. (I cried.) But my concern in writing to you today isn’t rocks falling to the ground but the ones coming out of it – constantly. Why are New Hampshire gardens flanked by stone walls? Because you rocks won’t quit! You’re probably getting ready right now for a dash to the surface. Enough! When the ground freezes this winter, just stay where you are. That’s what we plan to do.

You can find the author’s previous wildlife memos here.

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