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Barbara Parent: Backyard Antics

Barbara Parent: Backyard Antics

This morning we went into the woods behind our house and Ron pointed out the fox hole. It is easy to spot when you get close enough, which I hesitated doing, but was reassured the fox and his mate and the two kits we’ve seen chasing each other in the field alongside our backyard are inside for their day’s nap.

They have quite a setup. The den is within proximity to the field and nearly hidden by fallen branches.

Closer to the hole is a mound of light brown dirt. The thought crosses one’s mind that the cleaner area is the gravel that was scrapped away by the fox in anticipation of providing for eventual offspring.

The surroundings are quite nice, a good size patch of woods filled with maples and oaks that drop their leaves each fall, the earth beneath left untouched to yield the natural composted soil.

The fox we are watching this year inhabits the den that has been in the same spot for a good many seasons. A few years ago we observed the daily romps of two cubs in the field. Their mother, or the adult we assumed to be the female, sitting patiently, eyes keen as they played. That causes one to wonder if the same pair of foxes return to the same den every year. Or do they hang out there year-round perhaps sleeping the winter away like the bear we’ve had visit the yard the past two summers partial as he is to breaking apart our compost bin. Finding the answer is as easy as clicking on to Google and perhaps when I finish this column I shall to just that.

Saplings, wild roses and honeysuckle fill in the gaps among the tree trunks and provide a screen of privacy from our backyard to the backyards of the houses on the street beyond. Geraniums we dug out of the rich leaf mold abundant in these woods and replanted continue to flourish. Their light lavender flowers bloom as they have each spring spread through our gardens by the birds who have repaid our generosity in providing them with black oil sunflower seed. I must say they aim their droppings as well or better yet than any garden designer we might have hired.

This fox is quite handsome. He is also pretty predictable, making his rounds in early morning and when I see him prance across the yard through the window across from where I am sitting, I stop reading the Record-Journal and follow his route via the windows in the kitchen, bathroom, and living room. He is quite spry and moves along with a bounce at a pretty good clip.

The birds at the feeders pay him no attention. The chipmunks beware as they scamper across our yard their comings and goings non-stop and their destinations we prefer not to contemplate. Mr. Fox, however, has a keen sense of smell as we’ve watched him dart across our yard into the wood and nose around in a pile of twigs, taking his time poking his snout into the debris and emerging with a small tail hanging out of his mouth. He is a good provider, taking his quest back through the woods and toward the den and his family.

Early this morning two rabbits were intent on chewing the blades of grass in the front yard very close to the house. They would stop and play, running around and leap-frogging over each other. Figuring because there were two of them, we might eventually see little ones. We had provided a safe haven for whatever wildlife needed protection and left intact a pile – which over the years was added to and turned into a substantial pile of fallen tree limbs. While our intent was commendable, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished and certainly, rotting tree limbs and leaves that accumulated each fall did nothing to enhance our yard.

Hanging out at home these past months spurred us to get to work cleaning up what had become an eyesore. The end result of a what turned out to be a week’s work was gratifying and yet we couldn’t help but feel uneasy about removing what had been a long-time shelter.

Yet, watching the rabbits at play this morning, with obviously nary a concern brings to mind that, like the backwoods fox, they too will get along quite nicely without any help from us.