Woodland Creatures

I live in the woods. Not like the deep, dark, primordial forest or anything, but it’s a wooded area. There are trees all around and a lovely patch of woods behind my house. When we were house hunting I had a list of things I wanted (a certain number of bedrooms, a lot of natural light, etc) and my husband also had a list (reasonable driveway, not near anything that can flood, no radon snorkel). One of the items on his list was “no yardwork”. For the most part, he got his wish. Oh, sometimes the leaves get really out of control and I’ll do a little raking and the weeds are almost as tall as I am in some places, but we can pretty much claim that our lack of landscaping is a nod to keeping the setting natural. Our HOA is cool with it and 3 sides of the house look just fine when left alone. The 4th side is kind of a crater – we suspect that someone meant to build an addition to the house and never got around to it- but aside from pulling down some dead trees we’ve mostly ignored that side so far. In the great grand scheme of first time homeowner priorities, landscaping is pretty low on the list.

Besides…if we leave the dead leaves where they fall, we can hear the deer coming.

We’ve got a lot of deer. Last year our community was shamed in the local paper for having one of the biggest deer overpopulation problems in Pennsylvania. Since hunting isn’t allowed in our three-thousand acre hamlet, the deer come here in droves and have completely upended the ecosystem. We have almost no underbrush, so we have no bunnies near the house and very few foxes. We do have possums, skunks and at least one raccoon – which I know because I found his paw-print on my porch last week. There are bears in the area but thus far none in the yard. We do have one Red-Shouldered Hawk that visits regularly, we call him Maverick because of his penchant for buzzing the house. We have a tribe of nameless squirrels, (because who the hell names a squirrel?) and a great many chipmunks who are all named Wayne.

As far as I know, nobody names adult deer and all fawns of both genders are known as Bambi. The deer come by at least twice a day, usually cutting through our yard on their way across the road to the more extensive patch of woods on the other side. When it gets hot, they spend time napping in the woods behind the house and graze in the grassy place at the edge of our neighbors property. A small tree came down during the recent hurricane and they stripped it of leaves within a day. They’re quite used to humans and while they won’t let you pet them (nor would you want to, deer ticks are a big problem out here) they will come within four or five feet of the house, and of anyone standing quietly outside of it. You can always tell a tourist or newcomer to the Poconos when you see them slow down and start taking pictures of deer from their car. For me, it’s rather like having a lot of very low maintenance pets – since they all look basically alike, I never get attached to any particular one, but they’re such a regular fixture that I miss them if I don’t see them for a day or two.

The other thing we have out here is birds. In addition to Maverick, we’ve got a lot of woodpeckers, including the very dramatic looking Pileated Woodpecker, though he is an infrequent guest. Bluebirds are rare enough to be exciting and the flock of crows is so ubiquitous I’m more apt to notice if they aren’t hanging around than if they are. At certain times of the year we also get little flocks of turkeys, which look a bit prehistoric when you see them up close.

Over the last couple years, I’ve finally gotten accustomed to the noise of deer moving around and if I’m in my office I’ll often hear the squirrels scrabbling up and down the trees. I’ve (mostly) stopped blaming the cats for any animal racket that is actually coming from outside, but the cats probably won’t ever adjust to having Wayne the chipmunk(s) sit on the back deck and press a tiny nose to the glass. Our younger cat is also very enamored of falling leaves, which can make for a lot of MEOW-THUDing in the autumn. Autumn and winter are the most spectacular seasons here, the cold seasons bring brilliant colors and then blankets of white snow. It’s gotten so that I’m impatient with springtime and summer, I’m always in a hurry for them to be over so we can get on with the best part of the year.

A lot of people ask me if living out here is worth it – we’re 3 miles to a main road and 25 to the nearest shopping mall. We can’t even take the trash out without getting in the car, trash is centralized to minimize the threat of bears. The truth is though, especially now that I’m at home during the day, I love living out here. I love hearing the shoof-shoof sound of the dear coming through the leaves and running for the binoculars whenever a new bird comes to visit. I love the soundtrack of the leaves and branches and the way the woods smell right after the rain. I don’t mind the isolation, the mice in the crawlspace or the endless battle with the spiders that are always trying to sneak in. I’ve lived in the city, I’ve lived in the suburbs. Now we’re somewhere between rural and exurb, and while I don’t think I’d go out much farther, I am glad we took the chance on coming here.

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