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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Small discoveries

Spring comes, followed by the need to mow yards and pastures.  Such a day came last Saturday, when I mowed with the lawn tractor and Shawn, my son, mowed with the full size tractor.  While he was doing the orchard and near pasture, I was in what's the family has called "the junkyard".  Old equipment is parked there, new equipment finds its way there, the truck body where we house the lawn tractor and snowblower, a pile of useful-but-not-yet-used lumber and posts, all can be seen in that small area.

However,  I also enclose part of the area because its full of bushes and forbs on the edges, a good place for the goats to browse where they feel safe. I keep the grass mowed to encourage them to seek the browse instead, once it's fenced in for the summer. 

Some things just shouldn't be mowed  Last year I discovered these bluets (Houstonia caerulea) as I was mowing, and carefully avoided them.  They came back this year, and again I left them.  I love bluets, so tiny, delicate, and yet hardy.  In the whole area there is just this one patch.  I debate whether to move them to my flower garden, but hesitate in case transplant shock might do them in.

 In the meantime, Shawn had discovered something I'd found a couple of days before.  A den, dug into the sandy spot between the paddock and under the barn, in the spot where my does love to sun themselves.  I've filled in the hole with rocks and dirt, but the next morning, the den is there again, as if I'd never touched it.  Whatever is living there is not going to be easily dissuaded.  And what is it?  It could be a fox or a skunk, but after searching for burrow identification online, I'm guessing it's a groundhog (aka woodchuck).  I've been trying to find a live trap to verify the identity of the new inhabitant.  

 In my searches, I found this wonderful bit on Wikipedia.
A report in 1833 by the New Hampshire Legislative Woodchuck Committee illustrates the attitude of some people towards this animal. In part, the report states: "The woodchuck, despite its deformities both of mind and body, possess some of the amenities of a higher civilization. It cleans its face after the manner of the squirrels, and licks its fur after the manner of a cat. Your committee is too wise, however, to be deceived by this purely superficial observation of better habits. Contemporaneous with the ark, the woodchuck has not made any material progress in social science, and it is now too late to reform the wayward sinner. The average age of the woodchuck is too long to please your committee.... The woodchuck is not only a nuisance, but also a bore. It burrows beneath the soil, and then chuckles to see a mowing machine, man and all, slump into one of these holes and disappear.... Your committee is confident that a small bounty will prove of incalculable good; at all vents, even as an experiment, it is certainly worth trying; therefore your committee would respectfully recommend that the accompanying bill be passed."
Zoë would have a field day digging out the burrow, but I'm not sure how deep it is.  I'd rather have her tackle the critter above ground.  Though Fox Terriers were bred to got after varmints in holes, she is, after all, a (not-so) stately 9 year old.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....Shawn mowed the orchard while wide-eyed goats kept a close eye on him.  Here I will remark that, though they looked askance at the monster in the field, they were more than happy to graze there once the way was clear.


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