The wildlife here at grandpa’s orchard is incredible, one of the reasons that I wanted to come back to the orchard. I have lived in my VW van every summer for the last five years, so I have the opportunity to choose any of the wonderful habitats across colorado to view wildlife. Grandpa’s is special though. There is a shallow pond with cattails and other marsh-like plants growing throughout that the red winged black birds have taken to nesting in this summer. In the early spring I would see the colorful wing bars of the males as they chased the females around looking for a cloacal kiss in order to ensure the survival of the species. The chattering in the early dawn of all this years young is a testament to the success of their endeavors. Every morning there is an abundance of chatter in the marsh, and as I walk or ride my bike by to head back up to the house for another day of selling a stillness becomes where there was chatter while I was in bed. Two nights ago there was a great horned owl that graced my camp while I was laying in my hammock enjoying the stars. He/she made moves around the camp, silently due to the special feathers they have, perching in various spots and giving the quintessential hooting most people associate with owls. Whowho, whowhowho. WhoWho, whowhowho. Earlier in the season I saw frequently a family of foxes that dug a hole into the embankment which confines the irrigation water which runs through the property (what we water our trees with is piped, this open ditch water comes from farms upstream). When I’m lying in bed I occasionally will still hear the screech of the foxes. Yes, that is what the fox says: Rrreeeeaaaaahh, in a high octave, and with a short burst of vocal sound. Last night approaching my van after being out in town my dog and myself encountered a skunk. Which I obviously was quite panicked about, shouting to muddy to “leave it”, and taking a detour through the trees and across my garden to the van. The skunk must be looking for mice, like the ones that had taken up residence in a cupboard in my van that is my library. Nestled in my books earlier this week, I found that there were mice (a mother and three babies) that had taken the liberty of removing fiberglass insulation from the back of my refrigerator and making an nice cozy nest in the middle of my jumbled books. I went to remove these scoundrels three days later to find that the mother had moved her three offspring to another location. I haven’t moved my truck in a while, but I’m thinking that is where they went, a good ¼ mile away from the van, another well insulated home for winter she thought. I only assume this because I hear the chirping of the little rascals when I popped the hood to inspect the wiring under there to find out why my temperature gauge no longer moves from the cold setting. The wires that the little bastard chewed though are at least pretty accessible for repair, being right on top of the engine block. I may have to take that truck four wheeling to deter any further residence. On a sadder note, one skunk and two baby foxes perished this year due to their curiosity. They crawled into the irrigation piping while grandpa had the cap off after flushing out sediment, only to be trapped there when grandpa came back to cap it and put water back on. Flushing prior to capping may have saved them, but didn’t get done. Just another thing for this old farmer to remember. We also have occasional deer, which muddy does good at chasing from the garden area. The Deer are the reason that grandpa has never planted the lower field with young trees, bucks raking their antlers and destroying the phloem around the trunks.
I have also determined by my observations that goatheads are evolved to transport themselves by petroleum based tires, and doing a good job. Most, if not all, of the main driving zones here at the orchard are covered with them, which also accounts for the three bike tubes that I had to buy while working here this summer: Two of which were thorn resistant and several mm thick.