Lake Charles Falls, SonomaYou don’t have to watch too many shows on the Discovery Channel to learn that when a water hole opens up in a semi-arid area, it becomes a magnet for animals. It works in the Kalahari and it works in Sonoma. We built a little ornamental pond and waterfall here at Two Terrier Vineyards not realizing it would become a lifeline for the local animals when every other source of water dried up each summer. In fact, our Lake Charles (named after our dearly departed Founding Terrier) has become so important to the local ecosystem that we’re now undergoing a massive renovation to improve the filtration system and keep this water source clean and clear for all the animals who are depending on it.

Running new pipes to allow greater water flow from waterfall to lake. Terrier shown for scale.

It’s not even dry season, but we can still compile a pretty lengthy list of the wild animals our water has attracted. There are a pair of wild mallards, a Great Blue Heron, foxes, coyotes, deer, masses of birds, native tree frogs… However this week’s most impressive visitor didn’t actually get up to Lake Charles, but was spotted below it at our seasonal creek. John the Baptist was checking the traps he’s set to capture the invasive bull frogs. Suddenly he came running up from the creek. Backwards. Seems as he bent down to work the traps and looked over, a few yards from him, our Mountain Lion was drinking out of the pool next to him. Since every Sonoma-savvy naturalist knows you never turn your back on a Mountain Lion, that necessitated John’s rapid backward run up the hill. I do have an agreement with our Lion that we won’t infringe on his or her dusk and dawn hunting hours if he or she won’t kill us or the dogs during the day. I’m not saying she violated that pact by being out and about at 9:30 in the morning. But it does seem as if she’s taking a few liberties. I’m blaming the water. It seems to bring out the wild in wild animals.

Our Mountain Lion is either Joaquin or Joaquinetta depending on the gender, which no one can agree on. He or she has been sighted several times but never by anyone with a camera. This is a public domain photo from the Department of Agriculture.

But I digress on the Mountain Lion. I want to talk about some truly fearsome wild animals.

Two little boys, five and six who came to visit us Saturday. Meet Spencer and Parker. And tremble.

As I said, water drives animals wild. Or maybe it’s not even water but liquid in general. But perhaps Andy’s tactic of serving them full strength Coke wasn’t the best idea. Then we took them to the wine cave where they learned there were wonderful things like wine thieves and pressurized containers of wine that they could shoot at each other.

Yes, the mysteries of syphoning out wine by creating a vacuum are irresistible to young kids.

And yes, Child Protective Services, I know it's a slippery slope that starts with having a six year old fill Mommy's glass from a barrel of Cabernet...

We and the 2009 vintages actually survived that adventure and we proceeded on to the amphitheater. Which we’d forgotten also features a small drinking fountain. Again that thing about water driving the wild animals even wilder. Andy tried to explain how the amphitheater could create an echo and amplify sound, but the Physics lesson was lost on two little boys who immediately decided that creating “spit echoes” would be much more entertaining.

Ready, set...

SPEWWWWWWWW!

It was around the time that they decided a peeing contest would really create a neat echo that we were so weak with laughter we had to stop the fun. Besides, the Mountain Lion had probably fled in great fear. Perhaps never to return. There’s definitely a hierarchy at water sources. And pre-school boys trump all other beasts.