Apparently, I’m not very good at keeping readers up to speed on how our various Sonoma critters are faring. Actually, with this crazy spring and summer of shifting residences and various sidetracking adventures, I guess I haven’t been very good at updating much of anything about Sonoma. But after woefully neglecting Two Terrier Vineyards and Rancho Los Dos Terriers, I’m trying to get back to my regular schedule of spending two or three days a week up at the ranch. It’s a good time to do this as the weather is cooling and we’ve had a couple of hard showers recently, signalling perhaps that we’ll get some drought relief. All that is bringing out the animals. So it’s a great point to get everyone up to speed on our furry, feathered and finned denizens.
The Deer. Drought or no drought, the deer have mostly been doing just fine. Our spread is home to such a stellar example of Family Cervidae that he’s pretty much the Brad Pitt of Mule Deer. And that would be Brad Pitt as seen in Troy, not skinnier scruffier Brad Pitt of, say, Twelve Monkeys. We call him Chuck the Buck and he’s not only gorgeous, he seems to get all the girls. And he seems to pass on his good genes to all his progeny. There are few places in California where I’ve seen such full chested, powerfully muscled, glossy coated Mule Deer. All Chuck’s progeny seem to share his movie star good looks.
I haven’t seen Chuck the Buck lately, but I’m sure he’s still out there. However his sons and their harems are all over the place, eating Ranch Manager Louis’s plantings and freaking out the terriers. I’ve stopped dumping wine skins around the place to compost since that time Chuck’s son — who, of course, we named Keith Richards — got drunk on them. I’m assuming he’s cleaned up his act these days.
Miss Kitty the Mountain Lion. We’ve had a resident Mountain Lion since we bought the place. We have an agreement. I don’t walk around during her nighttime hunting hours and she doesn’t come out during the day and kill me or the terriers. However, she does show up pretty close to the barn while the terriers and I are hunkered down there. A few weeks ago she took down one of the slower deer not ten feet from where I’d parked my Prius. Yes, it’s disconcerting to see parts of a deer corpse as you step out cradling your morning coffee, but I’m convinced that’s one of the reasons our deer are so healthy. The herd gets thinned pretty quickly of the sick and the lame.
The Coyote Family: Wilma, Wiley and the Kids. We used to have a healthy population of coyotes around here. They moved off awhile ago, maybe because there was some construction going on. Now they seem to be back. We haven’t actually seen them. But they did leave this.
The Woodpeckers. We’ve always had a healthy population of Pileated Woodpeckers — that’s the woodpecker who inspired Woody Woodpecker. If you believe the famed Ivory Billed Woodpecker is extinct — and I’m hoping a few wily flocks are hiding out in the swamps of Florida — then the Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker on the North American continent. They love Rancho Los Dos Terriers. Part of their mating routine is to hammer out love songs. The guy with the loudest song wins, so these guys are always searching for sound producing material. Our barn and most of our outbuildings have corrugated tin roofs, so this is kind of a singles bar for Pileated Woodpeckers. (And by the way, if you need another reason to love Pileated Woodpeckers: they eat poison ivy berries!)
RODENTS! It’s been a balancing act with our rodent population. We’ve always respected our rattlesnakes, who are the best rodent control. If they get where they don’t belong, we move them to safer areas. But we did have to spray (non-toxic) repellant around areas people and terriers frequent. Unfortunately, that gives the mice a safe haven in the barn. Add to that the drought, which has reduced grass and seed. Apparently, all over the state Californians are experience rodent invasions as the little critters seek irrigated and habituated areas in search of food. We’ve seen that as well. Not that we irrigate or leave food around. Our rodents seem to prefer getting in the outbuildings and chewing on the wires in our farm vehicles. We are currently testing every form of non-toxic mouse trap, mouse zapper and mouse repellent with somewhat mixed results.
The other day, I heard Ranch Manager Louis cursing that a mouse family had built a nest on the engine of one of the tractor attachments and chewed through the electronics. The mouse patriarch had just run into the engine and Louis was madly trying to flush him out with a stick.
As I said, Circle of Life. With Fall in the air and most of the heavy vehicles off the building site, I expect the critters to move back in and take over.
It’s really their place. I just live in it part time.