Tuesday, May 13, 2008

All Creatures Great and Small

When PBS began running the series "All Creatures Great and Small," I was an immediate fan. I just loved this charming series, gleaned from tales of a Yorkshire country veterinarian, James Herriot. Each week, we were treated to a new animal story intertwined with the human stories of Herriot, the two Farnon brothers--Siegfried and Tristan--with whom he worked, and the people of Yorkshire. I was so taken by these stories that I even tried to read the books on which they were based. I must confess Herriot's rendering of the thick Yorkshire accented English completely did me in, and I don't think I finished the book.

Lately, I feel as though I am living in an "all creatures" zone. It is completely of my own doing. All except the deer, of course. They have wandered in, bashed my one spruce tree, and sheered by hostas off to the ground. The other creatures have been invited into the space around our house by my feeding them. We even had our annual visit from the ducks who think our pool, with winter cover, is in fact a pond. The local guard dog is dispatched to dissuade them.

For many years, we had bird feeders, which I gradually gave up on. The refuse on the ground of sunflower shells made me a less than enthusiastic bird feeder. Then last year, we bought a new bird feeder, then another, and began feeding birds again. Buying a sunflower mixture has attracted a different set of birds, and lessened the number of shells falling on the ground. The tree cover has helped to discourage the swoop through flying of the peregrine.

Predictably, the squirrels soon discovered the bird feeders. They regularly raid the newly filled feeders, and I have yet to buy baffles to try to keep them out. I have taken another route--buying peanuts. After seeing a peanut wreath on RuthieJ's blog, I found one and dutifully filled it with peanuts.

Enter "my" squirrel. Perhaps you remember this fellow. This squirrel (I am convinced) is the one who caught my mini-snowball. Anyway, after emptying the bird feeders, he has begun to venture up onto the small deck next to our sunporch. Maybe the strategic placement of peanuts has encouraged him. In fact, he (I know this because I have seen his. . .ahem. . .equipment) comes up on the deck, stands up, curls one paw into his chest, and looks in the window. "Is the nice lady there who puts out peanuts?"

So, when I got the peanut wreath, I placed it within easy reach. Within seconds, it seemed, Mr. Squirrel (for some reason, I call him Alex) found the peanuts and proceeded to empty the WHOLE wreath, trip after trip after trip. I even ran out of peanuts, so my husband and I went shopping on Mother's Day to buy new bags of peanuts.

Now, Mr. Squirrel is making regular trips for peanuts. Sometimes he eats them right where he stands, leaving behind quite a mess. The spent peanut shells and husks have in turn attracted rabbits and cardinals, who peck away at the detritus.

All of this activity provides much entertainment or frustration for the two cats and one dog inside the sun porch.


Anvilcloud said...

I caught some of the TV series but read all of the Herriot books (I think) -- loved them.

We fed the birds for a few years and gave it up for the same reason.

Meanwhile, I'd say that the critters were making your life interesting.

possumlady said...

Oh, I loved the tv series too! In fact, for as long as I can remember, (sorry, if this is a little odd) I've wanted the poem to be put on my tombstone:

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Yes, I'm like you with all my animals: cats, raccoons, possums, birds and the occasional fox. My life at home is never dull. I, too, started buying peanuts in the shell for the bluejays. But the squirrels had to spoil it and hog them all. I once saw a beautiful grackle pick up one of my peanuts and tried to open it by continually dropping it on the soft ground. It didn't work and he didn't know how else to open it and eventually gave up.

Ruth said...

I am another fan of the PBS series and I still sign out episodes from the library's video collection from time to time. Squirrels are so annoyingly persistent and smart. I still have a peanut feeder out because our nuthatches visit in between squirrel raids.

JeanMac said...

You have quite the assortment of animals visiting. We live in the country with apple orchards along the road - the deer feed there - I'm surprised they haven't found my garden.

Anonymous said...

Laugh. The peanut wreath looks great but I can't imagine the squirrels it would draw and the horror that Ruby would feel in that event! :)

joared said...

I've quit feeding the birds for a while as the squirrels found my feeders and literally destroyed them. Have been unable to find any feeders the squirrels can't penetrate and generally destroy.

Racoons occasionally tear up the yard looking for grubs, I guess. Always looks like someone was trying to sod the yard and their efforts went awry with huge clumps scattered around and left turned up.

NCmountainwoman said...

I also love the series. Great stories and wonderful views of the country.

It took a year for a squirrel to get at our suet feeder. Fortunately, our neighbors have more easily accessed feeders, so they don't come here in large numbers.

Loved the photos.

Denise said...

I remember Daryl reading All Creatures Great and Small. I never have, but now think that I should. This post is great and I'm sure you are very entertained by all "your" creatures.

Anonymous said...

Totally missed it on TV, but those were among my favorite books when they first were published. Great photos of your growing "collection" of critter.

RuthieJ said...

Those squirrels are always hungry and it looks like yours is pretty bold Donna! Mine very seldom venture close to the house, but I do have one brave chipmunk who thinks he owns one feeder on the deck.
I love that little feeder your goldfinch is sitting on--is it ceramic? Very pretty.
P.S. I enjoyed the "All Creatures Great and Small" series on PBS too. My mom purchased all of the James Herriott books and we enjoyed reading them while we were growing up.