More new normalness (with critters)

So it’s been about six weeks of being a writer full time. Starting to establish some of the patterns of life, but got a ways to go. And new things keep happening in strange ways.

Got up Friday morning when the body said wake up. Managing to sleep until 630 or 700 many days now, up from 400 for however many years. Shower, feed the cat, clean the litter box. The usual Kabuki with Kitty.

Then I open the curtains in my bedroom and surprise an elk, grazing in the septic drain field. The house is T-shaped, with the two bedrooms on the crossbar and a bathroom between them, so I’m looking at her down the length of the bar and across the driveway. Maybe 60 feet away.

Really awesome. I have an elk in the yard. Those are infrequent. Got deer I see way more.

She looks up and locks on me as the curtains open, so I wave. (I’m like that.) She goes back to ignoring me and munching grass.

Go to fix myself coffee and breakfast, but decide to spin the computer around to face the other direction today, so I can watch her graze. Big, majestic matriarch, from the looks of her.

About the time I have hot food and hot coffee, I see more elk in the yard. They come up the hill from my neighbor on the left, running along the railroad tracks below us, and then cross my hill because I have cut all sorts of trails in the blackberry and underbrush for my wife to enjoy.

At this point, I realize the whole herd is moving through, as I have her at the far right end of the septic field, with a couple of other females with her, and then I get to see the boys. Buck with at least five points (maybe six, never got a clean view of him and the pictures are not that clear either.) Younger buck with a pair of 16 inch spikes. And a yearling with a single, eight inch spike on one side of his head.

Mob, just happily grazing. At one point, I counted fifteen butts in view, stretched across the west side of the property, right where it starts up the hill to my landlocked neighbor. (She has a driveway easement, blocked in by me, railroad tracks, cliff, and wilderness preserve. Nice lady.)

I had been planning to empty the composting bucket that morning, but as the herd moves across and down the hill, four of them ended up by the composter munching grass merrily. Since they outweigh me, I figure they get the right to stay, plus I like having big critters about. (They don’t seem to like this particular salt lick, so I need to change flavors. Usually, they vanish faster.)

So, for about an hour, I had a herd of elk in my back yard. A whole, freaking herd.

Then, Saturday. Turned around at one point and saw a yearling deer in the septic field. Wander over to the window and check. He stays put and munches. About an hour later, I now have four deer. That’s the most I’ve ever seen at one time. Usually, Momma gives birth to twins and I see them gamboling about all summer. (She’s likely to give birth in about two weeks, if she’s pregnant. Not sure with this group.) After summer, they’ll split up, except they haven’t.

The usual group all winter has been a two-year-old pair of siblings, boy and girl, plus a yearling from last year that I presume is the younger sibling. This fourth one might have been Momma. She was bigger than the others, and had a healing scar on her left shoulder that I couldn’t have covered with my whole hand. Fabulous Publisher Babe (TM) suggested that an aggressive male might have bit or scratched her.

Dunno. Just enjoy my critters. Have two water troughs out for them, and a salt lick. Having deer and elk around lets me know that I do not have any large cats in the neighborhood. That’s important, considering how far out I live in the wilderness, with a railroad right of way and a wilderness preserve less than two hundred meters from a corner of my property.

Had problems about six years ago, when someone clear cut a major chunk of land about a mile away. One neighbor thought they had a rogue male black bear (the less dangerous kind that generally just kill trash cans) in the area briefly, but I’ve had nothing for a while. Odd possum. Saw that might have been a feral cat once. Lots of hummingbirds and other winged attitude problems.

Once I got my house built in the middle of the last big open space in this neighborhood, the predators have apparently moved on. I can have fifteen elk wander through and occasionally bed down. And I find all sorts of spaces for deer to hang out. Haven’t been hunting for big game in nearly fifteen years, and don’t really miss it.

Mind you, I grew up hunting birds every fall. Pheasant, quail, occasional dove. Had pheasant the other day for dinner, and realized it was the first one I had ever eaten that hadn’t been shot by me or my dad. That was a weird thing.  Turned into a hippy in middle age. Might still go after birds one of these days, but don’t know anybody around here with the right connections. (My dad knew EVERYONE, when it came to getting permission to hunt birds on their land, but that was a thousand miles away.)

Later, I might post some of the pictures I took of my critters this week. Look on my FB wall.

And I’m writing like hell, with the new normal. Wrote two stories this week, with editing and publishing work. And more coming. My pace has more than doubled at present, and I hope to maintain that all summer, when I have a lot of carpentry work to do.

But for now, I got critters to share the yard with.


shade and sweet water,


West of the Mountains, WA