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Archive for Sunday, April 4, 2010

Jest for Grins: Pesky critters make their presence known in springtime

April 4, 2010

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Easter may occur as early as March 22 or as late as April 25, but — whether Easter is early or late — spring doesn’t officially arrive for me until Easter Sunday. Sure, the crocuses bravely poked their purple and yellow blossoms through the last snowfall and the star magnolias are ready to burst into bloom. The pink catkins on the pussy willow are already going to seed, and the daffodils are in full flower.

Another sign of spring is that our picky bluebirds have selected the boxes where they will build their nests. Goldfinches are losing their dull green coloration in favor of bright yellow plumage. The season’s first red-winged blackbirds made an appearance at the bird feeders a couple of days ago. And robins started arriving a month ago, although those early birds hopping around in neck-deep snow looked pretty sheepish about it.

The fish are beginning to swim lazily in the water garden but I haven’t heard any frogs croaking. Sadly, each spring Ray removes frogs that actually croaked (physically, not orally) because they tried to hibernate in our plastic-lined water garden, instead of mud, and froze to death. One memorable spring we didn’t hear any frog songs, the result of a serial-killing snake with a taste for amphibians.

Further evidence that winter is on its last legs is Vic and LaDonna’s new little calves that are frolicking in the pasture behind us. Observing them from the deck, husband Ray and I noticed a mother coyote and her litter of five pups stalking the calves. I worried that they might hurt one newly born calf until they approached too close for the mother cow’s comfort and I was reminded of the time King, our German shepherd/husky pooch, decided to check out a new calf at Ray’s parents’ farm. One kick from the mother cow sent King hurtling through the top two barbwires of a fence. Fortunately, only King’s pride was hurt, but he learned his lesson well and never tried to approach another calf.

I’m not familiar with the breeding cycle of coyotes, but the pups may be another sign of spring. They are cute, especially when they hop around our yard trying to catch mice. They’re welcome to all of those they can find. Best of all, coyotes cannot scale the deck and raid the birds’ sunflower seeds like the coons do.

Ray thinks he has solved the raccoon problem by placing the feeders in a big plastic trash can at night. But coons are no dummies and the toothmarks in the plastic lid show they have made a mighty, if unsuccessful, effort to reach the feeders. In frustration, they leave poopy offerings on the deck, but they also did that when they were consuming expensive sunflower seeds at a rate of 5 pounds per night. I thought then they were simply leaving gifts to show their gratitude; now I’m convinced it is retaliation for Ray’s refusal to let them share the birds’ seeds.

The new growth and new life make spring the perfect time for Easter, my second-favorite holiday. As a child, I bought hook, line and sinker the idea that a big white rabbit hid chocolate bunnies and pastel-dyed eggs for my sisters and me to find. As a mother, I dyed countless dozens of eggs and, because both of our sons’ birthdays fall within the guidelines for Easter, planned many birthday party egg hunts.

To this day, one of my favorite rites of Easter is dyeing and decorating eggs and, yes, I still do that even though our sons are grown and our youngest grandchild lives in Missouri. This year I am dyeing them for our country critters. I asked Ray if coyotes ate eggs. He answered, “I don’t know, but coons will!”

So I’m going to place brightly colored eggs on the deck for the raccoons and hide others under the deck for the coyotes. If the coons don’t like my Easter surprises, I hope they won’t throw them at our house. I wouldn’t put it past them.

— Marsha Henry Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence whose latest book is “Human Nature Calls.”

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