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I work in the Southwest Corner about half a day, twice a year. Mainly, I just pull up the Old Man's Beard, a wild annual vine that would like to strangle every shrub in the yard, and cut down the hackberry saplings. Wild carrot grows down there, too, and it needs to be pulled up before it has a chance to form burrs - that is, before it goes to seed. I also pull up the miscellaneous weeds and grasses that force their way up between the bricks in the path, and then I rake and sweep the path.
It is pleasant work, if slightly strenuous. It is breezy back there, situated next to a small open meadow by the ravine where the hillside drops away. It is a quiet spot, secluded even from our own house and yard. It was once very sunny and exposed, but as the trees have grown up, it has become shady in the summer. The trees are deciduous, so it is still sunny in the winter. The stone bench can get quite warm on the right winter day.
I was admiring the Southwest Corner one day when it dawned on me that I was looking at a den. It started as a compost heap where I piled branches and armloads of weeds. I stack it up, and it slowly slumps down to a mound.
At the base of this warm-weather igloo is an entryway supported by some dried bamboo canes and covered over by a mat of dried vegetation. It occurred to me that with every deposit of garden detritus, I refreshed the insulation on the roof. This must be a nice little house.
Whose? I ran through the possibilities, looked them up in a book and did a spot of research on the Internet. Coon, possum or ringtail? I think Armadillos live in the ground. Could be a skunk house, but I think I would get a whiff if it were.
A family of raccoons used to camp out in the back of Norma's yard. You could tell when they came around because her dogs would go nuts. Norma saw them herself several times, when she went out to see what the rumpus was. Maybe they moved to this more peaceful location.
There is great information on a Web site called the Wildlife project. There's a good suggestion: sprinkle flour and look for tracks (which are easily identifiable). But even that might be a bit disturbing. I am glad to have this guest - resident - and hope she stays. No wonder our peaches disappear.
Next: The Resident
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The Year of the
The Year of the Night Animals