Wild things

Spiritual Smart Aleck


The first earwig of summer showed up today. It scampered out from under my blood glucose testing kit and was scurrying across the kitchen table at earwig top speed when it met with misfortune: I got all medieval on its fanny and brushed it over the edge. Earwigs give me the willies, with those big pincers on their heads, and they show up when I least expect them.
Earwigs do not respect my boundaries.

Nor do slugs.

I gave up on planting vegetables years ago. My yard is in a declivity in the west side bluff, surrounded by tall trees – firs, cedars, big leaf maples, and the horse chestnut that blocks off about a third of the sky in the summer. When I planted vegetables, I was merely feeding slugs and other plant predators, but mostly slugs.

I tried various slug remedies. The little containers of beer that they would fall into and drown were effective but disgusting to clean up, and the beer got a little expensive.

For a few days once, I went out with a paring knife, and stabbed slugs. I got a little sick to my stomach stabbing slugs. I felt like a Mongol horde, laying waste to the slug community. I felt like a monster. Worse, my slug assaults never seemed to make a dent in the slug population.

I read that if you put a ring of marigolds around the garden, the pungent plants would stop the slugs before they got in. So I went out and bought a bunch of marigolds and planted them around the garden.

Next morning – you have probably guessed or know from experience – the slugs had eaten all the marigolds. After that I stopped growing vegetables and used slug bait where I did not want slugs.

Earwigs, slugs, and then came the feral cats.

Around 1989 there was a feral cat city here in our ‘hood. Rick and I began trapping cats and having them spayed and neutered (with financial aid from VIPP. Thank you!) and then released. At the time some people thought we were loony, but this is a common method for controlling feral cat populations.

After we did that, the feral cat population in the neighborhood stabilized, and the cats were no longer wearing themselves out making kittens. They all died off after fifteen years or so, and in that time VIPP had taken over most of the kitten and puppy action here on the island, so cats were no longer dumped in the neighborhood. Now my yard is patrolled by Mr. Mellow, a tuxedo cat of charm and drool.

Because we fed the feral cats kibble in trays we put outside, raccoons became frequent visitors. That went on until the last feral cat died. A raccoon is a rare sight in my yard these days.

For years deer have jumped the fence and come into the yard to graze. I do not mind them grazing in the yard if they do not strip off my roses and leave naked little sticks.
Then there are the squirrels, and the crows, and the smaller birds, and the insects. Lots of wild things live or hang out in my yard.

Coyotes, I am told, live all over the island. In 2019, five separate packs were counted. I have yet to see a coyote on Vashon, but I know they are here.

I saw the cougar that lived here a few years back in security camera videos posted online. I have heard of sightings of other cougars on the island, mostly on the south end. I have seen bears, who, like the cougars and the deer, sometimes swim over from the peninsula. Bears do not seem to settle in here like the deer and that cougar.

In the 1970s, I saw nary a bald eagle here at all, but their population has recovered. They have been hard on the heron rookeries, I hear, but I see both birds in my rambles around the island and seeing either one gives me a thrill.

Herons are usually standing alongside or in the water.

Eagles are usually soaring overhead, although sometimes I have seen them sitting in a tree. Thinking.

Sometimes eagles are attacked in the air by three or more small birds. Plucky little vigilantes.
Random encounters:
One day while I was parked by the side of the road south of Burton, two otters came down the hill, dived into Quartermaster Harbor, and started coming up with fish.

A mink once came up out of the ravine here at the house and spotted me sitting on the porch. We both froze and stared at each other for a while, then the mink left.
Wild things.

They make my heart sing.
They make everything groovy.
Wild things.