Ravenous Bears, the Tree who Lived, and Other Earthfire Stories

Face of a grizzly bear

Ravenous Bears

21 September. The bears declared that they’re starving today. It is a few hours before the fall solstice and they are complaining loudly. Food! They will have to be fed first before anyone else now—and three times a day—or we will hear about it. Have you ever heard a bear roar in protest? It is not a pretty sound. Poor sweet things. They sound ferocious, and because of their size we take it very seriously. But really, they feel like desperate infants crying their need out to the world. The physiological pressures and urges are huge. If they don’t get enough food, they won’t make it through their winter hibernation. Here, they depend on us, and we heed their calls. In the wild, as we shrink their habitat and climate change takes away their food sources, they are not so lucky.

AHHHH—after a huge feeding, eaten at an amazing pace, I come back. Where are they? I look more carefully. They are each sacked out in a corner, relieved, digesting, satisfied… for a few hours…

The Peaceable Kingdom

Our ancient rooster is still hanging in there, week after week going into month after month. His arthritis medicine seems to be helping greatly. Sitting in the sun in front of our office is one of his favorite things. All our animals know he is special and to be left alone, including Zak our German Shepherd.

German shepherd dog sits on a porch next to a black and white rooster
Zak the German Shepherd rests peacefully with the old rooster • Photo by Earthfire Institute

The Tree Who Lived

It is an interesting thing – life just wants to live. Some years ago, we were buying trees at a nursery for our new Wildlife Garden. The owners threw in a tree for free: “I tell you what, I’ll give you this one – I don’t know if it’s going to make it.” The root ball had been half torn away and the roots badly damaged.

Jean's drawing of the tree
Jean's drawing of the tree

A forester who was along at the time said, “Don’t bother. It won’t make it. Its tap root is broken. It’s not worth the trouble to transport and plant it.” Jean didn’t listen. He thought to himself, “If I take it, it won’t be lost among all these other trees like it is at the nursery. I will look after it every day.”

Pine Tree
The pine tree today • Photo by Earthfire Institute

This is the tree now, one of the tallest on the property, full of pine cones and vitality, beloved of the birds.

Ah, Mice...

So naturally, as the nights get cooler, the myriad mice that live outside look out for their comfort. They have a cozy barn with straw—and a heat lamp for Adrianna the goat, Sally, Hilda, and the rooster for cold nights—but they prefer the office. They have moved in. I swear they like the company as well as the cream in my tea. Yesterday it was reported that in my absence there were two mouse bottoms on the rim of my beautiful Austrian ceramic tea cup, noses deep in the cream floating on the surface. When I returned, I immediately got on the phone and Sally, our office manager, urgently slipped me a blue sticky note—“Don’t drink your tea!!” Busy, I ignored it and she thrust it further under my nose….

Apparently after their first drink it was clear they remembered the taste sensation, because despite being shooed away, they would creep back over and over across the back of the desk to exactly where the tea cup had been (I like organic heavy cream in my tea). Secure in the knowledge we won’t kill them, they get increasingly bold. Sally complains—but she secretly feeds them almonds, because they are so cute when they eat them in the middle of the office floor.

Field mouse
Field Mouse • Photo by Rudmer Zwerver (shutterstock.com)

Cute or not, they can’t stay in the office. I baited our “tin cat” live traps with bread and Muenster cheese stolen from Jean’s sandwich. Nothing. Next I tried expensive Cambozola cheese, well-ripened. No mouse. Desperate, I drove to town and bought organic crunchy peanut butter. In one hour I had seven mice. By the next morning there were three more….

In the book Pleasurable Kingdom, author Jonathan Balcombe writes, “Evolution and the experience of pleasure work in tandem to promote survival. This applies to food as it does to play, sex and other important survival activities in the feeling organism. As it applies to monkeys and minnows, so too, rats and lizards. My rat Rachel and her pals may have brains and senses ‘wired’ to dive for the peanut butter cookie first. But they do so not merely to obey some ancient calorie-loading instinct. They grab the cookies because it tastes good.”

Baby Squirrels Tend to Grow

22 September. The squirrel’s eyes are open now and we are in trouble….

Baby Squirrel
The Baby Squirrel • Photo by Earthfire Institute

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