Friday, October 31, 2008

Call Me Ellie Mae

Critters, I've got critters! Here at the ranch there are all kinds of critters. And, being in the desert southwest, most are unique to this part of the country. Since I have to co-exist with these animals, needless to say, I’m cautious, give them respect and plenty of distance.

There are javelina, which can be quite nasty. Reports of people being seriously injured and killed by large groups of javelina run through my mind as my little herd moves through the ranch in the early morning. I sit on the porch swing and watch them graze on cacti and fruit that has fallen from the trees. They "clack" their tusks when danger approaches. I'm not sure what danger lurks, but the "clacking" always precedes a hurried exit into the nearby thickets.

My first night here was spent lying in bed with my eyes wide open and the sheet pulled tight up under my chin. I wandered what in the hell it was that kept running along the upper deck - all night long! I finally got a glimpse of "it" the next evening. This creature had a long black and white tail and, of all things, very large purple eyes. What kind of hell-cat monster is this? Google reassured me though. It's a ringtail cat, not to be confused with the cotamundi, a member of the raccoon family. They eat fruits, berries, lizards and mice. Apparently, they are easily tamed, make affectionate pets and are great mousers. Okay, he can stay.

And, speaking of cats, there's the cougar or mountain lion. I haven't seen one here - yet. So, I've brushed up on my cougar safety. One expert said "playing dead" is not recommended. Another stated, "don't run". "They" tell you to face the cougar, keep direct eye contact and retreat slowly, backwards. You should also try to appear larger than life by waving your arms and make a lot of noise by yelling at the lion. To me, this says, "Here I am, come and get me". Then, to top it all off, not to mention really pissing the big cat off, "they" tell you to throw rocks at the lion. Uh, huh.

Reptiles! I discussed my loathing for rattlesnakes in my previous post. But, the gila monster is a deadly lizard. Their venom is as toxic as the rattler. Yes, I've seen one and it was beautiful. The good news is, I could probably out run it - even with my bad knees. And, I won't have to yell or throw rocks at it. They feed primarily on bird and reptile eggs and only feed 5-10 times a year. Guess I'll need to gila-monster-proof the chicken coop.

It's a wildlife paradise out here at the ranch. Lots of deer, rabbits, birds of prey, badgers and even a occasional bear sighting. All only add to the wonderment of this desert oasis. I have a great pair of binoculars and hope most of my encounters are only from the front porch swing. Move over Ellie Mae!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch...

For the past several months, my mind has been racing. How can I persevere during these tenuous economic times? I truly believe it's time we all take a closer look at our situations and decide what is important to us.

I remember wanting to "live off the land" as early as my teens. To find a remote piece of ground far from the maddening crowd. To build a modest shelter, grow my own food and live a peaceful life. During my college days, I subscribed to Mother Earth News and bought the Firefox collection to prepare myself for a life of self-sufficiency, but those dreams quickly faded as I joined the status quo and began a life of accumulation and bad choices.

I worked for coporate America, raised my children and then worked some more. However, after a merger, or, dare I say, a hostile take over, my company stock was devalued. I watched my retirement vaporize. This was going to make the difference for me in my elder years, the difference between eating real food instead of cat food. It's been seven years since I walked out on my mortgage banking career.

I dabbled in creating art pieces, I looked to friends for odd jobs until I was taken under the wing and mentored by a local tradesman (whom I later married and divorced, but that's another story) in the art of construction for five years. Then, lo and behold, the bottom of the housing market began to rear its ugly head. What the fuck? I can frame up a house, put it in the dry, install drywall and do the finish work. My skills are useless in this market. The past several months have been chaotic. I've been paralyzed by my circumstances.

One night, however, I was able to see through the fog enough to develop a plan. To live that simple life I had once dreamed of. I was excited. I placed ads and emailed friends seeking a care taking position and in less than two months I had a solid offer. A long-time friend needed a caretaker for his 93 acre ranch 50 miles north of Phoenix. This beautiful oasis sits deep in a canyon surrounded by saguaros and wildlife, plus a 40-ft waterfall when, and if, it ever rains.

There's a huge rose garden with blossoms as big as my fist. An orchard with every fruit tree imaginable including the largest fig tree I've ever seen. Just next to the large garden spot is the grape arbor. All I have to do is move the water hose around and keep a vigil over the large 2-story adobe house. The chicken coop needs some repair before I fill it with layers. And, I think I'll get a couple of sheep to help maintain the landscaping. Sounds perfect doesn't it? Well, it is, except for the god damn rattlesnakes. Jeez, I hate a fuckin' snake. I'm just waiting for the cold snap that will send them all deep into their dens until April. This will give me the time I need to walk around, make some improvements and prepare the garden for its bounty without having to worry about something slithering between my feet or rattling from a nearby bush.

Yea, me! My dreams and skills are now in place. I am comfortable and at peace.

  © Blogger template ProBlogger Template by 2008

Back to TOP