One of the trade-offs of growing -- how to put it? -- more mature, is that you may start having enough money to acquire some of the things you have worked half your life to get. In this case, we are talking about a place in the country, a weekend spot where we could get away from the traffic and get back to nature.
After years of looking, we found the place we wanted in the Shenandoah Valley. You can sit on the front porch and enjoy beautiful mountain views, look out over a gorgeous meadow and listen to the water from the creek that goes through it. The woman who owned the house told us we'd also see lots of deer.
We settled on the property in mid-April. I have yet to see a deer.
My husband, who spent summers on a family farm in his youth, reverted to his roots in a matter of a few weekends. The roots include a new pickup truck and a new rotary tiller and a new tractor. This place in the country was beautifully mowed the day we first saw it, but unfortunately meadows have a way of growing back again and, it turns out, they must be mowed again. And again. This place in the country also came with a huge vegetable garden that had not been planted for at least one season. Thus it not only had to be tilled once, it had to be tilled again. And again. There are no vegetables in it this season, but there have been deer in it -- at night, when no one can see them.
I am prepared to do the work that goes along with going back to nature as long as nature does her share in the form of providing us with some wildlife that we can enjoy. One morning while my husband and I were standing near the barn by the vegetable garden, my daughter the 11-year-old -- and the resident environmentalist -- came flying up the meadow in full cry. She'd been down by the creek. "I saw a deer!" she announced. By the time we got into viewing range, the deer was gone.
We installed a deer lick in the meadow. This is something you can afford to do when you don't have any vegetables in your vegetable garden. A couple of weeks later, my husband was there in mid-week and returned home with the news that he had seen a doe and her twins in the meadow. So far, those have been our only two deer sightings.
On a recent Sunday, we were headed home with my daughter and her friend, Julia. We were driving across the bridge over the creek when all of a sudden, Julia cries out: "Look! Ducks." There in the creek was a family of ducks. Nature had finally come through and sent some wildlife onto our place.
The next weekend, the ducks had vanished.
Instead, we had been visited by another kind of wildlife. In the driveway and on the creek bank were what are referred to in polite company as bear signs. The bear had rested under some trees in a wooded area bordering the creek. This weekend he was by the barn and the vegetable garden that doesn't have any vegetables.
Nature was not providing exactly the kind of wildlife I'd had in mind when we decided to get back to nature.
Rain made plowing and bushhogging the meadow impossible this last weekend, so I got the idea that we should go and buy some ducks. The lady at the co-op suggested we try the fair, so we went across the mountain to the fair and discovered that the poultry exhibit wasn't set up yet. We bought a copy of the Valley Trader, however, and found a classified ad for ducks. Off we went in the pickup down the interstate to the duck breeder's house.
He had four white ducks he could sell us but only one box to put them in. We put two in the box, cut holes in it, stuck the box with the ducks in the back of the pickup and went back over the mountain. We took the box with the ducks to the creek bank, my husband took them out and we tried to get them to go down to the creek. The ducks were covered with mud from the pen where the breeder had kept them. They also aren't very bright. They kept making a racket and going in the direction of the house.
Finally my husband picked one of them up and headed down to the rocky slope toward the creek. Part of what he said to the duck at that point was, "If I break my leg getting down here, you're going to be dinner tonight." He called back to my daughter to pick the other one up and follow him. She did. Later on, we went back over the mountain for 50 pounds of cracked corn and the other two ducks. They weren't any smarter than the first two and started off toward the house. My husband and my daughter picked those two muddy ducks up and carried them down to the creek.
I was much impressed by how my daughter the suburban child picked up the ducks. She did a great deal to bolster her qualifications as the resident environmentalist nudge. But it's also a good thing she was there to help: my idea of getting back to nature does not include picking up muddy ducks.