Thursday, September 4, 2014

Take a Hike, Summer

Despite it being hotter than normal this week, the animals seem to think fall is here.  We've got clouds and storms moving in and it should cool down quite a bit.  I'm aware of this because I have been looking at the weather forecast, but the wildlife seems to know it by other, more subtle signs.  I've seen a lot more animals coming out around dusk.  A few days ago we spotted a baby king snake slithering around the haystack.  I heard the sound of a snake moving quickly under the tarp, so I carefully lifted it up, expecting to see a rattlesnake, but I didn't see anything.  Then my husband pointed out this little, tiny, adorable black and white striped snake trying to climb up the tarp.  I've also seen dozens of lizards of all varieties, more butterflies, and way more coyotes and rabbits than usual.

Some nights there are as many as six toads trying to get into our garage.  This robust boy has been getting fatter on all the insects our driveway lights attract.  He can barely hop anymore.  I have to nudge him along with my foot.

I think I need to video tape him and create a brand called "Grumpy Toad".

One morning this past week I walked into the garage and was startled by loud noises.  Someone or something was in the garage.  I ran back into the house and locked the door, imagining a mountain lion or burglar rustling around in there.  The dogs needed to pee, so I took them out the back door and ran right smack into a very sick toad struggling to hop out of our garage during the day.  They are nocturnal, and I suspected this toad had been locked in there long enough to go too long without food and water.

The toad ended up huddling under bush and despite the dogs poking at it, it didn't feel well enough to move.  So, I turned on the hose, soaked both the toad and the ground around it with water, and that gave it enough energy to move to a safer location.

Last year when a toad got locked in our garage, it hopped into my mop bucket to suck the last little bit of water out of the bottom of it, and then died in there.  It probably sucked up some Mop & Glo right along with the water, and that didn't help matters.

Also, I learned to never stalk a mama coyote.  A lot of people are afraid of coyotes, but I've been around them my whole life and have never seen them behave aggressively toward humans.  I had them nearby when growing up in the hills of Southern California, I had then coming around when I lived in the foothills of the Eastern Sierra in Nevada, and now I see them regularly in the deserts of Arizona.  They just do their own thing, and my experience is that they either are afraid of people or they ignore people.

So, one evening I was dumping the manure wagon when I saw a mama coyote come through my backyard with three child-sized coyotes.  I was surprised to see them stop nearby and lay in the shade of a tree.  Two of the children began wrestling while the third was sniffing around an old log.  I was curious as to how close mama would let me get before reacting.

I slowly creeped up closer and closer, and each time mama coyote looked at me, I froze.  She clearly recognized this as unusual human behavior.  Then I began hearing an odd noise like a dog's stomach pumping as if it were going to vomit.  I thought one of the puppies was sick, but when I looked at all the coyotes, none of them were heaving.  The sound soon changed to more of a pig snort and I thought maybe there were some javelina in the bushes or down in the arroyo.  My hair stood on end at that point, because if a wild pig charged me, I was a long ways from shelter. 

Still, seeing javelina is something that's been on my list of things to do in Arizona, so I creeped even closer to the sound.  Suddenly, the mama coyote jumped up and ran down into the arroyo and her kids followed.  I stood on the edge of the cliff looking down for the source of the pig snorts, only to have them turn into warning barks.  It was the mama coyote making those noises the whole time.  She was quite the ventriloquist, throwing these sounds out without moving her own mouth so that I thought they were coming from another direction.  She moved toward me while barking, so I backed off and returned to my chores.  Based on that experience, I figured that coyotes can be aggressive toward humans if need be, and of course, there's always the potential that a coyote might have rabies, so I recommend just watching coyote pups through binoculars and telephoto lenses instead of trying to get up close.

I'm so ready for summer to be over.  It definitely wasn't as hot as last summer, but the heat messes with my schedule.  My body wants to sleep in, but I can't because I have to get up at the crack of dawn to feed and clean before it gets too hot, and so that the horses are fed so that people can ride them before it gets too hot.  Then I have a very small window of time to feed and clean again right after the sun sets and before it gets dark, which is another good time to ride, and both can't be done at the same time.  If I oversleep and end up going to the barn when the sun is blasting down, I find that I just don't have the strength and energy to do all the chores.  Many times I have to decide between chores, because I can't do them all at once.  On the hottest days I have about a 15 minute time limit before I start getting weak and sick. 

I want my freedom back, and a drop in temperatures should do the trick.  The horses have developed some bad habits due to my inability to dot my i's and cross my t's while doing barn chores in the summer months.  Normally, I like to cut out all the pushing and shoving and kicking and biting at meal times by locking everyone in their stalls.  But that means I have to come out two hours later to let everyone out of their stalls, and as far as mornings go, I often get too busy and forget to let the horses out.  As far as evenings go, I'm usually in bed sleeping two hours after feeding the horses.  So, I just stopped locking them in their stalls, and now they are all acting like rude pigs stealing each other's grain and hay, even though everybody got the same thing.  The grass is always greener in the other horses' feed barrels, I guess.


Crystal said...

I can't even imagine living where its that hot in the summer, we got a lot hotter than usual here this year but still nowhere neat what you get.

That is one fat toad! I could use him here to eat all our mosquitoes but he'd die from fatness, lol

achieve1dream said...

Ugh the older I get the harder time I have with the heat. I used to love the heat. Now I do things after dark in the summer. Can you not be outside after dark because of venomous wildlife? I don't know much about the desert.