Garden Mysteries and a Shrew

Squiggles on leaves?

Unplanned growth?

An underground civilization?

Mysteries abound!!!

I've decided to leave my raised garden in the backyard alone.  I've harvested everything that needs to be harvested, and it's time to let nature take over for the winter.  This doesn't mean I'm allowing it to go fallow, of course.  Aside from that not being very fun at all, it's not good for the soil.

My original idea was to plant some clover that could be turned over in the spring, but I suppose Mother Nature felt I needed a rest, because yellow clover has started sprouting on its own.

Leaves were left wherever they fell, because they'll
help feed the soil as they decompose.


Sweet!

I'll be watering the soil in the raised garden every now and then, but otherwise I'm just going to leave it alone.  As you can see, the area has been pretty dry lately, so I'll need to get that done ASAP.  Otherwise, though, I really will be leaving it alone... really.

Well, ok... not entirely alone.  

I'll be checking up on it in order to ensure everything is going well, but that, in and of itself, is pretty darned fun!

Naturally, I've already started.  Since Fall brings so much out into view that would normally be hidden, I'm able to see things that I otherwise couldn't.  For instance, I now have a full view of one of my resident shrew's safe zones.



I guess it's not very safe now, right?  And two entrances side by side?  I guess he's been working overtime!

I actually really love this shrew.  

When I first discovered him one evening, I was scared.  Being from the desert southwest, I'm used to hantavirus-carrying mice.  With this background in mind, I expected the worst possible diseases tracked throughout the yard by my little friend, and I was terrified.

Turns out, though, shrews can actually be a good thing.  A shrew is kind of like an insurance policy against mice... and other shrews.

Just as 'shrew' describes an antisocial and rather mean person, the mammal called a shrew is a loner, and very territorial.  Any other shrew that comes into its territory will be attacked.  A shrew will even attack her own young if they overstay their welcome by a day or two.

And they love eating mice... or any other small animal that strays too close.  

I mean, they eat other things, as well, but they're not very bothersome, over all.  Even the tunnel systems they create are short and shallow, unlike their close relatives, the moles.

If you leave them alone, they're perfectly happy to stay away from your stuff, coming out only to feed. If you bother them, though...

Their little jaws secrete venom.  

That's right.  Venom.  It's a neurotoxin that can kill small animals, and induce massive pain in large ones like us.  It's used to cause paralysis in prey, and acts as a pretty nifty predator deterrent, as well.

I believe they're the only mammal with the ability to do that.

And don't worry... there's no fear of any of us getting bitten.  Like I said, shrews keep to themselves.  Unless we actively try to pick one up, we're in the clear.  Their first defense, of course, is running away.

My shrew and I are perfectly happy with our living arrangement.  

The shrew keeps away any unwelcome pests, and I leave his home undisturbed.  We both appreciate this invisible contract we've made with each other.  He stops to let me see him some nights, as he follows his well-traveled trail back to his home (only while I'm standing far away on the porch, of course!), and I keep the dogs far from his path.

We're happy.

Living in harmony with nature brings new and exciting mysteries into our lives.






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