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Sharing Millar House with the locals

We moved into Millar House at the beginning of June. It seems that a lot of the locals have decided to make the property their hang-out spot.

A somewhat skittish groundhog is constantly appearing in the grass. When it sees us, it disappears into the nearest brush, though. Groundhogs aren't exactly quick, so we usually get a good look. As it turns out, she is raising a family in our yard - my dad took a porchtrait of them last week - so she has every right to be cautious until she gets to know us a bit better.


A young raccoon likes to take a shortcut across our back patio, around the side of the house and through the gate into the east garden. One late afternoon, he and I were abruptly introduced when I was opening the gate from the garden, just as Rocky was coming out. He stopped, stared, walked four feet, stopped and stared again. I backed about ten feet away to give him some space. He looked mildly irritated by my presence. I think he wanted to cross the garden in my direction, and maybe check out the tomatoes, but as I wasn't moving, he eventually lumbered across the garden and into the trees.

Since the back of our property is on the edge of a former mill-pond, we have a very healthy population of wild waterbirds. Just behind the house, several large flocks of Canada geese gather in the shallow water. They just seem to like to just hang out there and discuss their day. Every few hours, one of the sub-flocks will begin honking in preparation for taking off - they seem to be working through their pre-flight checks to make sure everyone is ready to go. A few minutes of intense honking later, the group will fly off - to raid a nearby farmer's field, most likely. We seem to have three or four distinct groups within the larger flock that come and go at all hours. When a group is coming in, they do a fly-over of their watery runway first. Even when the water is already full of geese, the incomers very rarely have any runway mishaps. I did see a near-collision once, which started a ruckus of honking. Must have been a young goose.


We also love to watch a Momma duck with her ducklings - all 11 of them! I have a feeling that she's adopted a few. Most of the time, the ducklings zip around randomly while Momma keeps an eye on things. When it's time to go, she gathers them all into strict formation behind her, evenly spaced in a perfect little ducky line.

About a week into our stay, we were standing with my mom on the front yard and noticed an apricot-sized ball of fur skittering around our yard. Another appeared - a pair of baby cottontails inspecting the newly-planted salad greens in the east garden. As we watched, the first bunny hopped off the curb onto the street, crossed over, and bumped up against the curb on the other side. The curb is only about 8 inches tall, but he just couldn't scale it! A minute later, his sibling started off after him, with the same result. Now, there were two bunnies stranded on the edge of the street. They wanted to get into our neighbour, Kate's, well-landscaped yard from ours, but the curb was an impediment.


Clearly an intervention was needed. My mom took the left flank, Beth took the right, and I slowly came up the middle. I just had to put my hands down on either side of the bunny, and he used the extra boost from my fingers to propel himself over the curb (with a few indignant squeaks). He waited on the grass a few feet away while we helped out his brother*, and the two of them hippity-hopped away across the grass. (*I actually have no idea if they are girl or boy bunnies.) The next day, the same pair did the same thing at the same time. Having had a pet rabbit, I know that they're creatures of habit. This time, the first bunny managed to scale the curb, but the second still had trouble. This time, though, he didn't fret at all when we helped him up. He even enjoyed a little pat behind the ears from Beth!


Beth also assisted in a turtle rescue. Just up the street, there is a bridge over a dam between the river and the pond. We were driving around the bend leading to the bridge, when I noticed a turtle - a very large turtle, about 12 inches in shell diameter - coming across the edge of the road. He slowly ambled across in front of us. Our car stopped the traffic coming from our direction, but we were worried that cars coming around the bend from the other way wouldn't notice the big guy in time to stop. Beth jumped out of the car and stood in the middle of the road to help stop the oncoming car. Of course, when the turtle saw her, he stopped moving and just glared at her. She tried waving her arms a bit behind him, but apparently you can't shoo a turtle. He started turning towards her and going the wrong way! Now, this may be the strangest part - a young man on a motor-cross bike zoomed up out of nowhere, jumped off his bike and told Beth, "Don't worry, I do this all the time!" He picked up the turtle and carried it across the road and down the bank on the other side. The turtle clearly didn't appreciate the assistance, and (unsuccessfully) tried to reach around his shell to to bite the fellow's hands. Clearly he was an experienced turtle rehabilitation professional and the rescue was completed without mishap.

On the third night, I went to bed pretty early, tired out from weeding the garden all day. My daughter's room is across the hall, and she was staying up a bit later. I was probably asleep before it even got fully dark outside, but an hour or two later I drifted up from a light doze to notice that the light was on in the hallway. As I was thinking about getting up to turn it off, a dark, silent, fluttery shape swooped in from the door to the hallway, circled the bedroom - with its 12 foot ceilings - and disappeared through the open door to the en-suite. Taking no chances, I scooted under the covers! After a minute or two, I reasoned with myself that it was probably just a shadow cast by the headlights of a car turning around in the park across the lake. Telling myself not to be silly, I started getting up to turn out the hall light. A shadow again flitted across the ceiling, this time from the en-suite and back out through the door into the hallway! I jumped out of bed and quickly shut the door to the hall. Her bedroom door was open, but I figured that Beth could look after herself (she's 18 and a little life-experience is always a good thing). Was it a little bat just taking care of the flying bugs attracted by the hallway light for us? A friendly ghost? A dream?


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