Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Reason I Didn't Have A Garden This Year... Meet Fernando And Felicia Fox

We have lived in the same house now for almost 25 years (never really a good idea) and I'd say I've had a garden almost every year, save for a few. This year I bought my seeds and plants and readied the garden for planting. Then, it happened. I saw Felicia and Fernando out in our garden (which is beyond the backyard behind the cinder block fence). Seeing this pair together is nothing new, as they have lived on our property for many years and foxes are monogamous unless one dies.

However, this year Felicia apparently felt secure enough to dig a den under the old playhouse out in the garden area, which is where she gave birth to four of the cutest pups you've ever seen. In the beginning when I first discovered (like 15 or 20 years ago) them on our property, I tried to get Animal Control to catch them. They cracked up and said good luck with that. It was then that I decided it was time to make peace with the foxes and learn to live in harmony.

They used to do almost as much damage to my tomatoes as the birds do until I figured out it was wiser to just plant a couple of extra plants for them, that weren't in cages. That seemed to work. They no longer worked their snouts through the wire cages to take nibbles out of my tomatoes.

Anyway, the foxes used to keep pretty much of a low profile until Felicia and I began our strange form of bonding, which goes pretty much like this: I sit on the patio in the mornings (during warm weather anyway) and drink my coffee, watching for hummingbirds. I'm looking up, right? Felicia (who thinks she owns our property now) is strolling down the sidewalk toward the patio, looking down. Kind of like foraging. At almost the same instant we realize how close we are to one another and momentarily freak out... both of us. I run into the house and she runs back to the garden.

When the next encounter presents itself, I'm sitting on the patio and happen to notice Felicia lying down on the cinder block fence, nearly hidden by the trumpet vine. She sees me and knows that I see her and we have have a sort of silent bonding, as it were. The next time I saw her she had moved a little closer and was lying on the sidewalk out by the backyard flower beds, quite comfortable with the fact that I was there as well. By the end of the summer it had become old hat to be in the presence of one another. Oh Yeah! We're tight, I'm telling you.

The next encounter was during an evening when we had our best friends over for dinner on the patio. During dinner I related my story of Felicia and Fernando and they suggested we go out to garden and see if we can see them. I agreed and we all walked out to the garden. To my shock and amazement, Felicia is there with four of the most precious pups I have ever seen. Our friends got so excited over seeing them that they were nearly beside themselves and sneaked quietly out to the garden again before they left to go home. I had only seen her pups once before, about 5 or 6 years earlier, so this was such a treat.

Anyway, Felicia got into the habit of letting the pups out of the den every day in the late afternoon and evening, so I'd go out every evening to take pictures (discreetly) over the fence. Once I saw those four little wild hooligans I realized why Felicia looked so emaciated. I'd been there before myself. Kids... gotta love 'em! But, they do wear us out and take a toll on our minds and bodies.

I had already decided to give the garden up this year just for the sheer joy of watching this little family and it gave me a great deal of pleasure all summer long. Now, a lot of people have cautioned me with a lot of their knowledge about foxes, but you must realize that Felicia and I have found a certain peace with one another. This is not a common occurrence but we take care of our critters at this house.... be they wild or domestic. Every time hubby shoots a squirrel with his pellet gun, he heaves it over the fence to the garden then goes out a few hours later to find it gone.

Felicia clearly thought, "OMG! This is manna from Heaven. I love these people!" We love her too. They have something like 10 or 15 dens on our property of which I've only found five. Now, Felicia and Fernando are pretty much hiding out for the fall and winter but gray foxes are all the same. They mate in late January to the middle of March and 90 something days later she has a new litter of pups. The litters usually range from 4 to 6 pups. The family all stays together throughout the spring and summer. The dad teaches the pups to hunt and the mom protects them. However, come fall, the entire family separates, with the mom staying in her local dens while the kids and dad go off on their own. The dad returns in the early part of the year and the cycle repeats itself. It's like taking a sabbatical from marriage every year, which sounds pretty damn good to me.

The funniest aspect to not having a garden is that this was the first summer I can remember in years that I haven't had back pain and had to constantly go to the chiropractor every week. Hello. I think I get the message...

I now know why foxes are so... well, foxy. They know when they are in danger and they know when they aren't. Felicia and Fernando know that they are safe here and they have never bothered my pets either, although I think my cat wants to play with them. Luckily, being an animal, the cat knows better than to attempt such foolishness. She might be crazy but she isn't stupid.

When I first started having a garden every year we didn't have things like farmer's markets or grocery stores that had divine organic offerings. Now we do. So, I think I might be done with gardening, backaches and horrid manicures. I think I'd rather watch the fox family at play, thank you very much!