When my husband and I built a home on a parceled piece of farmland on the outskirts of Hillsboro, Oregon, we didn’t know what to expect. Still, I saged the property and asked permission to build. We saged it again (and the house itself) before we moved in. That’s my NDN influence. He dug a small, ceremonial hole in the ground and we had the contractors bury a silver coin in the foundation. That was his Indian influence.
It’s been eight months, and in that time we’ve come to welcome a bevy of wild animals that visit us daily. There are six skunks ranging from the massive Stanley to the tiny and skittish Spastic. There’s Daisy the deer and her fawn, who we let eat anything except the roses (those we put curry powder on to keep the deer away. It works). There are families of raccoons including Ruby and one of her kits, Tiny, who has somehow grown to massive proportions. There’s the solitary opossum, Pablo.
The first time we really noticed the animals was when one of them was on its hind legs staring intently at us through the French doors leading to the back yard. We were sitting on the couch five feet away. He (Rancho) seemed equal parts interested and confused as to what we were doing on his property.
That’s the thing—it’s not “our” property. We may have bought it, we may have built a house on it, but we call the animals our “Land Lords” and pay them in a variety of ways. And, like many relationships, there’s give and take on both sides.
Here’s what I’ve learned from the animals:
- Stay curious, but not reckless. Many of them are very interested in us and peer through the glass doors throughout the night. Still, one movement too fast on our part or strange sound sends them rushing to protect themselves.
- Who or what’s in the cage is all relative. To them, I imagine they think to themselves, “Let’s go by that one house and see what the caged humans are doing.” No wonder it’s terrifying if we go outside when they’re present. They likely think we’ve escaped.
- Reserve your most aggressive defense for last. Contrary to popular belief, it takes A LOT to get a skunk to spray you. That’s their only serious defense against a threat that’s their size or larger, but they have other strategies to try first—like stomping their front feet. You don’t want to start out with all guns blazing.
- Just because there’s a shortcut doesn’t mean you have to take it. The animals have created three decent-sized passageways between the thick wildness in the farmland behind us into the clearing of our small backyard. Yet some of them still choose to scale the fence some nights.
- Don’t eat just because food’s there. They HATE bananas. I don’t know why. Eat the good stuff, and the items you like.
- Come early, stay late. That’s when the most interesting things happen.
- Pizza is worth fighting over. Once, and only once, we let them have leftover pizza. It was the only time the raccoons bared their teeth at us when they thought we were going to try to take it back.