On sprawl, and standing your ground

[photo by skrewtape]

The deer aren't running away anymore.

They're only stepping back far enough to reassess the situation.

When I was reporting for the Chicopee Herald from 2000-2003, I understood sprawl primarily as a "white flight" phenomenon. It goes something like this. "OMG! People who look different from me are moving into my neighborhood! I'd better go build a house a little further out from the center of the city and bring my good neighbors with me!" And then every few years that would keep happening.

That's why houses and acreage grow as you move away from cities. If you want to keep people out of your neighborhood, price them out. When you get too far from cities, everything else is just farmland, because nobody wants to drive two hours to get a haircut. Or socks.

My neighborhood abuts a wooded area, and it's growing. The neighborhood, not the wooded area. In fact, this whole neighborhood was wooded, not too long ago.

We had a tree taken down last year. It took us 18 months to get it all cut up. At first, I thought it was inexperience with a chainsaw that had me dropping chains. Then I called in a friend, and he had the same problem. Then I brought in a pro, and he dropped 3 chains in the hour and a half he was here.

It turns out that tree was full of bullets – it had been here close to 100 years before roads and houses were put here, and that tree was probably some combination of target practice and innocent bystander on deer hunts. No matter, it just absorbed the ammunition and grew around it.

Back to the deer.

About two years ago, I took a walk out to the fourth block of my street, which had been clear cut, but had not yet had pipe or wires laid and had not been paved. There was a deer out there, grabbing some of the last of the season's grass. I waited while it ate, and then I wandered back toward the houses, leaving the woods to the deer.

The pipes have been laid now, the street is paved, two houses are up, and National Grid has been down there for a few hours each day to get electricity and gas lines out there.

Last fall, we had some deer in the yard snacking on our bushes and resting in the ivy (seriously guys, eat all the ivy you want). When they saw me taking photos from inside the house, they retreated toward the back of the yard. I didn't dare try to get outside to take photos.

Over the summer, the deer have come back a few times; I usually find out when I bring Rufus into the back yard and he gives chase. They usually just look annoyed, having to leave their spot. They would take off and go find another yard to lounge (and snack) in.

But last week, something happened that I haven't seen before. Rufus flushed a couple of deer from their resting place in the ivy, and they just hopped over the fence, and turned around. They probably figured out that one dog wasn't taking on three deer, and they just stood there, snacking on the ivy from the adjacent yard.

It felt a lot like they were starting to take a stand. Like they were saying, "You know what? You people just keep knocking down our home to build more homes and leave empty houses elsewhere. We've got nowhere to go, so we're just going to stay here. Do what you will."

We also see those deer in the yard late at night. I work until 3am five nights a week, and then bring Rufus out for a late-night potty trip. I've stopped taking him into the yard, because there are almost always deer back there [I wear a camper's headlamp when we're out after dark, and it reflects of their eyes].

If the deer are getting less scared of predators, and the catfish are hunting pigeons (not kidding, there's video there), we're clearly stepping on nature's toes, and she's not happy.

I am working to reduce my footprint, I hope you'll start to do the same. I'm not ready for catfish to come knocking on my door or for deer to come light my grill, and I think we're headed in that direction if we keep invading their homes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

Post Navigation