Thursday, July 30, 2009

City Critters

Ah to be naive.
When I first started my quest to produce veggies, flowers, and hopefully fruit in a little urban plot, I figured I would the worst I would have to contend with was a few unavoidable diseases, bad soil and maybe an occasional neighborhood cat passing through the yard. Boy was I wrong! Maybe it is our proximity to Fairmount park, a 9,200 acre park system that sprawls its way through Philadelphia (it has more land than the entire country of Monaco- 500 acres and Central Park- 843 acres! anyway...) and which our neighborhood is borderd on 2 sides by, about 3 blocks away one way and 6 blocks away the other way, besides the small parks and verdant university campus in between.
We have neighborhood cats. Every city seems to have them and they don't seem to cause too much trouble. They may even be keeping the squirrels and chipmunks from using my garden as a salad bar. I haven't figured out yet if a cat was knocking the birdbath over of if it was a opossum or 'coon. The opossums that pass through, which the dogs next door thoroughly enjoy harassing, were part of the reason that the fence needed repaired. On the plus side, one was kind enough to get himself into a bucket which he was too short to get back out of, and was promptly relocated by my dad a few blocks away down by the Schuykill river. One down 4 to go...(that we know of) Raccoons did kept a few of the mulberries from hitting the ground and stinking up the flower beds, of course the fact that they like to use my lettuce and snap pea bins as litter boxes kind of negated that fact, especially since all the seeds ended up in my flower beds anyway. Some bird mesh seems to be keeping that problem at bay. Despite the cats there are a few squirrels around, they like to plant peach pits in my pots in the fall. I'm not quite sure who's compost bin or trash can they are stealing them from... I have also found corn cobs, melon rinds and a few other choice bits of produce. Oh well, I just turn them in and make more compost out of them.
Some of the slightly odder things we have seen in the neighborhood include a turkey, waddling down the middle of the road just 2 blocks over. A pheasant, who knew they even still lived in the wild!? and a heron. That was really impressive, it was a great big blue one and flew over just about on my level, about 40' away while I was standing on the roof one evening. Must have been heading down to the river for dinner. We also get such a variety of song birds that I think I need to invest in a bird identifying book. So far I have seen cardinals, blue jays, robins, cackles, crows, sparrows, finches, wrens and mockingbirds! I think we also have a few woodpeckers in the neighborhood.
Sometimes I wish that I could take a picture kind of like and X-ray and have it reveal all of the animals living around us. It's amazing what living in a neighborhood surrounded by trees will hold, only to later let them wander through a supposedly wildlife free yard. And to think that I thought there was no wildlife in such an urban neighborhood!

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