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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: June 28, 2018

The Neighbors

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



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On Saturday evening, June 16, I crossed into Wisconsin near Hudson accompanied by our four much-loved felines, who after 13 hours in the truck were not feeling much love for me. I was on the final, exhausting trip to our new home base in Wisconsin, and very much looking forward to a night in the familiar bed of our camping trailer. There had been fitful rain the last hour of highway in Minnesota, but as I reached the soil of what I call the "Motherland" a beautiful rainbow appeared, I swear to welcome me home.

The first week on our property has not disappointed. While the days are busy with contractors, cranes, bulldozers and truckloads of fill, the nights are peaceful. We are set well back from the gravel road we live on, and the only sounds we hear are those of our new neighbors; the birds, insects, amphibians and animals who call this land home as well.

I have been astonished at the wildlife encounters we have already had. There are deer, seemly everywhere. We see them crossing the road, our driveway, and hear them crashing through the woods when we walk the dogs along the road. A mother turkey put her nest in the naturalized area last used for crops two years ago " unfortunately near the area of the septic system. While clearing the area with the brush hog to prepare it for the contractors, my husband noticed her in time and avoided mowing that area, but sadly, two days later, apparently a raccoon discovered the nest and broke and licked clean every eggshell. I feel badly we probably contributed to this sad outcome.

Last fall we were delighted with the amount of life and activity in this naturalized area " full of what some would call weeds, four feet high, there were numerous flowering plants. The result was a swarm of butterflies and bees preparing for migration or hibernation, and flocks of birds. We plan on maintaining much of this area as it is now, so we can continue to enjoy this late season feeding frenzy. While it may not contribute to a tidy appearance of our homestead, it will be an oasis in this area of high crop cultivation and dairy cattle pasture for our new neighbors.

The sandhill cranes that were nesting on the pond I call Hank Lake are still here " we see and more frequently hear them. I have not yet spotted a youngster but I hope their nesting efforts were successful, and love sharing the space with them.

While walking the trail to the pond early one morning Mike found the unmistakable evidence a bear had proceeded him down the trail. Mike has actually seen it, and while I have not, I look forward to doing so.

We've spotted, while not actively bird watching, dozens of species of birds, many that I've not seen in years. Last evening we watched an angry and territorial redwing blackbird actually crash into one of the sandhill cranes deliberately while trying to drive it away. This was truly a Sampson and Goliath matchup, but there is no doubt the little blackbird was making his point known. And some sort of territorial bird, we are not yet sure what kind although we have video of it, has repeatedly attacked its own reflection in the windows of our car. He beats his wings angrily against the window on both sides of the vehicle for hours. The car is streaked with bird droppings and there has been no sense in cleaning it, as the bird has not declared a truce.

Yesterday afternoon Mike noticed a hummingbird that had entered the barn and was trying to find its way out the skylights. I later saw what I at first took for a shrew on the gravel inside, and found the tiny bird. It was alert and seemed undamaged but it did not resist when I picked it up, so I put it in the shade outdoors and it later was gone. Perhaps all it needed as a rest from the frantic struggle to escape " it was amazing to see how tiny it is, mere ounces of brilliant green feathers.

Last night we sat with friends outdoors and listened to the nighttime songs of new neighbors the tree frogs, birds and some sort of yipping none of us could identify. The sounds that were missing, conspicuously, were those of cars and people.

I have missed being able to watch and appreciate the wildlife that shares this planet with us, but I can't help wondering this morning, is it truly that this place is as special as I think it is? Or, having retired, my husband recovering well from his treatments, our Oklahoma home sold and settled in on our land; are my eyes, ears, and mind just finally reopened to appreciate what is usually all around me?



You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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