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Ode to the Field

Published: 9/8/2010
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By Maddy B. Gray


When summer slips towards fall, nostalgia starts knotting my throat. The wonders of Maine’s warm season are fading. I want and need to cherish them and hold them close, as if they were the heating pad to get me through winter.

Sure, there are savored memories of riding and camping with friends. And the small ‘ aha’ moments with better riders and trainers. I’m especially happy with the improved rapport between me and my horses. (Didn’t get tossed this season – yahoo!)

But what I find myself cherishing most are the quiet moments at the field and the coexistence of me, my horses, and everything else out there buzzing around:

I approached the field one evening and started walking through the knee-high grass. Ahead of me, a dozen mature turkeys quickened their pace. Their heads matched the height of the tallest grasses. Their heads seemed to bob along the top, like rosey, grey golf balls floating on the field’s surface. It was surreal.

On another day, I caught up with a porcupine as he was bumbling across that same field. I was thankful that he hadn’t traipsed into my fenced-in area. The girls probably would have felt the need to investigate. And then I would have been investigating a muzzle full of quills.

By the end of July, the field was starting to fill with scads of newly fledged baby birds – sparrows, bluebirds, swallows. The fence, of course, was where they perched and called for their parents: “Feed me! Feed me!”

On that same fence, I often saw a kestrel. I love raptors and the kestrel is one of my favorites. He was probably eating those lovely songbirds. That’s life, right?

I just love cowbirds. There is something beautiful about their plainness. And the way they cling to horses. It’s an instinct that’s amazing to observe.

Mr. Woodchuck and I had several close encounters. He took up residence in the woodpile near where I park my bike. (I bike to the field. Leave the bike. Ride horses home. Then bike back home when I drop the girls off each morning.) Mr. Woodchuck was unfazed when I checked out his digs. Three feet separated us and he stared me down, like I said, unfazed.

Deer tend to move into the field by late afternoon. I don’t know what they feel about the horses or what the horses think of them. But I get the sense they like each other’s company.

At night, when the horses are back with me at the barn, I often hear coyotes. I love coyotes. But I wouldn't want to see them track down one of my girls. Later in the month, they got that porcupine, by the way.
You can have your reality shows. Life in the field is my kind of Real World.


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9/8/2010 Anne
I too love seeing other creatures in my pastures but only when they mind their manner and leave my fence intact! Listening to the coy dogs is nice...seeing them, not so much. I admit to having to Google 'kestrels'. So that's what those birds are called!
9/8/2010 Carole
Maddy, I loved the bike idea! Your observations about the other creatures you encounter were a treat to read, wonderful photos! We have many blue bird families and we actually raised a porcupine that a neighbor's dog brought home, umbilical cord still attached. I hate to recall how many quills I have pulled out of curious horses, but in many decades, I've only had to get the vet twice! You don't have to worry about coyotes if they are not hunted in your area. When coyotes are allowed to have a stable population, there will only be one female who breeds in a very large territory. All other coyotes stay out. All others in that territory will not be fertile and they will not engage in aggressive behavior. When the alpha breeding pair and their family is hunted, the territory is destroyed, all of them become fertile, and they can behave differently- that is, fear and hunger become the dominant force. Years ago, I watched my filly and a coyote in the pasture. She trotted to it and it put it's paws on the ground and wagged it's tail like a dog who wanted to play! They took turns chasing each other for a bit and the coyote went back to mouse hunting and my filly went back to grazing. An unforgettable moment! Still, I never did leave a small foal out at night. Everyone is an opportunist, after all.
9/9/2010 TJ
Maddy I loved reading this piece, it allowed me to relax, reflect and gaze into my back field here in Ipswich for a moment.

   
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