Critters in the Yard

by on September 21, 2021 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Kathy Blavatt

Some people need to have a garden. I am one of those people. But as many gardeners know, you are only the caretaker,

It is a yard that  belongs to the critters. As the adage goes, “the chickens rule the roost.”

Gardens are small pockets of habit in an urban environment.

Every garden has bugs; that’s a given. Some bugs fly through or migrate to a garden. Some are seasonal, like those pesky June Bugs.  Others are permanent and multigenerational.

Life is abundant on the fennel plants as a Swallowtail Butterfly just came out of its cocoon, and caterpillars and ladybugs feed on the branches. These wee creatures pollinate the flowers, break down and enrich the soil, and eat other bugs and plants.

Gardens attract and harbor wildlife. Birds are the most obvious as they feed, pollinate, and nest in the trees and shrubs. Birds eat many bugs, small animals, fruit, and plants. These feathered friends add enrichment to the soil and seeds through their droppings. The birds of prey and owls help keep control of the vermin population.

Not seen quite as much are the larger animals that include a variety of mammals and reptiles. Sadly, you see as many of these animals as roadkill as you see them in yards, but there are healthy populations throughout the peninsula.

Speaking of healthy, a couple of weeks ago, just before sunset, I saw what I thought to be a dark-colored dog crossing the street in front of our house. On closer observation, I was amazed to see that the dog was no dog!  It was the largest, blackest opossum I had ever seen! Opossums intrigue me, and I have seen quite a few. This one was a giant among opossum.

Many times, when a mother opossum is run-over or killed, the babies will survive in her pouch.

A friend of mine who works with animals use to help rescue baby opossums called joeys.  I found out she did this when I walked into her room, and four adorable baby opossums were hanging on her curtain rod.

Another time, my friend took care of a tiny baby opossum (called a joey), which looked like a baby potato head with a small furless body, so ugly it was cute! I helped feed the tiny opossums a liquid diet with a long tube that went down its throat. The joey needed to be fed every couple of hours.

In the Spring, skunks like to mark my yard as their territory with their musk. They circle my home, heavily spraying their scent. Spring may be in the air, but it is hard to smell through the stench of the skunks!

Sometimes domesticated pets run into wildlife in the yard in which some exciting things can happen.

When dogs walk along my front yard, they often stop to smell the many scents. If possible, they break away for a quick run through the greenery or occasionally chase a cat up a tree.

The thing you must remember about growing your garden is that animals will be sharing it with you. If you are lucky, you will have loads of stories and memories of the fantastic creatures that spend time in your green paradise.

This pup loves to have a place to dig holes and play in the yard.

Friends ask my husband and me, “How long it takes us to walk to the Newbreak Coffee at the beach.” Our answer is, “It depends on how many dogs we stop to talk to.” We also meet many OBceans as we stop to greet the friendly dogs in the front yards.

One morning, when my two cats were still kittens and were starting to venture into the yard, I was amazed as I watched them leap in unison while jetting backward through the back doorway. As I looked out the door, a huge raccoon standing outside the door. This experience made the kittens leery of raccoons which was a good lesson for them have.

Pets love a nice yard especially dogs.

Many local dogs love a good yard party, and some seem to enjoy the music.

O.B. homes with yards, and rental properties that allow dogs, are coveted to go for a premium. Sometimes it seems there are as many dogs and cats in O.B. as people.

Many of my photos are of my cats lazing in my flower beds. My female kitty ZZ, frequently in the garden, was a nester. She was always nearby, watching me closely as I worked on the yard.

My male kitty Sweetie Petee is more  “I think I will lay down where you are digging… take a break… and how about petting me?”

Petee loves to scratch himself in the point of agave or anything pointy. Fortunately, he hasn’t poked out his eyes yet!

As much as I love the trees by outside bedroom, I wish Sweetie Petee wouldn’t climb them and meow at our window to come in during the middle of the night.

In many ways, the cats, including neighbors’ cats, rein over our yard. It is their playground, cat box, hunting range, and bedroom.  I love seeing them enjoy my little feline paradise.

ZZ peacefully napping among the Naked Lady Lilies.

This article is a tribute to my kitty girl “ZZ” who recently passed away at age 16, roughly 80-ish in cat years. I miss watching sunsets through the trees with her… and hearing her sweet coos and soft purrs. If you see me gardening and talking to myself near my fig tree, it  is likely I am chatting with ZZ  near her internal resting place in my garden.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie September 21, 2021 at 10:55 am

Sweet! What beautiful words, pictures, garden and author :-)


Michael September 21, 2021 at 7:32 pm

Nice article. We have a black Siberian named ZZ as well.


Michael September 21, 2021 at 7:35 pm

I’m sorry your cat passed. Looks like you had a lot of good memories.


Deb Porter September 22, 2021 at 9:35 am

What a sweet and informative article. thank you :-)


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