I was raking leaves the other day, before the temperatures here rose to Arizona-type levels in December.  It was still pretty cold and as I looked down I noticed that i had uncovered a little rat snake, all curled up in a knot and almost frigid.  I reached down an picked him up to move him to a safer part of the yard, he was cold. But before I put him back, I regarded him for a little while because snakes are so damn fascinating.  As he soaked in the warmth of my hand, he loosened up and started moving around.  Then we bonded.  The Dormouse came outside around that time and we just sat on the stoop and played with him for about an hour.  And then we loved him, and petted him, and called him George.

I sent The Dormouse in to grab my camera and macro lens and she got this amazing photo of him in my hand.

See? He's smiling.

Our property is a little tiny slice of Mid-Atlantic area forest and we've had quite a few not-so furry friends come around.

This guy was saved from the cats in our basement (and then I'm pretty sure The Dormouse initiated his death later by trying to give him water, but we turned him loose, hoping for the best - read: I have little hope).

I think we decided he was an Eastern Mole or an American Shrew Mole of some sort. He never fully resembled any of the photos we found, so we were pretty much guessing. I named him Burroughs.  

We've also come across our share of frogs, toads and other amphibians.  The Spring Peeper Frogs sing to us in the Spring evenings.


This Big Mean Snake threatened me on my deck one day after work:

But given a little size perspective, he turned out to be a worm.

We have actually found a whole host of snakes this year - all harmless - and I am the official snake catcher of the family because I want to keep them all and carry them around with me or perhaps wear them as jewelry.  I have an ongoing argument about this love of snakes with a co-worker who does not share my affection for them.  She found a snake outside in her yard - nowhere near the house - a few months ago decided the only logical solution was to call her husband and plead with him to come home from work early and deal with it immediately.  Then when he refused to leave early because he was already getting off work in another ten minutes, she went out to keep an eye on it, I don't know, in case it tried to infiltrate her family with a fake wig or something.  While she was watching, it started climbing a tree.  She called back her husband and explained that she could not wait ten minutes until he gets off work because, "IT'S LIKE THE BIBLE OUT THERE!!!!"

I sure hope she never experiences this:

I would love to have kept this guy as a pet, but we decided he needed to live in the back end of the yard where there is abundant food for him.  So we communed for a bit and then I found a tree for him to climb and perhaps tempt some naked lady with its fruit. 

This little box turtle we found in the back yard one day and I promptly named her (we didn't respect her privacy) Mitch because of this fantastic Jon Stewart reference.  Then we put her back in the exact same place we found her because I'd read that turtles have a very small habitat and if you move them too far, they have trouble finding their home again.  

We have not seen Mitch since.  I have continued to search and search, but despite repeated attempts to walk through the yard, staring at the ground while calling, "Miiiiitch... Miiiiitch.... Come here, Mitch!" she has not returned, as least as far as we can tell.  In possibly related news, my neighbors believe I am insane.

I do not have a picture of this one, but one night this spring, everyone else was asleep and I was up reading in the living room.  Suddenly the cats started running around in desperate circles in front of me. I looked up to where they were staring at the ceiling and found a little bat flying circles in the living room.  He finally settled down and roosted (is it roosted for a bat?) next to the chimney.  He was adorable, but refused to let me catch him and love him or even get a good photograph.  I was pretty sure he wasn't going to find his way back up the chimney, where I assume he came in, so finally I got a fishing net, opened the sliding glass door, and sort of just scooted him outside to freedom.  I call him The Count.  And we are now placing bat houses all around the property.

This Canadian goose family lived at the nature center in the neighborhood this summer.

I remember when I moved from Arizona to Oregon, I saw my first Canadian goose in the wild and it was so exciting to me and fellow interns.  It was almost like catching a glimpse of a tiger for us.  Now I live here and they are like stray dogs.  They are everywhere and you are constantly stepping in their poop left on your lawn.  Still, when I see them, even at the cemetery where the ground is a goose poop minefield and they chase and hiss at my kids if they get too close, it makes me happy.

There are also fish living in that pond.  This one still lives, because we catch and release. 

Much like geese, I am enamored by the deer in this area.  I know most people hate them.  But I love that an animal like that can still live mostly near where we humans have taken over their habitat.  I have this argument with a co-worker because they eat her plants and I couldn't care less if the deer eat my plants as long as I get to see them hanging around my window in the morning.  My co-worker has informed me that she often goes out on her deck and yells at the deer, "Get out of here, deer. Go over to the Underground House, they like you there!"

The KingofHearts and the Shortlings have this half-baked idea to get the deer to donate their antler sheds to their crafty cause.  What this means is we are feeding the deer like stray cats.  And what that means is the deer are now treating us like stray cats would.  The other day, The KoH was out in the yard and he heard a crunch, crunch, crunch sound in the leaves.  He looked up and saw a group of deer staring at him from the trees. Expectantly. Waiting. He took a step toward them and they scattered.  Then a few minutes later, from the other side of where he was working he heard crunch, crunch, crunch  again.  He looked up and found that the deer had circled around and were trying to approach him from the other side.  That's when he realized he was standing next to the trough where he'd been putting the grain for the antler shed trap and the deer were trying to get to their breakfast.  He sighed, went over the fill the trough with grain and went inside while the deer enjoyed an uninterrupted meal.

Then about a week later, we came home to this:

So now I have to keep the bird bath full all winter long.

Welcome to Underground where we have officially enabled the neighborhood deer.