August 25, 2009 | 2 Comments

Category: Auto-Biography

Marcia and I live in an old row house 12 blocks from Chicago.  The maple in our tiny backyard is massive, making it impossible to grow vegetables and fruits.  With the abundance of shade, Marcia attends to plants and flowers.  I miss growing pumpkins, strawberries and sunflowers.

We have six birdhouses, some with families.  The tiny sparrows emerged in late spring.  Looking out the back door one June morning, I saw a baby sparrow on a branch, a tiny bunny in the grass and two new squirrels beneath the bird feeder.  We keep the four bird feeders filled.  This draws lots of life besides the sparrows and finches.

Elia saw three raccoons on our steps at 3:00 a.m.  Two were tiny.  Possums wander through.  One May morning we were alerted to something unusual in the backyard when several squirrel alarms went off, a sort of clicking, squawking noise.  There was a coyote standing amongst the birdhouses.

The last place we lived, near Damen and Roscoe in Chicago, I dug up the backyard and turned it into a garden and tortoise run.  Five box turtles wandered amongst the strawberries, tomatoes and cucumbers through spring and summer.  I’d rarely see them, though I’d see their signature bites taken out of strawberries or ripe vegetables.  The backyard had a wildflower section that drew moths, butterflies, grasshoppers and large, exotic insects.  High fences kept our yard cat free.  Momma squirrels brought their babies to hang out.

The last year we were in Chicago, 13 years ago, one of the box turtles escaped.  A year later, after we’d moved to Evanston, we received a phone call.  A neighbor across the street had found our turtle in his front yard.  Harms Woody had made it about 30 yards in 12 months.  I can remember when I was a kid that one of my box turtles made it several blocks before he was found and returned.

In our backyard now are four turtles.  Yoshi has been with us almost 20 years.  They live all year in a tortoise pen buried in our garden.  They dig down in the fall to sleep from October to mid-April.  While they’re frolicking in spring and summer, we dump in fruits and vegetables left over from meals and give them worms from the leaf pile.  One of the bird feeders dangles above their weathered, four-story, ramped plywood home, causing several crops of millet and sunflower seeds to sprout and grow.

Maybe half my life I’ve had turtles.  They often enter my dreams.  There were times that we just let them wander around the house.  Sometimes I’ve had to give them shots to keep them healthy.  Once in a while one would lay an egg.  On several occasions we’ve picked up tortoises from children tired of the responsibility.  Several dead ones are buried in my backyards over 50 years.

Animals and growing things keep me grounded.  It being so easy for me to indulge in the abstract, I really miss having a place that I can garden.

So I encourage the turtles to eat and watch the baby critters grow.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 at 7:30 am and is filed under Auto-Biography. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
2 Comments so far

  1. sarah boardman-miller on September 8, 2009 9:24 pm

    how are the squirrels?

  2. Andrew on September 8, 2009 10:46 pm

    The two that had made themselves at home inside our home we caught and took to Harms Woods out in Skokie. Their relatives are less invasive, though in some ways more fearless. We occasionally find evidence of a squirrel that has got into the kitchen.

    Marcia is cured me of trying to tame them. They just fake being tame to lure me to let them come inside.

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