Cheryl Kimball's Nature Talks: Cherish the natural world around your home

By CHERYL KIMBALL | June 23. 2017 10:26PM

This porcupine tends to head to the woods just before dusk and returns to under the barn before dawn all year round. (Courtesy/Cheryl Kimball)

A REAL ESTATE AGENT recently told me that large properties with outbuildings and acreage typically come up for sale when aging owners get weary of caring for such a place. It made me wonder if I could ever leave the natural world I have come to know here. This is a letter I might compose to the next owners of our place regarding things I think they need to know:

Dear Next Owners,
Do not cap the four-flue center chimney. One flue is home every year to chimney swifts. We have come to enjoy the soft beating of their wings high up in the flue, the loud cheeping of the hatched swiftlings, and the occasional rescue of a fledgling from the (unlit after mid-May … ) fireplace who will, by the way, scamper back up the chimney wall to mom. Swifts winter in Peru — I have never been to Peru even though I can fly there in a few hours on a jet plane. Any tiny bird that flies all that way should be welcome to live for a couple months in this chimney. And do not believe the cries of alarm from the chimney sweeps — no one living in this household has acquired any bird diseases from the swifts in 24 years.

Porcupines live under the barn. The one who has been living there for a few years now tends to head to the woods just before dusk and returns before dawn all year round. Learn their habits and keep your dogs in the house for these two short periods a day. This is not rocket science. Don’t shoot them. Humans do not need to shoot everything that we deem a nuisance. Typically, we are the real nuisance.

Big Ears the white-tailed doe and her grown offspring hang out in the small island of dense trees beyond the horse paddock. Most years I get treated to a viewing of a sweet fawn, sometimes two — those fawns potentially hiding in the tall grass mean you should not mow the grazing area until at least after the Fourth of July. I talk to them as they graze in the evenings watching me feed the barn animals. They clearly feel safe here. Please continue to make them feel safe and welcome.

When we first moved here we tried several non-lethal means to drive the huge bat colony out of the barn. The bats had been here a long time and were not budging. We just learned where they gather and we keep things out from under their droppings area. The population has dwindled as bats have had issues diminishing their colonies, but some are still here. As you sit out on the hill by the barn and watch the birds and wildlife, just think about how many thousands more mosquitoes there would be if the bats weren’t swooping around.

Turkeys are abundant most years but this year it has been just a lone hen wandering around. Well, I thought she was alone until I saw a couple poults following her the other evening, so there must have been a tom somewhere. Mice are also in abundance — I have live-trapped dozens and walked out to the field and let them loose. I even leave a handful of cat food as a “starter kit.” About once a year two flying squirrels peer down at us from the rafter in the dining room. A trip to the attic did not reveal noticeable rodent damage so when they do appear, we simply say hello. A group of four absolutely ginormous ravens are on the front lawn most mornings; I occasionally put a whole raw egg out for them. A pair of owls like to make strange noises outside the bedroom window at night, as does a pileated woodpecker early in the morning. The squealing of hawks is the audio backdrop most days.

These animals are all just trying to get through the day like the rest of us. They and their kin have called this place home for longer than I have — it is their home as much as mine. I have considered it a privilege to share my life with them and I hope you, the next owner of this property, will too.

The Current Owner

P.S. I forgot to mention the snapping turtles. You’ll need to stop traffic to help them safely cross the road around June and September. It’s a big responsibility living closely with nature, but it’s worth it.

Cheryl Kimball is a freelance writer who lives north of Rochester. You can email her at
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