Lain's Log

Raccoons, squirrels and birds, oh my!

May 9/11

Raccoons have gotten me into considerable trouble over the past few decades. Most people apparently hate them, but I love my “raccoonies” – and the same goes for birds and squirrels.

One spring, a very large female raccoon made her way into a crawlspace on our kitchen deck. She had given birth to one baby and brought the little one to that hideaway for safety and protection. I named the big raccoon “Mummy” and gave her food each day.

My husband and kids were very upset about this and did whatever they could to discourage me from this habit. (I’m putting it mildly here). But I couldn’t stop. For some reason, “Mummy” was an outcast. All the other raccoons despised her and she was frightened. One day, I noticed the baby had been badly injured. There were signs of a fight and appeared to be a bite on the baby’s back. “Mummy” was trying to tend to the injury. I called and reported this to an animal rescue place. They were planning to come and see the baby to help it, but after that day, the baby disappeared, and from then on, only “Mummy” came to see me, all alone.

One raccoon on the porch had an “encounter” with our cat, Tru

One evening, we had so many raccoons on the deck, we couldn’t believe our eyes!

My daughter Kate calls this photo - "Attack of the zombie raccoons"!

There are reasons for my love of nature’s animals, going back to the days when my grandparents, Mabel and Arthur Burridge, were alive and well and living at Century House, their beautiful antique store, north of Lindsay, Ontario. Century House was my favourite place in the whole world. As a child, it offered 22 rooms of fun, with weird little nooks and crannies everywhere you looked. And at Christmas, it was magical for my sister, Carrie and me. My grandparents would fix up what they called “the dormitory,” a place for Mum, Carrie and me to sleep in the back workshop. To this day, I’ve never had a better night’s sleep than in that cozy workshop. Like my raccoonie in the crawlspace, I felt safe.

Here’s a picture of Century House, (in its glory days), made into a postcard which was sent out to hundreds of antique lovers to advertise the shop. (You can click on it to enlarge).

My grandparents always had a bird feeder just outside the kitchen window. They would fill it to the top with seeds and then sit, have breakfast, and watch the bird show. They would laugh when squirrels climbed the pole to reach the feeder, scaring the birds and causing them to fly off in a huff.

Many years later, I was devastated to learn that Century House had burned down in a massive fire, but my memories of that unbelievable place will never leave me.

The end of an era

The great love of birds was handed down to my Mum, who owned many bird books to help identify which ones would come to her back deck. In her later years, as a senior, living alone, I can’t even count the number of massive sacks of birdseed I would buy and lug home so she could have the fun of tossing food out for her ever-growing family of “critters.” She was always thrilled and amazed when a raccoon would drop by.

Many times, she told me about a visit she once had with the owner of a nature shop (in the days when she was still driving). She explained to the store owner that she buys the seeds because when the birds come to her deck, she feels less lonely. The shop owner commented, “That’s why EVERYBODY does it.” She was happy to hear she wasn’t the only one.

A few weeks ago, something happened to me that had me laughing hysterically. Maybe it’s a story in the “you had to BE there” category, but I’ll try to tell it.

The back of our house is kind of a ravine property, very attractive to raccoons. Quite often, I’ve been known to toss food of some sort, over the kitchen deck railing for the raccoons below.

One day, my parents-in-law had been at our home for lunch. Among the things we served for dessert - some green grapes. Around midnight, while cleaning up the kitchen, I found the leftover bunch of grapes, getting a bit old and thought I’d discard them, but then instead of putting them in the garbage, decided I’d throw them over the balcony, (as I’ve learned that raccoons LOVE green grapes!)

After heaving them over, I recall thinking to myself, "Hope I didn't hit a raccoon in the head!" Two minutes later, I got a cell phone call from my daughter, Kate. I didn't know where she was calling from. She said, "Did you just throw some grapes over the balcony?" I gasped. Turns out, she and her new boyfriend, Damian, were sitting out on the back deck, when a bunch of green grapes came flying out, bonking them! Oh my Lord, I just could NOT stop laughing. Nothing like a big bunch of green grapes on your head to destroy the mood! Her boyfriend must think I'm completely insane!

I’m laughing just writing about this now! - I think I have turned into my grandmother!

Kate & Damian - none the worse for wear after hit by grapes!

When my young nephew, Justin, heard this story, he told me, “Well, at least he knows to keep his hands off her or else he’ll have food pelted at him!”

My other nephew, Sean, (a brilliant writer), heard the grape story and sent me the following message by email.

"Hahaha! That's hilarious. Pelted by grapes - feels almost
Shakespearean. "The sweetest of rains..." I hope it's an auspicious

Shortly after this wild grape-tossing escapade, I received an email from my cousin, Marilyn, (also a nature lover). She sent me a link to a website, in which a woman was writing all about birds. Marilyn told me she received this link randomly, but then commented, “Seemingly random, but believing less in randomness and more in the universe providing when you are open to receiving. I immediately thought of your Mum and needed to forward this to you right away. I believe a message for you, from her.”

I clicked on the link (click here to read it) and read all about birds!

Turns out, the woman who wrote this is Margaret Roach, former editorial director for Martha Stewart Living. In 2007, she made what she calls a “life-altering decision” to trade in the fast lane for her own dirt road. Looking for solitude, she gave up her highly successful career to return to writing, saying, “I craved a closer connection to nature and my first passion, the garden I’d been making on weekends for 20 years.”

She moved to a very small town and began writing a garden blog. She also wrote a book called “And I Shall Have Some Peace There.” If you’re interested, here are links to her blogs:,

One of her readers sent her a comment which said;

Sharing a related (and favourite) quote by Rabindranath Tagore: “Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings while the dawn is still dark.”

Like my mother before me, I’m glad to know that when it comes to my feelings about birds and nature, I’m happy to see I'm not alone.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home