Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Yesterday morning, as I sat at the kitchen table writing a "to-do" list for the garden, I had a surprise visit from one of my most important and newest garden helpers. In broad daylight Baby suddenly appeared at the bowl just outside the kitchen door. For the past four years we have had the pleasure of opossums in the garden. Generally they come at night.
Our first encounter was with Arthur. We were returning from an evening's rehearsal at our local community theater. Upon entering the kitchen we found all three of our cats and Hannah the dog, sitting at the kitchen door looking outward. At first I thought there was a tiny kitten looking back in at them, but when I turned on the back porch light, lo and behold, it was a tiny opossum! He just sat on the other side of the glass door watching all of us watch him.
That was my first encounter with a live opossum, and I wasn't sure what to think about it. He was very tiny and unaccompanied. Research told me that he would be a benign visitor. During a conversation with a fellow volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium about wild visitors to our gardens I mentioned Arthur and her first response was "then you probably don't have any snails!". Well, as a matter of fact v and I had been remarking about the fact that the hundreds of snails we used to deal with had disappeared mysteriously. I wondered if this were a sign of global warming. Were snails becoming extinct? How bad was that? Well, mystery solved! And Arthur was an honored visitor, as were any of his relatives who happened to accompany him from time to time.
I believe we met his mother and there was a gnarly older, and much bigger guy that showed only once (I'm glad) that may have been his father. An old, rheumy looking fellow with a portion of his tail missing showed once or twice as well, we called him Uncle Nestor. Last spring a new baby showed up with dark legs and a deep widow's peek, Rosie. And now Baby.
Even though the literature tells us that opossums have a very short life span, Arthur was a regular visitor from when we first saw him peering in at the cats four years ago, til very recently. I have no evidence that he has died. Rosie comes frequently and Baby has been sporadic. We used to see Arthur during daylight hours, but until Baby showed yesterday morning he was the only one. We've never attempted contact, though the cats and the neighborhood Tom have all spent time sitting quietly by of an evening while Arthur munched away on leftovers in their outside bowl.
Some might be aghast that we welcome these little marsupials to our garden, but they are clean and benign visitors. I don't have to put out snail bait or any other form of pest control. My vegetable seedlings sprout and grow with nary a leaf chewed. Earwigs must be a treat as well, because they no longer consume the tender sprouts or hide in between rose petals.
Far from being the ugly, naked faced animal I used to think opossums were, Arthur is graced with a sweet face. Baby resembles him. Rosie has stronger features, but she's still a pretty opossum. No, I don't really know the sex of each, I just guess and may be quite wrong. Arthur could well be the mother of all the rest. Whatever...his family is welcome in our garden.
In bocca al lupo. m & v