Critters: Creepy Crawly and Otherwise

by Nora Dunn on December 4, 2007

There are lots and lots (and lots) of critters here, which range from domesticated to downright creepy. Having already shared with you what the centipedes are like, here is a smattering of other animals we share our days (and nights) with:

THE BUGS & OTHER “PESTS”

Fruit Flies
They are everywhere, small, and supremely annoying. I swear that sometimes they bite, but apparently they are harmless. Within the yurt, it is important to keep any open produce wrapped up or refrigerated, and compost must be tightly sealed to minimize the flies’ presence. Still they are ever-present. Turn a light on and you’ll shortly find dozens of them flying into the bulb, killing themselves, and falling to the counter or floor below. And even as many flies fry themselves (and strangely I don’t feel bad), dozens more are always ready to swarm as soon as you leave the comfort of the light.

Millipedes
They don’t bite, but are still ugly enough that I like to stay away. They are approximately 2 inches long, and all the ones I’ve seen are dark red in colour, as seen in the picture.

Mosquitoes
Yup. They’re here too! They’re especially annoying in the Kipuka (the forest where most of the produce we eat is grown). You don’t generally venture in there without wearing long sleeved shirts and full pants if you want to come out with most of your flesh in tact. Interestingly, we haven’t found their bites as long lasting or itchy as the mosquito bites we are used to in Canada. Thank goodness for small blessings.

Cockroaches
The cockroaches here aren’t quite the same as you would find in North American cities. Here – they’re huge! The locals actually call them 747s, because when they fly by you, you know it! The largest I’ve seen so far is almost two inches long (antennae not included), but I hear they can get way bigger than that.

Rats & Mice
Although wild rats are rarely a pleasant site, they induce much less fear out here since they aren’t into the garbage, disease, and bacteria like city rats. They scavenge in the forest for fallen fruits, and if given a chance, will also visit the house for any food left out. Hence, all fruit must be hung, all dry goods kept in a tightly sealed container, and the rest in the fridge.

Lizards
These little fellows are everywhere, but are a welcome addition to the animal community here. They take care of the bugs! Almost daily just before sunrise, the lizards living in our skylight make a bird-like chirping sound for about 3 seconds at a time, I guess to signify a good night of hunting. Although the volume of their chirps could wake you out of a dead sleep, I still don’t mind. Keep eating those pesky bugs, guys!

Frogs & Toads
These range in size from as small as your thumbnail (and making sounds you wouldn’t believe could come from something so teensy) to at large as your outstretched hand. They’re not pests per se, as interaction with them is usually limited to watching them hop away as we approach. In fact, I find them endearingly cute, and their deafening mating calls comforting at night.

Banana Slugs
I wish I had captured a picture of the banana slug clinging to the outside of our yurt one morning after a hefty rainfall. This thing was literally the size of a banana! I could not tell head from tail, and once the air got warm and dry, it disappeared. I still do not know how something so big could hide so well, but there you have it.

Wasps, Flies, and other Flying Things
There are so many flying insects that come in and out of my world each day, I’d be hard pressed to name them. There are wasps without stingers that look like flies, and flies that look like bees. There are bees that look like flies, and even flies that look like mosquitoes. Dragonflies, beetles, crickets (oh – if I could only shoot the noisy crickets at night in our yurt), millipedes, and umpteen dozen other unidentifiable creepy crawlies make this world an interesting one at the very least.

Mongooses
I’ve only seen a few in passing, and they generally keep away from any signs of human activity. They are a kind of weasel, and their size is generally about two feet from head to tail. They don’t bother me, and I don’t bother them. We all like it that way!

THE PETS
The Cats
There are about seven cats who live on the property here. They roam free, and although they are fed each morning, their main task is to hunt for their food! So when they come visiting, any mice or rats in the area are sure to be taken care of.

Bootsy
Bootsy has become something of a house (or rather, yurt) cat here for us. She is currently the runt of the pack and seems to get pushed around a bit by the others. Henceforth, she doesn’t always get her share of the food and her hunting capabilities might not be top notch either. She has set a territory around our place, and comes to visit us on an almost nightly basis. She’ll occasionally spend the whole night in our place, as is evidenced by the odd rustle or noise while we are sleeping. We try to refrain from feeding her, since her main job is to hunt mice and rats, and we love her being around for just that purpose. To date we haven’t seen one rodent come near our place – either because she’s taking care of them or because we just keep the place so darn clean.

Zoe
A Belgian Sheppard, Zoe is extremely loveable. She is a working dog, and in our eyes lives the life a dog should. For her, playing takes the form of hunting rodents and playing in nature instead of playing tug-of-war with her owners. Instead of needing humans for everything including play time, all she needs us for is affection and food. All her skills and senses are incredibly high, and she’s super-intelligent. Rick will give commands to her in a normal speaking voice, with no obvious intonations at all, and she obediently follows his every word. When he comes by to visit us, he tells her to “ring the doorbell”, and she comes in to alert us of a visitor!
But beware: playing with her can be dangerous. If you get her riled up to play (as you would with any generally domesticated dog), she’ll actually bite – and hard. She’s not trying to cause any harm – she just doesn’t know the difference, since for her playing takes a different form – one she can sink her teeth into (pardon the pun).

THE FARM ANIMALS

Chickens
I originally found their clucks and caws and awkwardly humorous running to be endearing. However the more I work around them, the more I am finding the chickens to be a pain in the feathers.
There are about 100 chickens on the property, living totally free-range in four different stations or areas. All the hens have a coop of sorts in their station, and although they aren’t currently producing eggs, apparently when they start laying nobody goes hungry.
They are great scavengers and cleaners, and take care of our organic food waste (fruit & veggie peels, etc) wonderfully. Where they start to frustrate me is when I’m working with some of the grains to feed the goats and chickens – they just don’t leave me alone and they get into anything you don’t cover or lock up.

Goats
I love the goats totally and completely. They are extremely intelligent animals, with tons of personality. There are seven females and one male goat (the male being Coco, who lives separately from the women).
Even after a very short time here, you can see a hierarchy among the female goats, and each of their personalities are strong. They show affection by rubbing their heads on your leg (watch out for their curly horns!), but they also have a mischievous side to them to keep you on your toes.

Enjoy this video we put together on some of the more friendly animals we spend time with, here on the farmstead!

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