Before we built out in this former pastureland of Victoria in 1971, sheep and cows grazed here.  The land wasn't much good for a farmer's crops -- there were too many trees and hills -- so the maple trees grew large and high to the sky, unaffected by loggers and homesteaders.  Just as we suspected, this little spot in Victoria became a haven for our children, for a husband who loves hunting and fishing, and for someone who loves to write and take pictures, although the Victoria Gazette wasn't even a nod or a wink at the time.

This yearling stared at me one evening -- it was the winter of 2005 -- as I was whiling away a little time before super.  He stood only four feet away from our floor-to-ceiling window on the north side.  The youngster wasn't frightened by the music or the camera flash.  They're almost like pets.

I snapped this picture in December of 2006 through the glass of our living room window that faces our front yard.  Only five feet from me, he is one of two albino squirrels who have been playing in our backyard since early last fall and they've been getting braver every month.  Now they climb on trees within mere inches of our human activity with nary a second thought. 

Can you spot Mr. Albino?  I've read that the odds against a pure white squirrel being born are 1 in 100,000.  So what are the odds of two being born?

And what are the odds of somebody in Victoria, Minnesota, having two albino squirrels playing in their yard?

We haven't seen them together for a while.  I hope they're both still alive and well.

More than any other wildlife, we see deer.  Can you see him?

He's looking at you.  He's got some friends with him, too, just off to the right.

Humans are quite annoying when it's nap time.

We learned very fast, many years ago, to keep our garage doors closed at night, all the way to the bottom (before automatic garage door openers were mainstream).  There's nothing scarier than waking up to clanging garbage cans right beneath your bedroom window (before plastic waste containers were mainstream).

Raccoons use their paws just like your average burglars and they can even unwrap chocolate candy bars.  These past few summers, Mr. Nocturnal has been pawing around in my fancy flower pots at night and I could just shoot him!

We caught Mr. Raccoon a couple years ago in a wire cage, as you can see, but the next week, alas, his relatives were at our door.

They're bold, and they stare at you even when caged, unlike a chicken, for example, who looks away or off to the side.

That broken tree branch, that Mr. Nocturnal likes, is on the north side of our home, by the wild flowers we planted after the tornado storm of 1998 stole a dozen large trees from us.

The wildflowers were fun for a while, and I used them often for table bouquets, but they eventually became a tangled mass -- and a tangled MESS -- and sort of killed themselves off.  They're gone now, but that's okay.  Anything green and growing -- including grass -- is good.

I took this photo about ten feet from our front door after Allan "spotted" the little spotted fawn.

Nature certainly knows how to provide natural protection.

There are at least three deer in this shot.  We've had six or seven prancing through our yard at one time, most often at dusk or dawn.  I recall there were four grazing here before I went for my camera.

Now another one has strayed away.

They know they're not alone this morning.

A close-up.

This pheasant was prancing and preening in front of our patio door every afternoon for days on end, a couple years ago, and he pecked so hard at the glass that I thought for sure it would  be chipped or cracked.

Mr. Ring Neck was probably fighting for dominance in the neighborhood, as a male might do, and he never realized he was fighting his own reflection.  I finally leaned over the sink and shot these pictures through my kitchen window pane.  Good digital cameras are quite remarkable.

One of the best things about pheasants is their sweet country fried taste from a black cast iron frying pan, especially after they've fed themselves in my dad's cornfields in southwestern Minnesota.

Scads of gray and red squirrels scamper all over the place all the time and I'm not fond of them.  They eat my birdseed like gluttons.  They hide food all over my yard and scratch it up all winter long, making a mess of our new grass.  I read that each squirrel makes several thousand caches each season and they have a very accurate memory for the locations.  I suggest that their brains be pickled for research to combat Alzheimer's Disease.

This is NOT the same picture as above.  Check it out.  It's difficult to scare them away from a place that fills their bellies.  The rodent destroyed a batch of robin eggs from a nest in that very same hanging basket of impatiens.

When I finally spied him leaping from the back of one of our deck chairs up to the feeder next to the basket, I moved his launching pad.

They have no heart and soul and they also fight with each other constantly.  If squirrels have virtue, I haven't seen it.

I found these tangled twins on our north side by the piano window and the lace valence.  We see deer almost every day during every season, theirs, and ours, and I don't tire of them -- until they start chewing on my hostas in about August.  Then I scream and rant and rave. 

We've kept part of our yard in the natural state for years, but came to groom most of it last year, still responding to the tornadic storms of 1998.  Maybe now the deer won't be so friendly to us, which is sort of a sad happy statement.

Many songbirds abide in our little oasis, despite the pesky squirrels and preying hawks.  Nothing is quite as striking as a red cardinal flitting through the trees.  Nothing is quite as stirring as his song.  So I was heartbroken when I saw that Mr. Songster had gotten himself into quite a jam on our deck.  Can't figure out just how he came to get his beak -- or legs -- stuck in the crack.  Sometimes our deck gets covered with seeds from the trees, so maybe he was digging a little too deep.  In any case, that was the end of him, and this is the end of Orsen's Oasis for the time being.

The End

Love, Sue