birds nature Thanksgiving wildlife

Thanksgiving is for the Birds…

A trio of American goldfinches, clad in winter plumage, find sustenance in spent sunflower heads. Goldfinches are most often found in flocks.

deer fiction gardening humorous nature wildlife


Whitetail Landscaping Associates in action.

(A humorous take on the perils of gardening in a land ruled by deer…)

By Anita Swanson

Dear Whitetail Landscaping Associates (WLA), Inc.:

Congratulations!  This letter is to inform you that your company had the lowest bid for our lawn care project.  No one—I mean, no one—could match your price quote of zero bucks to mow our lawn.  And who doesn’t like to save money? (I get all doe-eyed thinking about all the green I’ll save using your company).  I don’t know how you do it, though.  Especially with that many mouths to feed.  Not my worry, though, to figure out the logistics of your operation.  Effective immediately, you will be the sole caretakers of our property.

I look forward to seeing your high-quality work in action.


Ira Te G’Ardener

Dear WLA:

I applaud you for your productivity:  seven workers were on our lawn yesterday, mowing and fertilizing the yard at the same time.  The same time!!! How ingenious!  How avante garde!

As delighted as I am about your ingenuity; however, I must bring one matter to your attention:  as a result of your ministrations our lawn looks rather, shall I say…disheveled.  Grass blade heights are ragged; they look like they were cut with unsharpened implements.  If you could talk to your mowers and have them try to even the grass to a standard two inches, I would really appreciate it.


Ira Te G’Ardener

Dear WLA:

Greetings on this fine summer day!  Thank you for informing me that the flattened circles in the grass are only spots where your crew rested during lunchtime…I was freaking out, phone in hand to call the National Guard and tell them the woo-woo crop circles had expanded to people’s lawns.  Phew! Dodged a bullet with that one (or should I say—aliens with bullets?).

Yesterday, my daughter tripped on the grass (God bless her, her name is not Grace).  No, clumsiness is not the issue; guess what she stepped in?  Oh gag (I’m gonna make a mess on this letter just thinking about it).  And you know how hard it is to get suede clean after something like that?  I “Shout”-ed the green smears.  Yeah, right: to no avail.  Only made a bigger mess on the shoes…not to mention—my comments, well, shall we say—sullied the airwaves.  Good thing you weren’t around, else your big ears would be…well, they wouldn’t be able to flick toward the sound of the slightest coyote burp.  (No, not a threat, just an observation).  And the smell?  Ple-eaze.  Don’t give me the rhetoric that herbivores’ poop smells like hay and sunshine…Deer-puckey!  And I won’t even go into your claims to be a herbivore—I’ve seen you sneaking bird’s eggs from junco’s nests—heard them crunch as if you were eating peanut shells.

No—the question whether you only eat plants vs. sneak an occasional hoeurs ‘d vore of eggs is not the issue.  What pains me is that I’m out $160.  Little Lil’s Purple Paradise shoes—ruined.  Never going to be the same.  I must, therefore, implore you to please try and spread out the fertilizer so unfortunate happenings like this don’t happen again.


Ira Te G’Ardener

Dear WLA:

How green’s the grass!  Your fertilizer is working wonders!  I applaud you for your company’s commitment to going (and staying) green!  The only gas involved is the…well, you know…

With things going so well, I hate to bring it up…but the coneflowers and Liatris…they’ve vanished.  I am exaggerating, just a smidge—actually, they’re not completely gone.  But the flowers and main stems have disappeared.  They’ve been clipped with abandon.  Chopped—no, I should say chomped, all the way to the soil.  Didn’t you see the signs?  You know, the spade-shaped white tags planted alongside each plant from the nursery?  If you had read them, you would’ve noticed the silhouette of a deer with a black slash through it.  That’s the symbol for NO DEER!

Oh dear…

No, you can’t blame the cottontails, they would’ve left a clean, surgical diagonal cut at the stem’s tops…their incisors, you know?  So, too (gone), are the periwinkle asters (Twinkle, Twinkle, my blue yard—not any more…No blue flowers left:(!).  And my favorite:  the peach and pink-colored roses at the foot of the bottom steps.  Mauled (a kind word for what they look like now—they say every rose has its thorns, but not these…no, not anymore…).

Those roses are your favorites, too?  Oh deer—I’m biting my fist as I say this—$230 on perennials this year…down the tubes.  Yes, I know you each have four stomachs to feed.  But please…Please let your mowers know to keep their cutters ON THE GRASS ONLY.  I have sprayed the remaining flowers with Deer BGone as an olfactory reminder to prevent such a mishap from recurring.

Ira Te G’Ardener

Dear WLA:

Yes, it was an untimely snow.  In Custer, snow can happen anytime. And the upside of early white stuff is that it gives the flowers (what’s left of them anyway) something to cower under and avoid getting their heads lopped off.

But here’s the thing with the snow: apparently, you went dashing through it and crashed into our new fence. It’s now more wrinkled than time. I have several theories on what happened: you were tipsy; using the wire obstacles as hurdles for one of your deer games; or suffering from rut fever, perhaps?  It is September, after all.

But you gave us a quote of zero bucks; what that says to me is that that rut fever thing shouldn’t be a problem. Do you have clandestine bucks on your crew, or not? If so, get rid of them:  I demand that those antlered altercation-ists stay out of our lawn!

And I finally figured out where your money comes from. After shelling out fifty green ones to spray the flower beds, it’s clear you have stock in the Deer BGone company.  Actually, come to think of it, I’m probably wrong about that. Something tells me that your company is actually the head (and tails and hooves) of the Deer BGone Company.

[sigh] Another $135 gone toward fencing.  An entire day wasted re-installing it.

And now, the lawn is wired like Alcatraz. But there’s no way you are going to break through it. No, not this time.

Ira Te G’Ardener

Dear WLA:

The aspen trees are such a beautiful gold this time of year.  The sound of their leaves dancing in the fall air is like massaging your soul, no?  It’s a special kind of rustle that reminds you to covet the last warm days, before—yep, here comes winter, lurking around the corner.  And you’ve seen its lurks before—yes, I noticed your change in uniform.  I like it.  Your light brown was spunky for summer, but winter needs a more solemn tone.  Dark grey.  Nice.  It’s great you want to blend in with the surroundings, not appear pretentious for what surely will be hard times ahead.

It’s also possible that you didn’t want to be caught doing what you did to my aspen tree, to its smooth-skinned, avocado-colored bark. You know the one. Yellow sunshine dripped from its beautiful leaves.  Now it’s crying.  Sobbing, as a matter of fact.  And its sap dropped on my hair (actually, it got on my hands and I ran my fingers through my hair, I was so distraught).  One big mat on my (bleach) blondie locks.  $125 at the hair salon and my stylist still had to cut out chunks.

You may think graffiti-ing trees with your antlers is something that feels good.  Well, I’ll tell you…when you rub your antlers against their trunks, THE TREES DON’T LIKE IT! And you haven’t kept your promise of ZERO BUCKS.

A promise is a promise.


Ira Te G’Ardener

Dear WLA:

Yes, you are right.  I’m sure part of the aspen trees’ beauty can be attributed to your herd’s faithfully fertilizing the yard around their long black roots.

And I know by using our yard as a place for nappy time does increase our property value—for you are pretty lawn ornaments (ain’t nuthin’ like the real thing, baby).

But the pumpkins you clambered up our deck and ate last night has Little Lil screaming a tantrum today—sent me to the clinic, she did; her racket made a headache that just wouldn’t quit and so finally I went to the doctor’s office. Another two hundred bucks. Gone. Worse than that, though, is that her dad had spent all day helping her carve a little pony (precious) into one of those pumpkins, and on the second squash, while trying to cut out an ice princess, his back Just Let Go. Even after visiting the clinic (another two hundred), he can’t walk now, not to mention carve another one of those lanterns for our Lil Punkin’. Had to be greedy and take both of them, didn’t you…how disappointing. Yeah, and while I’m tallying the black marks against you, those big-headed squash cost me fifteen bucks. Each (they were ghost-pumpkiny-special-hybrid-somethings-or-another).

What I want to know now is—How are you going to replace those organic symbols of holiday cheer, I ask you?  I can’t afford to do it, let me tell you…I’m afraid to open my mailbox for fear of all the credit card bills haunting me. But Lil is gonna go batshi— if her pumpkins don’t reappear before Halloween.


Ira Te G’Ardener

Dear WLA:

It is with a heavy heart (and heavier freezer) to think that your landscaping business didn’t work out.  At least, not for us.  My pocketbook is over a thousand dollars lighter due to me accepting your free services (it’ll be higher, I’m sure since my husband has been eating painkillers like candy corn to dull his back pain).

Some bargain.

Yep, I learned the hard way that there’s no such thing as free.

But no hard feelings.  Not one to hold a grudge, I’m glad to know this isn’t the end of our relationship.  Not for at least another year, for your backyard indulgences carried a lot of weight.

And now have I got great plans for you…

Deer Stew.



©2018 Anita M. Swanson


Good news for California Sea Otters