Unexpected Encounters on the Farm

Working outside is a given when gardening.

Planting, weeding, and harvesting all are labour-intensive jobs, which are done manually on our farm. Most of the time, working in the garden it is just that, work; it is very easy to focus on the job that needs to be done.

Gardening can be very repetitive. Picking peas keeps the hands and eyes busy but the mind is allowed to focus on other things. However, there are times when looking up from the job at hand can be a good thing; we live in Grizzly Valley and the subdivision was aptly named.

This year there has been a black bear living on the mountain behind our farm, and according to a neighbour they had a grizzly in and out of their yard all summer as well. We haven’t seen the grizzly at all, but the black bear isn’t shy of us, although it hasn’t been a nuisance, either.

Schwartz usually comes to the garden with us. It gives him a chance to scope out the gophers and chipmunks. He will hunt mice as well. But he is also handy as a bear alarm. Periodically he will run off into the bush barking at something. We usually don’t know what triggers him, but there was one day this summer when he went up the ledge behind us, barking quite bit.

I wasn’t home but Al told me about it later.

He had gone out to the garden to harvest, and of course Schwartz went with him. At one point, his barking was quite agitated, and when Al looked at the ledge, there was a black bear. It was busy turning over rocks and eating insects, ignoring Schwartz.

My first impulse would have been to leave the garden and seek out a safer task — I am not keen on confrontations with bears. But Al didn’t leave the garden, he just kept working and watching the bear on the hill, which was in full view of the garden. With both Al and Schwartz keeping an eye on it, it wasn’t really dangerous.

Besides, bears and other wildlife were here first, and we need to know they aren’t usually looking to harm us. They avoid humans as much as possible and thankfully our interactions with bears and other wildlife is usually minimal.

But, about a week ago Al had been out in the garden all morning and was coming into the house for a break when, just as he opened the door to walk in, a mourning cloak butterfly landing on his hat and stayed there. I grabbed a camera to take a picture. The butterfly stayed on his hat brim, moving from place to place, but not finding being inside a building the least bit stressful.

It even went on to land onto one of Al’s hands, which is how he carried it outside to release it back into the wild.

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