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Summer Bed and Breakfast–Bats, Vultures, and More

by | Jun 3, 2014

For a hundred years now, summers have brought company to our farmhouse–sleeping bags on the attic carpet, picnics under the oaks, and joyous firefly-catching at dusk. Not to mention food and more food any and every hour of the day—like these Memorial Day lentil burgers and fresh fruits and vegetables.


At the beginning of the last century, friends and family would drop in and stay for weeks. We still love drop-in guests! (A little picky about which ones stay for weeks, though!)

“Dropping in” took on a new meaning last week. I was outside with two grandchildren when a huge racket in the sky made us all look up—a bad idea, because just then a red-tailed hawk swooped over the garage straight toward us, hounded by shrieking birds of all sizes, and dropped its fresh meal at our feet.

A beautiful warm mourning dove lay dead. There was grieving and regret and spontaneous eulogy. (“I love you, bird.” “I wish you were still pecking for food.” “I wish I could help you so you were still alive.”) Each child picked a storybook to be read at the burial.


Another drop-in was this baby raccoon—a story that had a happier ending. The newborn was unharmed in the grass after the riding mower made a pass over it. Its eyes were sealed shut, the umbilical cord still attached.


By the next morning, the raccoon mom had whisked her baby safely away to a hole in the highest oak. Here she is taking time to find her own breakfast at the bird buffet.


We’ve had baby possums, too. We were having dinner one night with a guest from Cape Cod, when she blinked her eyes and shook her head, thinking she might be hallucinating. Peering in the open window was a mama possum. Who knew her babies could be this cute?

Sometimes dead fish hit the grass. Pretty sure the guys to blame for that are the two that swoop over us with giant shadows on their way to this roost behind the Aulich home next door—a pair of black-headed vultures with a penchant for preening at the mirror.


The activity around here seems to be all about either Bed or Breakfast. Sometimes it is hard to tell which! Mysteries abound. Last night, taking the cover off a “parts car” tucked away in our woods, Robby uncovered a very fresh…what? Nest? Bed? Or is it tomorrow’s dinner?


When we got up the other morning to find a brown bat clinging to a corner of the living room ceiling, no one knew exactly what it had hoped to find inside the farmhouse—or how it had gained entry!

Of course there was no mystery about what a black rat snake was doing in our basement. Especially when his visit coincided with the disappearance of some pesky mice and the shedding of an outgrown skin.

I was expecting to feature spring flowers in today’s blog. But when I knelt to photograph the wild pink roses that were rampant when we moved here 42 years ago, I was startled to see this little fellow uncoil and slither away. It felt like a time to write about the creatures that share our space.


Our summer Bed and Breakfast–truly a place of beauty, food and comfort for all.


Susan Yoder Ackerman is a writer and gardener in Newport News, Virginia. Both her writing and her gardening are enhanced by tending a century-old family farmhouse and eight grandchildren that come and go. You can email Susan at [email protected].