First Day of School

Spring is when school starts around Prairie Bench. We live on an ecological reserve, so May is a very busy month. Not only are we rushing to get all of our seedlings in the ground, we are also mindful of school crossings… like the old footbridge, the meadow entrance, and the forest trails.

Blacktail fawn follows Momma doe into the forest trails.
Momma Black Bear leads cub into forest trails.

The bears actually arrive first and move into the forest trails and the deer follow about ten minutes later. In the afternoon, they return in the same order. All the animals are very respectful and share the meadow together. The momma bear is teaching her cub to avoid us humans, and we encourage the distance so the cub grows up safe with no human interaction. The deer, however, are more curious and know us very well, often watching us work in the gardens. Sometimes the deer will leave the young fawns with us like we are on-call babysitters. They run around and try to get us to play hide and seek. Once, one of our designers took the bait and followed three young deer down a trail. They hopped over an object and stood behind it, teasing the human. The object they jumped over was a sleeping bear. Very funny, but no chance the human was going to follow.

Momma playing with cub.
Cub is being schooled to be wary of humans and to watch at a distance.

So much to learn… like the fact dandelions tickle the nose.

Old Wicker Fence

Deep in a thicket of Western Spirea and blackberry bushes we found an old wicker fence made of spirea. Local birds feed off the millet sized seeds of the spirea and the berries in the brambles. The thicket provides a good nesting ground and the brambles offer security. The fence was likely created to protect a garden from deer on three sides and the brambles protected the other.

The spirea twigs are pliable and dry into sturdy sticks. They are easily woven when cut fresh. We’ll preserve the site and leave it as we found it. We did find some oregano, mint, and a few wild potatoes.

The old wicker fence is a mystery deep in the thicket.

Wood Ducks

A glimpse of the local feathered visitors in the pond out back: Wood ducks and Golden Eyes. (We’ll update the page with some pictures of Mallards when they show up.)

Spring is rolling around and a lot of the creations (made of actual wood) we’ve been putting off for better weather can get hauled outside an designed into interesting furniture.

A glimpse into one of the old hazelnut orchards onsite. We’ll thin and trim while leaving nesting areas and turn some of that tough hazelnut into chairs and thrones.

The Owl

This barred owl has prowled the local farms from dusk to dawn and occasionally stops in for visits. We believe this is a young owl by its curiosity and its tidy, short feathers. An older barred owl also visits and looks a little tired and ragged at the tips. The older owl has grander feather cones around the eyes.

An older barred owl watches from above.

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The owl is not shy and will sit if you approach calmly and talk to it. The behavior resembles a cat. This owl grooms, preens, and observes our activity. The body size is approximately 40 cm. The talons are very intimidating.

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The owl moves about the hazelnuts and is often in a tree that over hangs a small foot bridge. This is a good spot to watch activity on both banks.

Inspired by our visitor, a simple drawing was created to show the calm presence of the owl in its natural habitat. A ‘live edge’ border gives outline to a scene. The drawing was created as an inverse for printing on ‘night’ backgrounds, and as a positive for printing on ‘day’ backgrounds.

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We are printing several versions of the owl in ‘day’ and ‘night’ designs. Full sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, and more. We’ll make them available soon! Click here and check out Prairie Bench Fashion….

If you are interested in our original design of the barred owl on a shirt, let us know. PrairieBench.com will also provide t-shirts to help support local animal rescue.

Baby Squirrels Our Guests

We live and work on an ecological reserve. Animals wander about as they please. We work around bears, deer, ducks, geese, owls, eagles, songbirds, beaver, river otters, raccoons, and squirrels. Recently, we heard the distinct call of a young animal in distress. It was a baby squirrel. We left it with some vegetable pablum and water and waited for the parent to return. At the end of the second day with no momma squirrel in sight, we decided to capture it and give it some proper nutrition. That’s when a second baby squirrel appeared, then another, and another.

They were quite emaciated and weak. A diet of vegetable protien mix, mushed peas and sweet potatoes, and almond milk did the trick. They gained weight over the next week as we watched out for the mother. Unfortunately, she did not reappear. We constructed a 7′ x 4′ x 4′ enclosure complete with glass roof, branches, hoops, ropes, and baskets for a play area and set them up in a secure cage with warm hammocks to sleep in. We kept warm water bottles in their covers to keep up their temperature. They survived and grew.

They are like little food pirates and will try to steal each others food even though there is plenty. They are now on baby rat pellets, sunflower seeds, fresh cut peppers, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, grated carrots, apple sauce, and sliced bananas. Food had to be cut fine or pur̩ed to prevent choking Рthey will try to stuff themselves when learning about solid food. Also each squirrel had to be hydrated by hand to ensure their water intake was constant. Each had to learn how to drink from a hamster bottle.

The two small pictures above show how small the first found squirrel was in he folds of a jacket. Later, a squirrel enjoys sweet potato and carrot baby food. They are much cleaner eaters now, and cooperate sharing their food.

Three brothers and a sister. The sister is the smallest, but the bravest, and would approach if food was offered. The boys wait until she checks out any new feature in the enclosure. She is the tamest of the pack and will come when called.

They will soon be able to explore the trees onsite and take their role in the wild. This was a fun and challenging opportunity to learn about squirrel behavior and help some young ones get a start in life. We at Prairiebench.com are proud to have received a commendation from the City of Port Coquitlam for our efforts in animal rescue over the years.

For fun, watch “Brunch with Baby Squirrels” on YouTube to see these darlings have a polite snack for the camera…

From right to left: little sister, big brother (first one found), grey (second one found), charcoal (last one found and the shy one). The little sister approached for food after two brothers were discovered.