It was early in June that we saw the raccoon. I opened the blind after the children woke from nap and there it was – sleeping in the tree in front of my house.
The children were very excited and had so many question. ‘Where did she come from?’ ‘Why is she sleeping there?’ ‘How did she get up there?’ ‘How will she get down?’ ‘When will she come down?’ ‘Why doesn’t she move?’
I didn’t have all the answers. In fact, now I too was wondering why she didn’t move. We’d been watching her for close to an hour now. We had gone outside to take some pictures. Other people in the neighbourhood had come by to see what all the fuss was about.
Was she really sleeping? I began to feel a little uneasy. The branch she was on hung directly over my front sidewalk – if she slipped off the branch she’d land in a heap on my steps! Then she DID move. She stood up, stretched, turned around and lay down again.
As parents arrived to pick up their children they too took some pictures. So much excitement! The two year old wanted to take the raccoon home – stood on the sidewalk, unzipped his backpack and told the raccoon to get in. It didn’t comply.
Periodically throughout the evening crowds of onlookers would gather to look at the raccoon. Sometimes it would non nonchalantly look back. Shortly after 9 pm it was gone. I never saw it leave and I don’t know where it went.
For weeks the children continued to check for it – wondering when it might return. Then it was vacation time so none of them were here for two weeks. When the children first returned after vacation we were so busy I forgot to tell them what happened while they were away.
On the third day of my vacation we saw someone sleeping on the garden shed in the back yard.
The children would have been thrilled! This spot is almost within reach of where we play – but I wouldn’t have let them try to touch her.
On this day the raccoon was much more active than before. She got up and scratched several times. Tried to rip some branches off my willow and had a standoff with the neighbour’s cat on the garage roof. The neighbour’s cat sleeps on my garden shed roof every day – except this one.
At one point the raccoon was walking on the fence and I was about to take a picture when it slipped – oops!
Again, I didn’t see when it left or where it went but it hasn’t been back since – at least not that we’ve noticed – but we still check.
As usual my summer ‘vacation’ project list was very long – too long for the two week time slot I allotted. The back yard was not actually on the list at first but in June I suddenly had an idea to solve a concern I had about ‘the hill’ (sometimes called the bridge or tunnel). This is a picture taken last summer of the view of the hill/bridge/tunnel from the tipi;
The hill was originally created back in 2010 when the old play structures were removed leaving the gravel area looking quite bare. I didn’t want another large structure but I did think the space needed something. The hill originally had a slide on one side, the tunnel was very popular, and the native prairie plants provided some much needed greenery in the yard at that time.
The slide and log steps never stayed as secure as I would have liked so they were soon removed. For a few years the platform and tunnel were very popular for many dramatic play and gross motor activities like ‘Motabular’ (the children named that activity). As the interests of the children enrolled changed, play on the hill also changed and two years ago I added some rocks.
The children liked to use the platform to ‘play hockey’;
And sit on the ‘bridge’ to go fishing;
But there were many disputes over who would be on each side. There were also problems with reckless behaviour like racing up and down the hill or jumping off the bridge without first looking for obstacles or hazards. Additionally, the structure was beginning to show its age. I decided it was time for the hill to go.
My first step was to gather some supplies (thanks Annika);
Then I spent two days removing rocks, transplanting plants, moving pails of soil to the other gardens, disassembling the bridge and cribbing and raking gravel. It was beginning to take shape;
I used the new stumps in addition to the old ones to create a full circle with little space between the stumps. The majority of the gravel was raked to one side of the inner circle to three distinct levels. Outside the circle the gravel in the ‘walkway’ is about 8 inches deep and fairly well packed as we haven’t dug here in years. Inside the circle there is no gravel, just an old blue tarp on one side and nearly two feet of gravel on the other side. The slope between the two sides is held in place by all those big rocks that used to be on the hill. So now the gravel area looks like this;
And from the other side;
The view from the tipi now;
And in case you were wondering what happens when it rains….I said it was an old blue tarp – it has holes in it so the water drains out.
Within seconds of entering the yard on the first day back after vacation this is where the boys were, happily chatting about what they did on their vacation;