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  • Ken Ilgunas

The animals of Acorn Abbey

Acorn Abbey is low on people but full of life. Stuffed into the woods with a trickling stream curving through the property, the Abbey and the surrounding wild lands are home to transient coyotes, transient black bears, deer, raccoons, squirrels, skunks, skinks, and a wide-variety of birds. I try to photograph every animal I see.

Here’s a family of wild turkeys that stop by every so often.

I caught this turtle sleeping by the creek.

Sometimes we can hear bull frogs croaking by the creek. This little guy has a ways to go before he can belt um out like the best of them.

We have lots of deer in the area. We had to build a fence around the garden to keep them out of our crops.

David is letting the forest “grow up” onto his property. The new growth is perfect habitat for small critters like this rabbit.

We caught sight of this snake a few times. It’s at least six feet long. My next picture was going to be of a family of wrens living in a nest they built by the propane tank but the snake ate them.

The monarch butterflies like to aggregate in clusters close to water.

Spider web and tunnel that drains Wells Creek into the Dan River.

One of our neighbors has two horses.

We have three chickens who give us, on average, two eggs a day. Since erecting the fence (400-foot perimeter), we’ve released them from their coop. We’ve named them after Christian virtues: the red one is Ruth; the black one, Chastity, and there’s a third not in the picture called Patience.

On my jogs to the Dan River I come across this puppy. Because Ruth pecks my toes when I go near her and because Lily won’t let me touch her with a ten-foot pole and because David’s not a 5’7 blonde whose smile makes my knees buckle, I live as a monk at Acorn Abbey and have no physical contact with anything animate except this puppy who has yet to become leery of my overly-passionate embraces.

I’ve made some progress with David’s cat, Lily. She’s still squeamish about me touching her, but she no longer carries an air of dignified disgust when I’m in her presence.

David–the abbey’s owner–is a four-limbed hominid who enjoys long walks to the mailbox, science-fiction novels, Arkansas black apples, and writing entries about simple living on his blog here. He doesn’t like “topped” trees, long periods of drought, and the smell of food burning in a hot oven.

Mr. Groundhog visits Acorn Abbey every day. David and I were fond of him until he began eating our sweet potato patch. I spent several days building a crude wooden structure from natural materials to keep him out. From the house I watched Mr. Groundhog waddle up to my fortress and–much to my dismay–slip over effortlessly. I ran into the garden and confronted him. For a moment, just feet away from each other, we stared into each others’ eyes; each of us struck motionless by our brush with a wild animal. I think we realized then–upon me catching him with a big leaf hanging from his bottom lip–that we were no longer friends, but mortal enemies. (I wish I knew someone with an elegant British accent to narrate the video below.)

I took an up-close shot of the next animal. Bragging rights go to whoever guesses the correct animal first!

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