More than a year into lockdown, I’m finding myself spending a second pandemic spring out in my back yard. My garden, full of flowers and wild critters, seems to provide endless inspiration. Last spring, I was moved to create an Amazing Beetle quilt series, followed by 3D beetles and bird art (both art quilts and 3D). This year, I started my creative journey with the Ode to Spring series to celebrate early blooms.
I felt inclined to also commemorate the wild mammals who share the garden with us. In fact, I already made two mammal quilts in previous years. For months, I toyed with the idea of making a Backyard Critters quilt series, but didn’t find the time. Until now.
A couple of years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to a noisy ruckus. It was summer, and my bedroom windows were wide open. In panic, I shook my husband awake, jumped out of bed and went to take a peek. The night was dark, and I couldn’t see a thing. I could tell, though, that the activity was happening right outside my window, where a large tree is growing. A few seconds later my husband joined me, flashlight in hand. He shone it on the tree, and … a few masked rascals appeared:
They turned out to be a mother racoon and her three adolescent kits. They all climbed our tree to get to the roof.
That was the first time I saw racoons in our yard, and they left a big impression. I thought they were incredibly cute. I was also overjoyed to learn that wild creatures enjoyed our garden while we were asleep…
A few days later I decided to make a little quilt in their honor. I turned one of the pictures I took to black and white, cropped and enlarged it:
I then put it against the window to draw an outline:
And copied each piece separately:
I cut the pieces out, copied them onto fabric, and cut the fabric out. Then, I proceeded to put together a raccoon applique.
I was quite happy with how the finished piece turned out, and shared it on social media:
Someone commented that I forgot the whiskers. Lo and behold, I did! So I put the quilt in my UFO pile, intending to correct it soon. It waited there, and then waited some more…
In the meantime, the raccoons kept coming. Every few months a mother raccoon (possibly the same mother?) would show up with her kits (usually three). They would make a racket, wake us up, climb the tree, and then stomp on the roof for a while before leaving.
The last time they came, shortly before Lockdown, the mother was accompanied by only one, smaller than usual, kit. The mother climbed all the way to the roof, but her youngling was too scared to follow. If you want to see videos of what happened next, you can click here, and then here.
One day, my husband went up on the roof to check something, and discovered that the raccoons damaged the house. Suddenly, they didn’t seem that cute anymore… We needed to find a way to keep them off the roof. We briefly considered cutting the tree down, but then my husband came up with a more creative solution.
So far so good.
When I finally tackled my UFO pile earlier this year, I added whiskers to my raccoon. It is now finished:
2020 was the Chinese Year of the Rat, and I decided to make an art quilt to mark the occasion:
Little did I know that a couple of weeks later we will find a nasty surprise in the attic…
In early 2020 we had a termite inspection. When the inspector went up to the attic, he found rat droppings all over. He suspected that rats went up to the roof that winter to drink water from the gutters. That probably also explained what the raccoons were doing on our roof: the termite inspector suspected that they went up to drink, and also to hunt for rats! No, they definitely didn’t seem that cute any more…
That was how 2020 started for us. Termites and rats followed by a pandemic… Luckily, we were able to deal with the first two right before the Lockdown. The joys of living in California…
Like many others, I spent most of my pandemic spring and summer (and then the following winter, too, as winter 2021 was dry and warm) out in my garden. I didn’t realize until then just how MANY squirrel we had! Eight or nine of them were running around at all times, chasing each other, digging, climbing trees…
When I came to the USA as a student many years ago, I thought squirrels were adorable. Israel, where I grew up, doesn’t have any. Seeing them climb the trees, bushy tails wiggling, has always been very appealing. I greatly enjoyed seeing them in my garden, too, once I had a garden. Until this year, that is.
During the pandemic, I spent hours and hours, days, weeks–no, months!–gardening. And the squirrels? They sneaked after me, dug out the new plants I just planted, pulled out the bulbs, ate all my flowers! And they always take only one bit out of each and every piece of fruit…
I still kind of enjoy having them as company while I work, but our relationship is a lot more complicated these days…
When I decided to finally make a Backyard Critters quilt series (2021, after all, is all about finishing things!), I knew what the fourth mammal should be.
I’ve only seen them three times in the decade-plus that I’ve been living in my house, but I know that possums are very much here.
The first time we saw them, two possums appeared outside our back door. Although they are usually nocturnal animals, they were there mid morning, in broad daylight:
I haven’t seen possums before. At first, I didn’t even know what they were! They looked really scary, being all scruffy, ugly, and with a pink rat tail! I didn’t let my kids go out to check them out. We looked at them through the safety of the window, waiting for them to leave.
Only later, when I read about them on the internet, did I learn how beneficial they are to a garden.
A few years later, I saw them again, running on the fence towards my neighbors’ house, to eat the cat food they left outside… And last week, for the very first time, I saw a baby possum hiding under one of my bushes!
Here is the quilt I made in their honor:
It took more than two years, but I finally finished my Backyard Critters quilt series: