Breakfast with Reindeer

The other morning, I was in the kitchen with my wife and 3-year-old daughter Imogen, when I noticed something small either rolling, hopping, flitting or scurrying through the grasses down the hill.

I stared at the object for sometime before I felt confident it was not an animal and was simply some piece of tumbling debris. Then my wife made a gasping sound and pointed. There, precisely at the point from which the mystery object had began its descent, standing stock still and staring in at us, was a deer.


After a few moments, comfortable that we posed no threat, the deer continue munching on whatever portion of our garden it was decimating.

“Look!” my wife said again, pointing sideways out the window, where a second deer had positioned itself outside the master bathroom where it was finishing off a rose bush.

“Immy, come on!” I said, and we ran back toward the bathroom for a better view. I led her toward the master bathtub, which is set in a greenhouse-like pavilion covered by a curtain. I drew back the curtain and she peeked around. “Dad, it’s a reindeer,” she said. I peeked around, and there just on the other side of the glass, no more than 5 feet away, was an eight-point buck standing at full attention, a portion of our rosebush churning in his mouth.

This is relevant to a food blog, I suppose, in as much as that we’re not the only creatures eating well in the canyon.

I could fence off the front yard, but that would deprive us the joy of Immy thinking there’s a reindeer in the yard at Christmas time. And what’re a few rosebushes and citrus trees, anyway…

Other neighbor animals that have ate well at our expense include the coyotes (like Wile E. Coyote, endlessly plotting beyond the fence line ways to get at our chickens!), the acorn woodpeckers (intent on filling the exterior walls of our home with acorns for some future use), the raccoons, the rabbits and the various species of squirrels.

Another recent day, I was out front with Imogen, trying to calm her down from some particular tantrum or other. I was standing by my yuzu tree, looking at my bumper crop of fruit this year, when I noticed what appeared to be a bird dropping on one of the leaves. I was about to flick it off… when it moved. I prodded it, and out popped two bright orange antennae.

My son, Flynn, had recently asked me what kind of caterpillars we had in the canyon, and if we could got out looking for some. He has a caterpillar/butterfly terrarium thing we’d gotten him for Christmas a few years back, and wanted to catch some caterpillars and watch them turn into butterflies. I explained to him that it was difficult to find caterpillars and that spring was a better time for that anyway. And now, here I was staring at a small bird dropping that was eating its way across a leaf on my yuzu tree — a cleverly disguised caterpillar of some sort.

Other than its camouflage, as caterpillars go, it was relatively unimpressive, and I figured it to be some sort of moth or other. I removed the leaf and went inside to research. Googling “black and white bird dropping caterpillar with orange antennae,” I quickly realized I was wrong — this was actually a young caterpillar of the giant swallowtail butterfly, the largest butterfly in North America!

Never had I been so excited to discover one of my prized botanicals being devoured!

Now the caterpillar is munching away happily inside the terrarium. The reindeer and his harem have moved on to a neighbor’s house or perhaps the nearby state park. The chickens scratch and peck happily about the property, every so often casting wary glances towards the woods beyond the fence. And I am reminded that it is only a matter of perspective that distinguishes between a pest and a natural wonder.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jewel
    Dec 24, 2013 @ 12:30:40

    What a wonderful way to begin Christmas Eve! Thank you for sharing Immy’s joy with us, the telling of that story is bound to become a part of your family’s Christmas traditions. Merry Christmas everyone!


  2. rachelocal
    Dec 24, 2013 @ 15:56:43

    Sweet story! Merry Christmas!


  3. Mom
    Dec 24, 2013 @ 17:34:25

    I loved it.


  4. glennis
    Dec 26, 2013 @ 03:15:38

    We see the footprints of deer in our garden. Maybe they ARE reindeer!


  5. Nonie Shore
    Dec 27, 2013 @ 06:23:24

    love it. so cool! Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! xoxo Nonie


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