A city park visually extends my backyard about a quarter-mile past my property line.
It was, in fact, one of the perks that attracted me to the house in the first place.
Nothing like having a big yard that someone else has to mow — or, rather, used to mow. The city's "long-grass policy" (we here in Rancho del Fifties call it the "no-mow policy") has resulted in a park where no one plays anymore.
But that doesn't means it's unoccupied.
Several acres of waist-high grass, wildflowers, volunteer trees and storm-sewer catchment pools attract all manner of wildlife. Naturally, there are lots of squirrels, and the occasional opossum makes an appearance.
And, of course, there are bunnies. Lots of bunnies.
I was resting on the bench outside the shop door one afternoon when a turkey sauntered by. Obviously unperturbed by my interest, she picked her way through the grass and eventually vanished into one of those catchment pools.
I'm pretty sure all that potential prey is what attracted the red-tailed hawks and the owls that have made the park their home. The dog and I find little tufts of fur littering the ground when we go for our morning jaunts.
Little hunter that he is, he's forever trying to carry bits of carcass home to add to his larder. And he's fond of the cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini he steals from nearby gardens.
Go figure. The dog also dawdles on every walk all summer long to munch on grass. I don't think he knows he's a carnivore.
The newest residents of the park are not a bit confused.
One of my neighbors was puzzled in late spring by all the feathers she was finding in her yard. Then we saw them. Red foxes.
Momma and her three kits took up quarters for several weeks under the toolshed in another neighbor's backyard. Considering how soggy and cool the weather was when they moved in, I imagine they found it a lot snugger than wherever their previous den had been.
Foxes, I'm told by the Game & Parks guy who lives next door, find birds yummy and likely a welcome change from their usual fare of road-kill squirrels and mice. I'm guessing by the hole that suddenly appeared one day next to the weeping spruce out by my shop that they also dine on occasional grubs and worms.
My first introduction to the quartet was while I was enjoying a cold beverage in the hot tub and Momma pranced across the yard and disappeared into the hedge.
My second came while I was in the tub a few nights later. I didn't see her that time, but I sure heard her. Foxes have an eerie call. Sort of like the rusty hinge of a gate … on steroids.
I suppose other foxes find it enticing. She is, as far as we've been able to tell, a single mom and likely tired of taking care of those three little ones by herself. And apparently they're not all that little.
I never saw them myself, but the Game & Park guy said he and his kids watched the whole gang play in their backyard one evening. He set up a motion-sensor camera in the trees in hopes of catching them on video.
So four hungry foxes for neighbors.
The bunny population was reduced considerably, and this year's vegetable and flower gardens are more robust than ever.
(Send your questions to HouseWorks, P.O. Box 81609, Lincoln, Neb. 68501 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)