Ally and the Shrew

DSC_6670Meet Ally. She’s an indoor cat, but every morning she joins the family for an hour of garden time.

This time of outdoor adventure is one of the ways we make sure our kids have regular exposure to nature. They’re expected to help in the garden for the first half hour then they’re allowed to have a half hour of “adventure time.” The only rule is they must stay outdoors (and no, that doesn’t mean bringing their digital devices outdoors).

When we started this several years ago, there was much whining and complaining, but soon creativity set in and they would go about the yard or garden pretending to be dinosaurs. These days there are few complaints and we’ve used this time to enjoy watching tadpoles, snakes, and turtles and tasting berries and honeysuckle.

Every morning, Ally and ourDSC_6668 dog, Jackson, sense when we are about to go out and get all jittery with excitement. This morning, I was ready to head out before the rest of the family and took a very enthusiastic Ally with me. Our garden is a fenced-in area within a fenced-in yard, and since she could easily get through any of the fences, we try to keep her with us. Often, though, she jumps out and explores the brush that lines our back fence just beyond the garden. When she does, we coax her back where we can keep a better eye on her.

This morning she was quick to jump out of the garden area. I stopped my weeding to pick her up and bring her back into the enclosure. Usually, she doesn’t even need to be picked up but the simple “threat” of being picked up will send her bounding back to the garden. Not today. Immediately after I put her back in the garden, she jumped right back out and headed back to the same sDSC_6676pot, burying her head in the brush.

Once again, I grabbed her. And once again, she looked as though she were about to hop back out, so I stood guard for a bit. In a blatant attempt to stop my guarding behavior, she laid down as if she were going to relax. As soon as I stepped back into the garden, she was out again. At this point, my son was heading out. “I’ll take care of her,” he called out, so I went back to weeding as he made his way from the deck to the back of our yard. By this point, Ally was deep in the brush and my son commented on how hard she was to get out. Then suddenly, she turned and bounded into the garden–and in her mouth, there was a shrew!

We immediately sent a text to Rob, who was still finishing breakfast, and within moments he and Sierra, our daughter, had joined us. We spent most of our garden hour watching Ally play with her prey.

Not much weeding got done today, but the primary purpose of our outdoor hour was fulfilled. Our kids had an up-close-and-personal view of nature in action–predator and prey doing their thing. It was an entertaining, educational, bonding moment–and it didn’t cost us a thing!

Too often, I think, we miss moments like this because we’ve separated ourselves from the natural world. What are some things you can do to make sure your family is spending time out in nature on a regular basis?

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