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Country Living – Alarm Clock Not Required

by Victoria Gazeley

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I’ve always been a light sleeper. It’s one of the reasons living in the city drove me nuts. Sirens and loud neighbours and traffic at all hours.  I never really needed an alarm clock, as I could never sleep past 5 anyway.  So when we decided to try country living, I was all blissed out at how quiet it was. That is, until I realized (or rather, remembered) that nature has its own way of waking you up early – and keeping you up at night.

Let me start by saying that we live in a log cabin in the bush. Not on a farm, or on the rolling prairie – but six acres and change of mixed deciduous and coniferous west coast rainforest with a couple of small clearings, bounded by two misty mountain creeks. Before we moved in, our little house hadn’t been lived in for quite awhile. Put all those things together and you can see, it was, and is, mecca for creatures great and small.  Unfortunately, more than a few of them have the same effect on me as those sirens from the city.

When we first embarked on our country living journey, it was the mama squirrel and her incessant chewing on the house at all hours. That first summer, she had her babies inside the roof, so no, not much sleep to be had for those few months, and no need for an alarm clock.  And of course, we had mice.  Lots of mice.  Turned out the renter who’d lived in the cabin previously had left a bag of birdseed in an open cupboard – a veritable buffet for generations of tiny pink-footed rodents.  So as you can imagine, for the first while after we moved in, there was much skittering and scuttering and squeaking in the middle of the night, doing laps in the toilet and bounding around like elephants.  Who knew tiny feet could make that much noise.

But eventually I did get some sleep – after days of surveillance, we managed to lock the squirrel and her grown babies out of the roof one afternoon (and they made sure to voice their displeasure – for weeks), and a clean kitchen and a resident weasel slowly picked off the mouse population.

Then mama squirrel came back.  Running, scritching, scratching, racing back and forth, round and round in that frantic way squirrels do, on the roof, in the middle of the night.  Once again, my need for an alarm clock was moot.

Still better than sirens, but barely.

Finally, mama squirrel appeared to find a new home, and all was quiet.  Until late one night when I was awakened by a giant thump on the kitchen shed roof.  Then, trump-trump-trump across the span, then silence.  What was THAT?  We still don’t know, and I’m not sure I care to.

Then came the bats, who took up roost between the antique cedar fascia boards outside the sleeping loft window.  At least they were reasonably quiet, but it’s a bit weird to be serenaded to sleep by squeaky bats not two feet from your ear.

And finally, there are the birds.  Of course, we have all the beautiful songsters that so gently wake us up in the quiet mornings of spring and summer.  Juncos and robins and various thrushes and tiny vocal maestros.  But we also have birds with calls that sound more like the ‘EH-EH-EH’ of a digital alarm clock gone terribly wrong.  Pileated woodpeckers, ravens, and Stellar’s jays are the worst offenders.  Gorgeous birds, nasty sounding calls.  Especially at 4 am.

But my absolute favourite, my 4 am buddy who calls through the forest like a lonesome pioneer, is our resident barred owl and his mate.  “Hoo-hoo-hoo-hooooo” they call to each other through the forest when all the other creatures are quiet (except the squirrel, who lets us know she still holds a grudge by racing around the roof at night).   I love those sort-of-quiet times, and I love those owls.

As far as alarm clocks go, I’ll take that one any day.

Have  you had any funny encounters with wildlife waking you up in the middle of the night?  Share them with us in the comments!

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan McKenzie May 11, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Hi Victoria…. although I’ve lived in the wilderness I don’t know that anything has awakened me such as you describe! Probably the weirdest one was the heavy breathing of a mountain lion outside my screened window… his head must have been just inches from the head of my bed… other than that, the quiet rush of the river is a great tranquilizer! Great article, Victoria…. love the word pictures of a world many don’t get to experience :)


Victoria Gazeley May 16, 2011 at 7:34 pm

That cougar story makes my hair stand on end… yikes!


Angela Brooks May 11, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Aww country living – We live in the middle of 17 acres and love the peace it brings to sit on my deck and enjoy the birds and nature. As for the wilderness – that maybe to far out for me *smile*


Victoria Gazeley May 16, 2011 at 7:35 pm

It sure is lovely, isn’t it? I can’t imagine being back in the city – even though it’s far from quiet here, it’s a different kind of quiet. Thanks, Angela!


anabolic steroids blog May 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm

i have a chicken that wakes me up



Carol Rosenberg Giambri May 13, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I live in the country and can sleep through most noises. This is new to me. We had a woodbecker who was making a racket in the fireplace area when I was up, but maybe during my sleepy time. He has since recently left. Chickens are next door and not hearing them.  Maye I just have quiet animals around here. Dogs stopped barking too.  I still need an alarm clock if I must wake up.  Birds aren’t even signing yet. Love the visual I got while reading Victoria. Thanks.


Elvie Look May 16, 2011 at 6:34 am

 First of all, it amazes me you are not nervous living way out there all by yourself. I would love to, but don’t think I could. I am terrified of the bush because of bears. So I truly admire your courage. Also love the sounds of animals, my personal favourite is the loon. Love your posts so much!


Victoria Gazeley May 16, 2011 at 7:40 pm

:o) We’re really not THAT far away from civilization, but it feels like it! My parents live 5 minutes down the road by car, and there’s a caretaker at the business 2 minutes down the road the other way, and neighbours in the next 10 acre chunk… but I can’t SEE any of them!


Anonymous May 16, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Although I’m in an urban area, Victoria, I live on a little lake, so have the usual suspects: raccoons, possums, and so forth.  I may not have regular wake-up calls, but do know what time of year it is by whether or not mama and baby raccoons are doing cartwheels up on my roof.


Victoria Gazeley May 16, 2011 at 7:43 pm

What a fun visual – cartwheeling raccoons. Though it does sound like that sometimes, doesn’t it?


Victoria Gazeley May 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm

So true, but it’s a different kind of ‘noisy’, isn’t it? Love the shotguns when I’m out gardening… um, not! We don’t hear them often here, but once in awhile during deer season, the sound echoes around the mountains. I don’t think I’ve ever heard or seen a mockingbird – are they noisy like crows?


Victoria Gazeley May 16, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Yes, they are beautiful, and yes, 4:15 sounds about right! Thanks for stopping by, Carol…


Victoria Gazeley May 16, 2011 at 7:38 pm

I love the English countryside. I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting for awhile, but last time I was there I remember it being EXACTLY how I’d imagined it. Magical!


Victoria Gazeley May 16, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Oooo… I never thought of that. Reptiles tend not to be very noisy. Eek!


Fiona June 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm

I lived an ancient log cabin in Alberta, my favorite 4:00 AM wake up call was Momma Magpie giving the Sqwack, Screech, Chitter of the breakfast alarm. Then the happy chirrups of the babies as they dined on what ever was served. But why at 4:00 am..I always thought brunch would be nice!


Victoria Gazeley June 13, 2011 at 10:58 pm

I’ve never had the pleasure of being awakened by a magpie, but they sure are beautiful. I can imagine brunch would have been nice!! ;o)


Fiona June 12, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I can hear the neighbour shouting at his wife to get a move on, the thudding clatter of shod horses being loaded into a trailer, the slam of the trailer door, and the rattle and whine of his diesel pickup as they head out to work cattle. I live two miles from his ranch but if the air conditions are just right it is remarkable what a person can hear. Yes the local canine chorus mixing it up with the coyote chorus and cows in the distance…your so right about the solitude and quiet of country living!


Victoria Gazeley June 13, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Wow, Michael – I’m sorry you feel that way. If you knew me, you’d know that the last thing I want to do is displace any ‘nature’. That mother squirrel survives to this day, quite happily, thank you. It’s all fine and good to say you’ll save everything and never impact another creature, but when ‘everything’ is literally eating your house, what is one to do? Let it fall to the ground? It was a built structure, not a hollow tree, so honestly, she stayed for a year, then she had to go.

I’ve been studying environmental conservation and designing environmental education programs since the late 1990s, and I know of all the issues and nuances around this topic. Unfortunately, getting angry about it solves nothing – you work with what you have and you do your best. Short of hiding under a rock and becoming an ‘airtarian’ (yes, some people actually do this), or living naked in the forest eating berries, we ALL have an impact…. even you (unless you are, in fact, living naked in the bush and surviving on berries – if so, I applaud you, but neither I nor most people on the planet will choose to live that way). We’re all doing the best we can on this planet, and while it may not be perfect, it’s what we’ve got. I appreciate your perspective, and understand – I’m just not what or who you think I am… ;o)


Victoria Gazeley June 13, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Oh, and by the way – I can’t even kill a mosquito… and I grew up here. I invite you to have a look at some of the other posts…


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