Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | June 26, 2014

Campfire Story

Last night we lit the tiki torches, and made a campfire in our back yard.  Even in an urban setting, sitting within the ring of firelight transports you to a world apart, somewhere between tame city life and wilderness.

We were cooking the vegetarian version of “Piggies in a Blanket,” soy sausages wrapped up in biscuit dough and toasted over the fire (it’s better than it sounds).  We heard a rustling in the woods, just outside the firelight.  Even in your own backyard, strange and unexpected noises coming from the darkness nearby is creepy.

We saw something right out of a spooky forest scene from a Disney cartoon, with two golden eyes shining in the darkness.

The bright flash of a camera revealed a visitor, looking at us with the eeriest most otherworldly eyes.

Raccoons are common here, especially when the cherries, plums, and apples are ripening in the trees.

They can be very cute.  They are incredibly adaptable, living in 48 out of 50 states in the US.  (Can you guess which two are raccoonless?  Answer at end of post!).  They are at home in the city, but are still wild creatures, which people often forget. I’ve had ten or twelve come forage in my yard at once, but I don’t encourage them.  A friend fed one raccoon puppy chow, and soon 20 or more raccoons were scratching at her back door and climbing on her windowsills demanding food.  Another friend had one repeatedly using the cat door and brazenly scrounging leftovers in the kitchen while the family was in the next room watching TV.  Yet another had to take her dog to the vet for stitches after a raccoon attack–she thinks it was angry because she’d recently stopped leaving food for her pets on the deck because it was attracting raccoons.

We shooed the raccoon away with the hose.  It was persistent, and took us several tries over ten or fifteen minutes.  Those little piggies just smelled too good.   That might seem mean, but we don’t want to encourage more visits or a taste for human food in a wild creature.  

 Long after the raccoon was gone, the s’mores were eaten, and the flames had died down to glowing embers, I could see the afterimage of wildfire reflected in those golden eyes.

All words and images c2014NaomiBaltuck

Click below for more interpretations of:

The Weekly Photo Challenge: Between.

The Weekly Travel Theme: Shine.

A Photo a Week Challenge: Wildlife.

One Word Photo Challenge: Gold.

P.S.  No raccoons in Hawaii–I bet you all got that one.  And no raccoons in Alaska, which I’d never have guessed.

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Responses

  1. What fun in the BACKyard! I know about those little scavengers. Aren’t they little beggars? Bold as brass too but they look so c.u.t.e. and innocent with those robber masks, or are they Zorro masks?

    As always, your pictures are worth a thousand words, even in the backyard.

    I had a cherry tree at one house and finally had to set the hose on a couple of fighters in the tree and at another house I have a huge plum tree. I couldn’t believe how high and precariously they’d climb to get the left-over plums.

    • HI Tess,
      Love the Zorro masks. They certainly have style, that’s for sure. Thanks so much for the visit and for sharing some of your story. We have a plum tree too, and I know that we can expect lots of visits from the raccoons when the plums are ripe. I can just see you wielding the hose against those big raccoons!

  2. We have a lot of raccoons where I live, and they are nasty animals. As pretty as they are, I keep my dog away from them.

    • Hi Catherine,
      Oh, yes, they are so smart and fascinating to watch, but can be vicious. Thanks for the visit!

  3. What a sweet capture Naomi. Sad to have to chase him/her away, but you’re right, and anyway, it’s summer and there’s lots of food around for them! For all that I adored my monkey visitors I was never tempted to tempt them with food, for exactly the same reasons.

    • Hi Meredith,
      Visits from your monkey visitors are some of my favorite posts. It would be hard to resist feeding them! Thanks so much for the visit, and for sharing your thoughts.

  4. I like the idea of the backyard campfire, maybe one day we’ll have a fire pit. We get a raccoon visitor for a day or so when winter is harsh. It cleans up after the birds, or munches on the squirrels’ peanuts. Lately, I’ve seen a big old ‘possum late at night looking for leftovers. There’s been a lot of development in our area, I think the animals are looking for a new place to live.

    • We get possums here too. Once, when they took down a square block of forest to build houses near us, we saw a coyote who had probably been displaced. Raccoons are incredibly adaptable and seem to do quite well in an urban setting.

  5. Our yard goes up against a forrest of trees so I’m sure we have plenty of night creatures out there. I definitely don’t wouldn’t want to tempt them! We’ve always talked about doing a fire pit back there but haven’t gotten to doing it yet — it does sound like fun!

    • Hi Arlene,
      How wonderful to be backed up to a forest! I’m sure you see a lot of wildlife.
      A fire pit can be very informal and easy. My cousin had a campfire on the ground, but we contain ours in a metal dish that we can move around. It makes it so easy! And it’s almost like going on vacation. Thanks for the visit, and for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  6. I guessed right – seemed logical to me to go with Hawaii and Alaska but still it was a guess. I’d love a backyard fire pit, but because we are in the midst of a pine forest we cannot have fires in the summer.

    • Hi Carol,
      You did better than I did on this test! I couldn’t imagine that Alaska wouldn’t have raccoons. I guess the mountains are too vast a barrier and the winters just too harsh.
      We water our garden and flower beds, but not our lawn, so in the summer, even in Seattle, the grass gets quite dry and yellow. We have to be sure we set up our fire pit away from the house, so sparks don’t carry over. We also have a hose right there, in case some sparks get away from us, and we’ve started using the paved Rose Circle for our traveling fire pit, so that the grass won’t catch fire. It’s gotten more use this year, because the kids are home, than in the past couple of years together. Once they are gone on their own adventures, I will have to be more organized and bring company in to share the fire, or it might not happen.
      In Alaska, all my sister has to do is light the fire in her backyard, and people start showing up with six packs!
      I hope your summer is going well, Carol. It is always so good to hea from you,

  7. I can’t think of a better addition to a campfire than a fiery-eyed bandit! You’re right, though, Naomi, they are cute but dangerous, and many of them carry rabies….eek. It hurt my brain to think of two states that raccoons don’t call home, and for some reason I thought of Alaska, and the obvious Hawaii never crossed my mind!

    • HI Elisa,
      Thanks so much for the visit. It’s always good to hear from you.

  8. It’s not easy to get such good pictures of raccoons. We often see them when we are camping, but we mostly hear them scavenging in our campsite after we’ve gone to bed. We’re pretty good at leaving no traces of food, but once they somehow got into our cooler (we usually have it all tied up and surrounded by lawn chairs), and they made off with all of our meat. We’ve never had any really bad experiences though, and I’m mostly in the camp that thinks they’re cute. Your campfire looks like fun!

    • Hi Naomi,
      Thanks so much for the visit. I do find Raccoons SO smart and wily and bold–fascinating to watch. But especially when the garden starts to come in, we have clear conflicts of interest!
      I have been out of town for more than a month, and am just catching up on my blogging. What we have really missed is our garden, and our porch swing, and our fire circle. And our library, of course!

  9. I love the idea of the back yard braai, even the visits of the Racoon… but could you not have braaied more than piggies.??? say a good veggie fry all mixed in and covered in Olive oil??? Or even some toasties as we call them here… a bread sandwich with tomatoes, onion and cheese toasted over the fire… or for that matter any combination with cheese as a must for your toastie…

  10. Got the quiz question in one – go me! Sounds like your ‘coons are slowly becoming used to urban living – like foxes, seagulls etc. Easier to scavenge on the edge of town than to use their wits in the wild.

    Here’s a song to go with your next campfire http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXbGI0vn9FQ

  11. what a beautiful sharing… I felt myself there too :) Thank you dear Naomi, have a nice day and weekend, love, nia

  12. What a great family evening, Naomi. Those racoons are very cheeky little scoundrels. We encountered so many of them, terrorising the visitors in the Manuel Antonio National Park. You were right to discourage your gatecrasher. :)

  13. The luminosity of animals’ eyes is amazing. My dog’s eyes, which are greenish-yellow in the daylight, glow red if caught in torchlight.

  14. Great post for the Girl Scout in me! We used to wave our arms about and shout “Wa-zooo!” to scare them off. Racoons have great fur coats for Alaska, but as there’s not much for a scavenger to forage for, it probably wouldn’t find much to eat. Sometimes on our night walks through the village, especially the night before garbage pick up, we hear racoons fighting in the streets and running up the trees. Their vocalizations are truly scary!!

  15. thank you for inviting us to your campfire!! One evening I left the sliding door open and a whole family of racoons marched in and started eating the cat food. ( cat on bed never woke up!!). They left politely when done. Wonderful golden eye!!

  16. We have no raccoons here in Aus, Naomi – they do look cute, but it sounds like feeding them is to be avoided at all costs! I love a backyard campfire. It sounds like you had a fabulous night :D

  17. No raccoons here in ireland. I like a lot of what you have over there, but you can keep your racconns for yourselves!:-) Love the idea of eating outdoors with tiki lights and an open fire.

  18. Such a beautiful intruder Naomi :-) Love your shot of his shining eyes in the dark! I would have chased him away as well….never a good idea to feed any wildlife.

  19. Beautiful images of a magical night. Love the intruder. Glad he went away. :)

  20. really enjoyed this

    raccoon gone, the s’mores eaten, flames died down…. awe such a nice post

  21. Okay, the glowing eyes would have totally freaked me out. I’ve been camping plenty of times but I’ve never seen a raccoon, only the evidence of trash bag pillaging in the morning. This particular visitor you had seemed very persistent. Perhaps he had a story to share around the campfire while chowing down on some s’mores. : )

  22. So cool! I enjoyed the visit to your back yard! k.

    • Hi k,

      We bought this house for the backyard, which is really is just a series of outdoor rooms in our house, for campfires, gardening, storytelling potlucks, and silly stuff like night croquet. When the kids were little we had a spaceship in the basement, and they would go on “Away Missions” to the backyard. Thanks for joining us, and taking the time to share a very lovely comment!

  23. Love it and now with all my photos and stories, also around a fire I must find time to share :)

    • HI Eunice,
      I hope you do! Until then, your blog is a proverbial campfire, a great place to share your stories!

      • :) So much going on here hard to find time to share it all :) So nice to read your post so I know I am not alone with wild beasts lol

  24. What a lovely evening! I daresay, that raccoon was probably ready to become the next domesticated species!

  25. I love that your backyard is “just a series of outdoor rooms” ..and it was lovely to hear about the inception and creation of another addition to your backpack of stories! I’m just about to go view what might be the next incubator of my own stories and spirit, and a quiet walk-around visit to the backyard is a must! :-) Terri

  26. I got Alaska but never thought of Hawaii :) The campfire scenes are lovely, Naomi. I can feel the warm glow from here.

  27. The whole time I was reading this I could hear crickets, locusts and frogs in my head. You so accurately captured the strange eerieness of sitting outside in the dark; even when it’s in your own backyard.


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