Creatures of the Night and NaNoWriMo

They creep out of the shadows at twilight, looking to eat living creatures. Little grunting noises of pleasure escape them as their sharp teeth sink into soft, slimy flesh.

They’re adorable little creatures, and I’m grateful for their presence. But as National Novel Writing Month begins, the cute little Hedgehogs that have been devouring the slugs and snails in my garden on summer nights, will now go into hibernation.
All autumn, these little balls of prickly fur have been feasting on as much grub as they can gobble—beetles, worms, roly-polies, maybe a fallen blackberry or two—before their long winter nap. During that deep sleep, their heart rate will slow, their body temperature lowers, and by March when they wake up, they’ll have lost twenty to forty percent of their body weight.

Before the winter wind and rain comes, they’re scurrying along hedgerows, gathering leaves and moss to insulate their nests. Sometimes I leave lint from the dryer under the hedgerow for them. Unlike bird nests, which are built in the spring to house eggs and babies, a hedgehog’s nest is a cozy, solitary winter home.

When they wake up, in spring, the hedgehogs will be ravenous for my garden slugs again. They’ll roam far and wide, sleeping around in every sense of the word, so they can make baby hedgehogs. They have a happy-go-lucky nature, and you have to admire their approach to life. When faced with a threat, they simply roll up into a ball.

However, hedgehogs are not native to Ireland. It’s believed they were brought into this country from England or Wales in the 13th century, probably by monks for their massive, enclosed gardens. Monasteries had kitchen gardens and cloister gardens which had to grow enough food to feed a lot of people. Since hedgehogs can eat copious quantities of plant-eating bugs, they would have been most welcome additions to monastic life.

I think of myself as a bit like a hedgehog during November. The tour industry grinds to a near-halt, and I snuggle up inside, hibernating with a new manuscript. Now, if only I could manage to shed twenty percent of my body weight at the same time . . .