Wednesday, February 21, 2007

saving deer (and rats)

As those of you who have been reading m;y stuff for a while know, I have this thing about deer.

However, recently I received an e-mail about deer that upset me.

It was one calling for action. Asking, really, demanding that I take urgent steps to stop a travesty.

Because, if I didn't immediately write a letter to the mayor of Livingston, New Jersey then the mayor was sure to follow the advice of the city's "Deer Management Committee" and allow men dressed in camouflage and carrying bows to chase down the city's herd of Bambi's relatives and commence launching arrows in their direction.

Now, unlike most e-mails of the sort, I did not immediately trash it. I hesitated with my finger on the delete key because, because I could relate to the writer's feeling.

His feeling about the deer of Livingston is the same feeling I get when I travel into the city.

But instead of feeling warm and cuddly when I see deer, I get that feeling for those cute little ubiquitous brown (and sometimes gray) critters scurry across the city streets, around the corners, from one hole to the next.

While it's true that out here in the country we don't have very many rodent neighbors, when I make the trip into the city there's always one of those cute little buggers darting out of one hole and scurrying across the sidewalk for another, I want to stop and say (just like your Sunday driver in the country says when they see a deer) "Look everybody. Did you see it? A rat? Isn't it so cute?"

Over the years I've noticed that some people are rather small minded about rats. They accuse rats of all sorts of nefarious crimes. Spreading disease. Damaging houses. Sneaking into cabinets and eating the food set aside for human consumption.

Really, in the scheme of things, just trifles. A small price, actually, to pay for having such darlings living in the same neighborhood.. And while I admit, rats getting in to one's food can be a problem, there are other solutions to the problem besides murder.

Really, the question should be, not how to get rid of rats but truthfully, the question should be, why are the city people so selfish? Why should people living in the sity be so selfish with all their wealth?

Instead of attempting to murder rats and to keep them out of their food and homes shouldn't they, instead, begin to live peacefully with their rodent neighbors? Instead of traps, couldn't they instead provide the darlings with food?

And instead of being upset about rats in the walls how about setting aside a room just for these lovely creatures.

I can see it clearly, The White House instead of just having a blue room and a vermeil room, a china room and Lincoln's bedroom. It could also have a rat room.

And incase you think I'm being unfair, let's go back and look at the deer. I mean, when compared to a rat, Bambi and relatives aren't very nice creatures.

I mean, about the best you can say for a deer is that its a sneak thieves. Creeping around in the dark. Jumping fences, stomping on flower beds. Destroying vegetables. Eating pumpkins. Sometimes fields of pumpkins. Corn, lettuce, spinach, sweet potatoes, okra, string beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower (we could go on and on here).

Three year's ago a gang of deer burglarized my field right in front of our house, and when we weren't looking made off with something like $15,000 worth of vegetables.

The year before it was $12,000. The year before that $8000. That makes $35,000 worth of property stolen by the local deer gang in just three years.

I bet you will be hard pressed to find very many examples of cute rats causing any where near that much damage.

So, what I think I'm going to do is to write that mayor up in New Jersey and instead of complaining about his "Deer Management Committee" suggestions. I'm going to ask him to give his city's rats the same opportunity. Instead of traps and poisons I think the city should give its rodents a sporting chance. Bows and arrows.

Leigh Hauter

Monday, February 05, 2007

goose going ons

What eats a goose?

I mean what goes out at one o'clock in the morning and tries to capture, kill and eat a goose?

One AM was just a few moments ago and suddenly there was a ruckus out on the other side of the stone wall in front of our house.

I was at the computer just beginning an e-mail discussion of current events I have several nights a week with my brother who lives in Korea.

We usually start by exchanging articles we’ve read over the past 24 hours, along with comments.

I was reading one he’d sent me on the Libby trial when the uproar started. It must have been going on for several minutes before I stopped reading long enough to be aware of what was happening outside.

The geese had been screaming and now, I could hear them scattered. Some of them calling out from the woods down below the house. There were other cries coming from farther out. On the other side of the field in front of the house.

There were even some goose calls coming from around behind the house.

I sat at my desk listening, the Libby article forgotten, for a moment longer as the cries slowly died out leaving only one goose making a plaintive call from somewhere out in the dark coldness.

Every night since I took down the fence that kept them up on the asparagus bed they have spent the days roaming the frozen or (if not quite frozen) muddy farm looking for something green to eat.

I’ve been putting out a bucket of grain for them but this has gone mostly to the crows as the geese prefer greens, and spend their days going over the various fields looking for that last frost hardy green out there.

Over the past several weeks the geese have eaten just about all of the remaining sorrel.

And while they ignored it when their was still something else to choose from, now they have finished off the last of the arugula still growing in the upper field.

But the geese’s eating habits aren’t what I sat out to tell you about, we were talking about what out there dared attack a gang (I know, the official word for a gang of geese is a gaggle) of geese right outside my lighted window?

And also, where was Andorra our goose protector of a dog, when all this was happening?

I went running out the front door with my heavy coat in one hand (at 1 am the temperature had already dropped to 16 degrees), and in my other hand that super bright 10 million or so candle power lantern I had just bought.

And instead of me flying through the air under a plastic kite, think of eight geese all running as fast as they can in different directions, flapping their wings and then suddenly, airborne.

Not, unlike unguided missiles heading in different directions.

Off into the forest.

I stopped typing. Listened to the quacking screams, the flapping wings and ran for the door, grabbed my coat, boots and that new flashlight.

And as I ran out the door and flipped on the light switch it did light up the entire field.

Ten million candle power. Wow!

But I didn’t see the geese. Just the empty field with the cold wind blowing some dry straw.

And then one. A single goose coming out of the woods to the south, quacking (I know that’s what ducks do, what about geese? Is their call a quack? or something else?)

And then another that had landed in the front yard. It peered out around the stone wall. And a third over where the garlic is growing.

I waited out in the cold and wind flashing my alleged 10 million candle power flash light back and forth but after five minutes only half a dozen geese showed themselves. The other two are gone.

Here it is, now 2:30 in the morning. How time flies. I’ve been sharing e-mails and views of the world with my brother and during that time the geese have quieted down.

Back at 1 am. They had all scattered. Flown off in every which way.

But now they have reformed their gaggle and as I shine my light out the window (actually I had to go downstairs, put on my coat again and go out into the now 12 degree outside) to see what was going on.

Are they all there?

Let me count. 1 goose, 2 geese, 4 geese 5 geese, 6, 7, .. is there an eighth goose? What is large enough to goose handle a 15-20 bird? One that can flap its wing, poke with a mean beak and, for short distances, even in the dark, fly.

I stood there shivering for a moment longer but decided that it was too cold to stand there much longer worrying about a goose.

There wasn’t anything I could do anyway. And besides, either way, it was hunky-dory. If the wayward goose wasn’t gone, that was good. And if it was gone, well, there’d be one less goose to make a mess on the driveway.

I’d come out a winner either way.

And in the morning, when I took up this newsletter and gave it one more going over I had already gone out into the 7 degree morning and given the gaggle a look, along with a recount.

And from somewhere in the early morning cold the missing goose had appeared and rejoined its brothers and sisters.


Leigh Hauter