Thursday, September 27, 2007

This week's wild animal catalogue

Why not a catalogue of the wild animals I’ve encountered this week.

Of course there were the skunks. Two of them. In the middle of the night.

I was out at 3 AM a couple nights ago, moving sprinklers, and there they were, digging in the field we’d just plowed. Looking for, no doubt, onions.

I had been doing the same thing the day before, gleaning onions. That field is where we planted those 12,000 onion seedlings way back in the spring. And while this year’s onion crop was pretty much a flop, suffering from the one/two punch of no rain and constant deer attacks, you did get those small onions back around week eight or nine and when we plowed there were still a number of small onions out there hiding, overlooked in the weeds.

The ones I’d gleaned had gone into this morning’s omelet. Tasty! And I guess the skunks must have had the same idea (seeing as how skunks also have a taste for eggs).

Which makes me wonder. How many people out there have ever run into a skunk and maybe got themselves sprayed?

Have you?.

I remember a wedding we attended many years ago out in San Diego where the building housing the reception was pretty much surrounded by skunks. You had to dodge stepping on the cute little black and yellow furry things to get in. Which was bad enough. But getting out, for some people, after all the drinking I recall they did. That was interesting.

We left early but I think several guests, after drinking a tad more than they should have, wobbled out and into the path of one of the California versions of the ones I’d seen out digging for onions the other night .

Wenonah tells a story of when she first moved to the farm, back when she was a little girl. We won’t go into the details on how she got sprayed (was it really up there in the quarry where she and her girlfriends had their secret ‘Nancy Drew’ clubhouse/hideout?).

Anyway, her mother ended up giving her a bath in tomato juice, an old time remedy that I hear is no longer considered an effective smell remover.

And since I think I have in the past used the story of her suffering near mortal embarrassment as she went to school smelling of skunk the next day I won’t retell her story again.

And then over the weekend I saw the solution to the burb’s squirrel overpopulation problem.

I’m not sure exactly what kind of hawk it was, I was paying more attention to the carcass hanging from its talons as it lifted off down by the creek and flew over the pond and disappeared into the forest.

The squirrel was obviously dead with its entails hanging out. I did notice the hawks large black and white tail just before it disappeared.

What type of hawk living around here has a black and white tail?

And then there was the deer that had got inside the anti-deer fence last week. I didn’t actually see the deer at first but I was pretty sure one was inside because Thursday night it had left hoof prints in the radishes and had eaten the better part of four squash.

Friday afternoon, we spent 2 hours walking and searching the area inside the anti-deer fence. Going through all the brush and looking behind every tree without any luck.

However, that night, Wenonah and I were going for an evening walk when we saw three sets of eyes off in the forest (but still inside the anti-deer fence).

The eyes were low to the ground, much lower than what you's think a standing deer's eyes to be, and in the faint light of our small hand held flashlight we could make out long pointy ears.

Where they fox or maybe coyotes?

Here's a question. What if they were foxes or coyotes? They were only a hundred or so yards away from our chicken tractor. Should I leave them alone and let them attack our chickens?

Just the week before we'd bought 150 day old chicks so we'd haved egg laying pullets for next season. Should I let the predators attack and eat our chickens?

Or should I attack the predator?

What is the solution?

And then, what if they weren't predators at all? What if they were deer? Maybe laying down in the leaves, resting. Waiting for us to go back to the house before they meandered out in the field to eat our vegetables.

So far this year, I figure, we have lost somewhere around $15-$20,000 worth of vegetable due to Bambi and her relatives. Your average deer, remember, eats something like 14 pounds of green matter each and every night.

What should I do?

I left Wenonah there keeping the flashlight shining off into the woods while I ran back to the house.

And when I returned with the rifle I raised it and looking through the scope and saw...

Three young deer.

The oldest, the one that must have been a mother, couldn’t have been much more than waist high. She was a baby herself. Not much more than what we would think of as a teenager.

I moved the light over to the next set of eyes and it was even younger. An infant. A real baby. It couldn’t have been more than a week old. Same with the third one. Three deer. Two that were new born fawns and the mother a child herself.

Children having children. Aren’t we teaching our teenage deer abstinence?

I stared at them for a moment through the scope on the rifle. My finger on the trigger. Baby one in the cross hairs. It was so cute.

"I don't like this," Wenonah say saying, “Isn't there another way of getting them out of the garden?”

I put down the rifle. "Sure. If you could talk to them. Tell them that its best for all concerned if they got up and pranced down the driveway and out the gate. If you could convince them to leave by the gate I might even be persuaded to put out a sack of feed for them to eat rather than eating our vegetables.

"Only, you would need to learn to speak deer to do that. Otherwise they aren't going to understand you."

I raised the rifle again. Looked through the sight and, my finger on the trigger, made sure the smallest deer was dead center in the cross hairs and

and put the rifle down again.

"How much lettuce can a deer that small eat anyway." I said. I took the rifle back to the farm house, without firing it at the vegetable eating deer.

We are opening early sign up. If you are interested in reserving a 2008 share now send me an e-mail telling me what you want to sign up for and then mail me half payment by the end of October. If you sign up now you get the share at the 2007 price.

OR You can also wait for the 2008 subscription drive which starts in late February but if you do you pay the 2008 rate which I haven’t determined yet.

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