Paradise Lost

I am heartbroken.

There used to be an absolutely magical place a few miles away. There were the remains of an old homestead, with apple trees for the deer and monstrous maple trees.

There was an old man who used to sit in his car, under one of those maples. I would see him there several times a week in the summer and nod or wave when I saw him. I’d wondered if his family had once owned the place or if he just lived in a noisy household and wanted some peace.

There was a rather tricky two track, (the one where I found the stranded homeless man with a dead battery in his van) it led to a small open area near that lovely winding creek. Once you knew the location of hidden foundations and the deep mud holes left by ATV’s, you could do it in my car.

At the creek there was a bench just to sit in the quiet and a rock crossing made by that long ago farmer. The only sounds were the creek, the birds and in the fall, the sound of acorns falling from the oaks. Sometimes people camped there, again, I believe they were homeless. At times we would come down and find the campsite torn apart and abandoned. We could never understand why someone would just ruin the tent and leave what was left, strewn on the ground to rot.

Twice, we have found trash dumped behind the trees, much of it was food cans from whoever camped there. Some was debris from some moron who didn’t want to pay dump fees, so they left it in the woods. Once, we found brass where someone had been shooting into the hillside.

It was never a “teen party place” with broken liquor bottles and general garbage. It was usually pretty clean and the firepit well maintained to contain a fire safely.

It was the perfect place to take animals for release. There was water, abundant food, there was shelter and it was far enough from the road. It was a place that gave them time to adjust to living in the wild and on release days, I could stay with them as long as needed to give them the confidence to walk away.

I loved that place. It was a place of peace. A place of escape from the hectic pace of my life. a place of refuge for whomever found it.

It’s gone now.

Being state land, they decided to harvest the trees, even the old maple. Where will the old man sit now? They tore up the road with the big logging trucks, and I can no longer get to the two track. Even if I could, I couldn’t get to the quiet place. They felled a huge tree across the track. The only access to it now is by another two track, navigable only by big, noisy, ATV’s

It’s ugly now. I have no idea what it’s like down by the creek. It looks as if someone dropped a bomb and blew all the beauty away.

We had always assumed that this was state land and a quick internet search, confirmed the farm had gone to the state for back taxes decades ago. I imagine that was when the house, barn, milkhouse and silo were knocked down. BUT being state land, it should be accessible to the people who support it with their taxes.

We, as Michigan Citizens OWN that land, yet we are denied use of it. The old man used it. The homeless gentleman in his van used it, the camper used it, WE used it. I know for a fact that one of those people (besides us) are veterans and gave a good portion of their lives to protect land like this. Yet, now we are banned.

Only people with expensive recreational vehicles will have access. The very people who tear up the landscape with their tires can now do it without interruption.

I’d like to know why? Was it because someone dumped trash? I know several places where they dump their trash along seasonal roads and THEY are not blocked off. Was it because of the homeless camping there? They have just as much right as anyone else to camp on state land.

I understand the harvesting of lumber, the state does it all the time, I really don’t mind it, as it eventually creates new habitat. What I don’t understand is the total destruction of the area and the blocking of the road.

I’ve always respected the DNR. We have had a great relationship. I don’t right now. This was THEIR doing. The land would not be destroyed without their approval and planning. The road could not have been blocked, but by them. Now we pay taxes to support property we cannot use. We pay taxes to pay for the very people who deny us its use.

There is less magic in the world today and magic is increasingly hard to find. There are less safe places to release squirrels and possums and porcupines. There is less food for the deer in late winter. There is less for all of us.


Hopeless Cases and Speed Bumps

This is a tough time of year for me. I get tons of “hopeless cases” calls. The goose who can’t fly and is left behind on the lake, the fox with broken bones who’s been hit by a car and the birds with broken wings. Today was a goose and chickadee day.

With the goose, the only thing I can recommend is to move them down to the bay or a river where the water stays open in the winter. Even if I was allowed, I don’t have the facility to care for a dozen geese over the winter or for the rest of their lives.

Bird bones are hollow, that’s what allows them to fly. They rarely heal well enough for flight without surgery. I can’t do that. Everyone wants me to try, but then I put in all the time and effort and almost always end up with a bird that can’t fly. I can’t keep them in a cage the rest of their life. The bird suffers, I suffer, it usually ends badly and I need to put the bird down or if I release it , it get’s eaten by something else pretty quick. Better to leave it and let that happen naturally in the beginning or put it down mercifully before it suffers. People think I’m cruel for saying that.

All I can do for the fox is put it down. An adult fox, especially when injured is a pretty nasty animal. They don’t know you are trying to help them. They are in pain and will lash out with very sharp teeth. If I can get a cast on one, it will chew it off and sometimes the leg. Again. It ends badly for both of us.

Sometimes though, with a very young animal, I try.

I got a call this spring about a tiny fawn that was hit by a car, but there didn’t seem to be any broken bones. They badgered and pleaded until I agreed to take it in.
It arrived, barely conscious and covered with blood. The legs and large bones were fine, but it was obvious that it had a skull fracture. I worried that the eye that was swollen shit would be blind. Blind deer don’t last long.

I spent days dribbling formula into its mouth and treating the head wound and road rash. At the end of many sleepless nights and against all odds, he survived. He had to learn to walk again and I would put a towel under his belly to support him. The concussion caused him to circle to the right and I had to force his brain to shift to the left till he could walk straight.

We called him Speed Bump. He had a kind of wonky eye, but good sight in it. Being a swamp buck, he was three shades darker than the others and his legs tapered to black near the hooves. He was my most aggressive baby and demanded to be fed first. I worried about my sliding door as he would rise up and kick it if his bottle was late.

I knew from the start that he probably would not make it long in the wild. We joked that there “Was something just not right about that boy. Regardless, he thrived.

The gates had been down since the first of October and the two boys spend much of their nights in the wild. They would always be at the door though looking for a bottle or treat, twice a day. That’s where he was yesterday morning, beating at the door (literally) for his sweet feed.

All four of them were underfoot most of the day while Jimmy was working on his new shed and I was doing all the pre-winter stuff that I never seem to get done before it snows.
About three, I happened to look across the fence in Levi’s yard. There was a deer lying still in the grass. It was Speed Bump. He’d been dead for only an hour or less and I ran to him. I stroked his still warm side and soft ears. I looked for any marks of injury or any indication of how he died. There was no blood, no broken bones, the ground was not disturbed as if he struggled.

He simply died.

I will never know why.

Somehow that makes it harder. There are many scenarios…a stroke, compression from a malformed skull, did something chase him and he made it back to the yard only to die of shock or heart attack? Or did death simply come to reclaim what I took from it?

I had the boys take his body out to the woods. Let him be food for other animals instead of rotting in the ground. I went off and sat for a while. I thought about all the problems he had with the initial injury, a bad stretch of scours, and a tough case of worms. He was never meant to survive from the beginning, but we fought. Even with all this, he had a great little life. Never hungry. Other fawns to play with. A safe space. And then….the taste of freedom.

People don’t understand the toll these little deaths take on me. Even the chickadees take a tiny part of me when they die. I question myself, my abilities, whether it is even right for me to have interfered in the first place. I wish I could explain that, when they call with a hopeless case. I wish I could tell them that I’m running out of pieces to give. A heart can break only so many times.

Tonight, I watched the other three fawns playing in the yard. I gave them extra scratches and peppermints before they left for the night’s frolic. I watched the bob cat play in the leaves and listened to Roomba settling in for the night with his grumbles and heavy sighs.
I thought about the thousands of hours I put into these animals, the thousands of dollars. The suffering and pain that I can do so little for. The ones that make it…and the ones that don’t.

Then a mourning dove came and landed next to me. I know him. He was freshly hatched when he came, but is sleek and beautiful now. He just sat with me for a moment, as it to say, “It’s ok. I understand”.

Maybe he does. Maybe somewhere deep inside I understand too, but tonight, it just hurts.

Bob Cat Bunny Hops

The differences between Ki Ki (the last bobcat) and Stella (the ever present bane of my life) are staggering. They both came to me at about the same age (one to two weeks old). While Ki Ki was more laid back and had minimal hunting skills at 11 weeks, Stella has already made her first unassisted kill. (Granted the pigeon could not fly well, but it was more than half her size.)
Today I was watching her in the back yard. Believed to be more opportunistic hunters (waiting for prey to wander by), we had noticed, definite cat like stalking by Ki Ki, but bird kills were minimal. Stella however was sitting by the gate, hoping a pigeon would succumb to it’s obesity, and fall within her grasp.

It didn’t happen. Instead, she looked over at the feeder platform that sits on a three foot high fence post. As usual, it was filled with fat squirrels and a peacock or two. It was what she did next that blew me away.

She crouched down, ears erect and hopped like a rabbit over to the feeder, with her size and coloration, including the white tip on her tail, even I would have mistaken her for a cotton tail or hare. The other animals completely ignored her approach, where if she had crept in while in stalking mode, they would have. (Not that they would have moved, but remember these are fat, lazy squirrels , who don’t move unless you set off dynamite.
I thought how well this behavior would work in the wild. It has always been a mystery to me who a cat in the wild could travel her territory with a litter of kittens and keep them all fed. Stella’s hunting abilities explain that. Some of the kittens feed themselves and probably their slower siblings.

Rabbits are not exceptionally brilliant animals. They are probably the dumbest of prey animals. There are also lots and lots of them, especially in my yard. You will often see two or more feeding in the same area. They don’t have a particularly great sensory system either, except for their hearing.
Now picture a group of feeding rabbits, ears erect to hear any incoming predators. What looks like another rabbit and sounds like a rabbit, hops up to the group. They don’t pay much attention. All it has to do is wait for an unsuspecting rabbit to get close enough to pounce.

Nature is ingenious.

You go Stella. I could use a few less rabbits in my yard. When you are done with that, I have this chipmunk in the laundry room……

A Frolic in the Rain

I had not realized the sheer scope of the rain that fell last night. I heard it on and off all night, pounding on the metal roof. I expected some water this morning, but it went well beyond puddles.

The first thing I noticed was the standing water in the front yard. Now this is not unusual. It frequently floods in the spring. However, this is October. It’s a good thing that no one tried to mess with my Biden display as all the extension cords were fully submerged and they might have gotten a big surprise. I really hate finding singed bodies in the front yard. It upsets the neighbor.

I opened the back door to feed and give bottles and was met with soggy deer. They had no desire to stay outside in the rain and barged past me to the dog food dish. The bedraggled peacocks were standing in ankle deep water in their feeder, as waterlogged sunflower seeds floated about them. Damp squirrels growled at me from the top of the fawn pen. The only ones that seemed dry were the pigeons and they smugly preened while I drained the feeder.

Everyone glared at me like this was somehow my fault. I don’t control the rain boys. I was briefly grateful that I could not see the expressions of the porcupines that I released this week. Wet porcupines are especially grumpy and vindictive.

The chickens fared a bit better, though their run was muddy, and I’ll have to scrub the eggs tonight, the coop remained dry and so did their food. They gave me a more pleasant greeting.

Next up, the bunnies. I noticed the path was a bit slick and I was grateful for my favorite Crocs as they have no holes and keep my feet moderately dry. The rain had leaked into one of the hutches and the six cute, little white bunnies, were not so white and giving me dirty looks from the corner. I fed them quickly and knew I at least didn’t need to refill their water.

The path makes a bit of a downhill run from the rabbits to the turkey pen. I discovered that it was safer (and more fun) to slide sideways like a snowboard to the grass. There seemed to be a bit of water at the end. That was unusual….

It was then when I saw the turkeys. High and sandy on one end of the pen, the area with the feeder is unfortunately low and of a texture hard to describe. Mucky, might work for this purpose. Instead of greeting me with spread tails and full struts, the drenched birds were standing, knee deep in mud, around the feeder. With eyes narrowed and shoulders hunched, they glared at me. No drumming, no friendly gobbles, no winks and nods. This did not bode well. It didn’t help that I pointed out that there was a perfectly dry shelter with fresh straw that they could have been in . Turkeys are non-compliant and never take responsibility for their actions.

Now, we designed the feeder, so I would not have to actually enter a pen full of 40 plus pound amorous turkeys that think I am, well, “Real Purdy”. There is a long PVC pipe that enters through the fence and dumps the feed into a covered feeder. The feeder was filled with water. Shit. I would have to enter the pen and empty it before putting fresh feed in.

I scooped up a pan of corn and called cheerfully to them. I tossed the corn into the drier section to distract them. As hoped, they all ran to the corn and started eating…all but one. The biggest Tom stood by the feeder waiting. He’s been waiting since puberty for me to enter that pen. He wasn’t giving up his chance.

I opened the gate. He raised one eyebrow and let his snood fall over the other eye. He took a deep breath and gave me his sexiest drum. I swallowed hard. I had no desire to be the unwilling partner of his intentions. I stood there armed with my tiny tin pan while he stood his ground with all the strength and determination of unrequited love…and lust.

I started for the feeder. I underestimated the quagmire I would have to cross to get to the there. Going was slow and it gave him time to make his plan. As I approached, he shook the weight of the excess water from his feathers and pulled his feet from the sucking mud. I got to the feeder and scooped like mad all the while sinking into goo like a cowboy in quicksand.

The feeder was empty (though far from dry) just as I felt his beak get a firm grasp on the back of my shirt. I had to get out fast and do it now. The other turkeys had stopped eating now, and all stood watching with their beaks open to see who would win this battle of the sexes. I’m not positive, but I think I heard bets being placed as the white hen worked the pen like a seasoned bookie.

I jerked my shirt free and turned to run.

I lost a croc in the muck.


I considered leaving it, but not only was I wearing new socks, but the image of him gently caressing my shoe as he slept was not something I wanted to carry in my brain. Again we eyed each other. I heard dramatic music in my head, Clint Eastwood in a poncho flashed before my eyes. I
wanted my croc. The turkey wanted me.

Calling up all the grace and balance from years of Tai Chi, I took a long breath. Still standing on one leg, I reached slowly for the crock. I managed to hook one finger in the strap and began slowly pulling it from the slime. I could DO this!

Just as I heard the familiar drum (And I know, a sly snicker) from behind me, I remembered that Tai Chi was a long time ago and I was never that good. There was a bit of a wobble in my stance and the turkey hit the back of my standing leg.
I lay there for a moment. Face down in the combination of mud, turkey shit and fermented grain. I thought of trying to escape, but realized that ship had sailed. At this point, I was prepared to give up my dignity and let the turkey have his way with me.

Not even an oversexed turkey wanted a piece of that.

He snorted, walked across my back and went to tell the others that I wasn’t worth his time. I was humiliated. I was not even a “Swipe Right” in the turkey world. Drenched with shit and shame, I left the pen.

It was on the way to the house that I finally registered the actual amount of the 16 hour rainfall. We have a plastic kid’s pool that we let the ducks play in. When I fed the turkeys last night, it was empty. It was now overflowing. The pool is six inches deep. SIX INCHES! That’s a lot of rain.

I briefly considered stripping down and rinsing off in that pool, but it was a fair walk to the house and the neighbor is home on Fridays. If he’d been looking out his window, he was already traumatized (or entertained) enough. I took off the remaining croc and my socks, sloshed them about in the water to remove the worst of the muck and continued my walk of shame. I stripped down in the laundry room and made a necked dash to the shower upstairs.

It all would have worked out if I did not live with a bobcat.

I now have happy face band aids on my fanny and need to get these damn deer out of my living room.

I hate Bunnies

I absolutely hate when people bring me bunnies. They are the worst of all animals to try and save. If you get 3 out of 10 baby bunnies to the point of release, you are lucky and in the meantime it’s a depressing struggle to get them to eat. If they do eat, they will still drop dead just to piss you off.

I know this. I have watched it happen. I fed the rabbit, the rabbit was fat and sleek and after I put him back in the cage, he looked up, flipped me off with his tiny little paw and keeled over. They especially like to croak when your back is turned or you leave the room, so you come back and they are still warm, but dead.

They are wicked little buggers and if their eyes aren’t open yet should be put directly in the freezer. And yet…..people beg me to take them. They beg me to try. Sometimes they get angry or guilt me into taking them and it always ends the same. Sometimes after a day or two. Sometimes after weeks. It’s so frustrating and really depressing.

But people don’t see that. They just want to feel better because 99% of the time it is because they hit the nest with the lawn mower or their dog got into them or they just don’t want them in their yard (THAT I can understand), but they will never admit it.

So I take them and even though I know they should go in the freezer, I try……and I fail. Then every once in a while I get lucky and hit the right combination and they survive to release. Yay! now they are food for something else or they are in my garden eating MY food.

I hate bunnies. There. I said it.

But sometimes, the stars are in alignment and I have one of my domestic rabbits nursing a litter. (yes I raise and eat rabbit. I never said I hate the way they taste.) When the Gods of nature smile down on me and this happens, I take the babies (they need to be within a week or so of the domestic litter) and give them to the nursing mother.

The stars aligned this week and the Gods smiled. My best doe (my favorite because she doesn’t try to kill me every time I reach in there), only had two babies in this last batch. I already had one baby cottontail that had moved on to grass along with milk, that was the only survivor of 4. Then I got in two more that just barely had their eyes open. The domestics would open their eyes in a day or two, so I took the chance.

I put the two babies in my shirt so they would smell like me. I went out and scooped up the Doe’s babies and put them in my shirt too. I stood there for a moment thinking how glad I was that this was Brown Bunny instead of the Black-Bitch-From-Hell in the other cage. I still had all my fingers. Then I put all 4 back in the box and waited. Brown bunny sniffed them, gave them a quick lick and went about her business.


The next morning, everything was still fine and then the call came for three more. These were even younger. Shit. Could it possibly work again? When they came that evening, I stuffed them in my shirt and then slipped them in the box with the sleeping pile of fur. I had no idea if she would ignore them, throw them out or have a nice little snack. (bunnies do that sometimes, but haven’t we all had those moments when we look at our offspring and thought, “I know why cockroaches eat their young”?

She did none of the above. When I checked in the morning the older babies were washing the younger ones and all were fed and warm.

The lone baby was looking pretty sad and I knew he was about to flip me off and flip over. So I thought I had nothing to loose and took him out to the rabbitry (I think that’s a real word). He immediately jumped out of the nest box and ran to a corner. It was as if I had insulted him by putting him with the nursing babies. I didn’t have much hope as he put his face to the wall.

That was three days ago. Now all of them have their eyes open and sleep in a big pile in the straw. It looks so odd to see these two huge babies (the domestics) with the litter of tiny, odd size cottontails.

I have been spared. No struggle. No sadness. No fuss. In about
5 weeks I can take the wildlings out of the pen and release them. They will be healthy, happy and ready to raid my garden.

Sigh. Even when I win, I loose.

Last Moon Of Summer

Last night, as I was tucking everyone in for bed, I looked out and saw the last moon of summer rising above the trees.
I made a cup of tea and went out to sit on the bench by the chickens to bask in it’s rays. Like a crystal, I soaked up everything she had to offer. Sophie came up to sit next to me and I shared the blanket, It wasn’t long before the cat joined us. Unfortunately, that didn’t leave much blanket for me.

It wasn’t terribly chill and I wiggled my toes in the dew wet grass. Sipping my tea, I looked back over the summer moons. Sometimes it seems that my life, like so many ancient people, is measured by the moons.

I start to come alive with the full worm moon in spring. The snow is almost gone and I can get my hands in the dirt. The baby squirrels have not yet started falling from the trees, so I end up with whole litters of red squirrels that people find in their garage or attic or grill.

The pink moon, signals the serious start of baby season and gardening. The cold hardy crops like radishes and peas are all up and growing and I am debating if the last night of frost has passed to plant more. Babies are everywhere in the studio. Early coons, more squirrels (is there ever an end to lost squirrels?), every sort of baby you can imagine, including my favorites….the little abandoned porcupines found by mushroom hunters. I’ll get to see a lot of this moon as I get up in the middle of the night to feed babies.

I hardly get to notice the Strawberry Moon in June, other than I know that the last of the fawns will be dropped and the pen is full. I usually get to see this moon when I do my last feeding of the night (around midnight) for these tiny fawns. I love to lay in the straw with them and listen to the stars.

The July moon is when I start my walks at moonrise. I go around the yard checking in on everyone and making sure they are secure. So often this moon bears a ring, signifying rain is on it’s way. If it is warm, I’ll go in the pool before bed to cool off and unwind.

We had a bonus moon this year. The early august moon that I grew up calling the “Green Corn Moon”. It was a time when the Native Americans would hold corn roasts. I only got three ears of sweet corn this year as the squirrels beat me to them. (sadly, all my flour corn appealed to them as well) No corn roast here this year.

The August moon signals the time for letting go. The early squirrels have already been released (and thus, no corn). Now is time for possums, skunks, fox, the last of the raccoons and others. The porcupines and fawns are still getting bottles, so they will get to stay a bit longer. If I don’t have tiny squirrels from the second batch, I get to sleep through the night. Yet somehow on that night of the full moon, I don’t sleep. It usually signifies the ending of summer and I am reluctant to see it dim.
Last night though, we got our bonus summer moon. Still warm enough to listen to crickets and watch the bats fly. Perfect for sitting in the yard in my pajamas with a cup of tea and the dog. I wonder if she and the cat realize that soon, they will be the full focus of my attention without competing with the wildlings. By the next moon, they will all be free.

I sipped my tea and reviewed the summer. I didn’t get as much accomplished as I wanted, but I never do. It was a summer of loss and face masks and missing friends. There were no gatherings over the Fourth of July, no pop in guests of friends and family and I missed the children. There were so few children here this year. The tomatoes got blight, the cucumbers failed and between the garden’s resident rabbit and squirrels, pickings were slim.

Yet, there was more to this summer. There was a deep gratitude of being alive, of Jimmy having a job when others don’t. The appreciation of abundance from the land in meat, eggs and growing things. There was the love I felt every time I saw my family or friends. A love that comes from the realization of just how fragile life is. The knowledge, that we have “enough” and that enough, is really all you need….food, shelter and love.

As the moon wains and the summer turns to fall. I wish you all “enough”…and if you happen to have abundance…be joyful and share. If we all did that, then everyone would have enough and the world would be a fine place indeed.

City Girls in the Country

Well that was one lady who should have stayed in the city.

A woman calls me early this morning. She was out walking her dogs on the road and they ran into the woods on a neighbors property, barking their heads off. She went into the woods after them. There was a coon in a trap.

“A live trap?” I asked.

“No! one of those horrible leg traps” she nearly screamed. She went on to tell me how she had been calling all over and I was the only one who would answer the phone and 911 kept giving her my number. (Maybe she should have waited till after 9 AM to call.)

I asked if the trap was on her property. “No. It’s on the owners He’s not home”

Do you have permission from the owners to be on his property?

“No he has “KEEP OUT” signs.

Are your dogs leashed?

“No, they like to run when we go for walks.”

(the picture was becoming clearer with every word.)

First of all, I said. Get off his property,. You are breaking the law. Second of all, put your dogs on a damn leash. A. There may be more traps, but you are once again breaking the law by not having them leashed.

“But what about the cooooooonnnnnnn”, she whined.

I can’t do anything about that. It is on private property and he maybe trapping that coon because it’s killing his chickens or other stock. It isn’t regular, legal fur trapping season yet, So if if anything, you can report him for that, but it is still on PRIVATE. POSTED PROPERTY. Get off his property.

Get off his land and get your dogs leashed. People WILL be legally trapping for fur by the beginning of October…LEASH YOUR DOGS! It is a way of life for some around here and whether we like it or not, it is against the law to interfere with someone’s traps if they are legally set. You will have no repercussions if your dogs walk into one of these traps.

She had some choice words about “Backwoods Barbarians” and people who don’t care about “Animal rights” and other things before she hung up.

I’m not real fond of leg hold traps, but I understand what it’s like to have animals killing your chickens or rabbits or getting into things they shouldn’t. Each person has to make the choice themselves, how far they want to go. Some animal control companies aren’t much more merciful. Often the animal is trapped in a live trap, but then submerged in water to drown.

The truth is …life is ugly and complicated and far, far removed from the Disney movies we like to believe in. This woman is the kind who will complain about how meat is processed and that “Animals have rights”, while she is eating steak off her fancy plate in her McMansion.

People have rights too and one of the greatest rights is the right to have privacy on their own property without someone and their dogs traipsing all over it.

Sorry lady. I can’t help you. I feel for the coon, but I don’t know the whole story here and neither do you.

Red Devils

Ever chassed a red squirrel in the house? It took two adults with nets and a dog, but we got the ungrateful little bastard who has been breaking into the studio and raiding the seed.

I learned some things…..

Red squirrels are fast. Way faster than you’d think.

They are clever. Actually smarter than two old farts and a fat Labrador.

Red squirrels can climb up the back of the shelf that you think they have them trapped under and then jump straight at your face before landing on the other side of the room.

A fat Labrador Retriever can knock you on your ass. The red squirrel can then run back and fourth over your body while you try to get up.

They bounce like a superball. Off windows. Off walls. Once I swear, off the ceiling.

Nets mean nothing to them.

Getting them from a net into a cage for removal from the premise starts the whole process over again.

Once captured and contained, they use surprisingly filthy language. They also understand human anatomy and have a good grasp on your mother’s marital status at your birth.

If you hold the cage too close to you, they WILL pee on you.

Fat labs and old people run out of breath quickly and need to sit down before releasing said red squirrel. Some of us require a stiff drink.

Red squirrels, luckily cannot chew through a metal cage in the 6 miles to the release site. Though they will make valiant attempts.

Be ready when you get them to the woods and open that cage door, they will shoot out at about 68 miles an hour. Don’t point it at your face. Be prepared for more swearing. His and yours.

While we were at it. We took a bag of possums out to be released too. We never heard a peep out of them. They politely stayed in their bag till I poured them on the ground. They seemed grateful. Not one of them peed on me. There was no swearing or referral to my lineage.

I sure hope red squirrels aren’t good at finding their way home.

Fat Gophers and Fast Mice

The other night, I lost a mouse in the studio. (again literally “Lost” not as in “it died.”

It was the day after I released the gophers, way at the back of the property. I had thought about keeping the entertaining little buggers, but they were born wild and therefore should be returned to the wild.

The same with the mother mouse. We found her and her babies in a drawer in Jimmy’s shed and I couldn’t bear to kill them. So I made up an aquarium (with a tight lid) and let her raise them.

Since Bob took off, I was going to have the glass reptarium on my table anyway (no other place to store it) I thought I could build a mouse palace for the 4 babies. I did, they have a castle with rooms, an exercise wheel and toys.

That’s where the problems started.

I scooped up Mom Mouse and released her on the other side of the fence.. (You know, the born wild rule) That went smoothly and so did moving three of the babies. The fourth, however, completely ignored the net, ran straight up my arm, over my shoulder and made a daring leap to the floor where he promptly disappeared in the maze that is my studio.

I figured that eventually, he would show up. Last night, as I was on my way to bed, he did. I swear to Buddha, he ran out and thumbed his nose at me, only to disappear again under the shelves.

“Hah!” I said as I went to get my tiniest live trap. “I’ll have you by morning”. I baited the trap with the only thing mice can’t resist….Twinkies.
This morning, the twinkie was gone and the trap had misfired. (probably due to me dropping it twice while getting it off the top shelf). I got the hammer and pounded out the dent. I reset it, not expecting to see anything till tomorrow morning.

About an hour ago, I noticed Sophie on point at the mouse trap. I picked it up. It seemed awfully heavy for a mouse.. It was. It wasn’t a mouse. It seems gophers like twinkies too.

I’m not really all that surprised that he actually got his chubby little butt up to the house from the back yard. I AM astonished that he got in the house (probably through the doggy door) and back to my studio. Right now, he is standing up like a fat little meerkat laughing at me from a hamster cage. So much for being wild.

We’ll see how fast he makes it back after I blindfold him and take him for a long ride in the car.

Oh shit. There are 6 more out there and a mouse in my studio.

I don’t think I have enough twinkies.

Fished up Kingfisher

I just had one of those great endings I always look for. You know, a happy end to a bad situation. (no, unfortunately the Karen next door didn’t move).

Yesterday a woman shows up (in a really nice car, by the way) all in a dither. She didn’t want to wait to call me , she just wanted to get here right away. (Good thing I was home). She had a bird. She had no idea what kind of bird. It had been hanging from a tree by fishing line.

As soon as I heard it trilling from the box, I knew it was a Kingfisher. I’ve raised lots of these and they stay just long enough to clean out any goldfish in my pond.

Kingfishers nest in banks of sand or clay near rivers or lakes. They dig a tunnel (I have no clue how they do this) and build their nest at the back. This unfortunately leads to people accidently digging them up when they move a sand bank or buy some fill dirt. The last batch of babies I got, tumbled out of the scoop of a back hoe and the people thought they were pinecones, till one of them moved.

They really do resemble living, moving pinecones. Their feathers have rather long sheaths covering them (I suppose it has something to do with the dirt that surrounds them) And they kind of stick out like bristles. They only way you know you are looking at a bird at first, is that long, rather sharp beak.

Once you get the dirt brushed off them, their spiky head crest pops up and you get a stern look from piercing black eyes. (They all look fierce, It’s just their “thing” I guess) The next thing you notice is that they have no legs. No legs and tiny little feet. They are not built to walk. Ever. They are built to fly and perch on branches and to dive and swim under water to catch the fish and water bugs they feed on.

The other thing I like about these birds is their coloring. As an adult, they are a deep green with a rusty red breast. They blend in perfectly with the trees they perch in watching the water.

The things i like least are their long sharp beaks and their call. To say a Kingfisher is loud is an understatement. The only birds I have ever raised that is louder, is a bucket full of chimney swifts. (Imagine a rusty smoke detector. Magnify that by however many birds are in that bucket)

I’m not even sure how to describe the call of a Kingfisher. It’s a trilling sound, but has definite overtones of a badly slipping fan belt. They call when they are hungry. They call when you walk through a room, they continue to call even after you move them to a pen outside where they can’t see you. Then when they are free, they call from all over the neighborhood, just to let you know they are there.

Kingfishers are great though, the first few days you may have to force feed them. (usually by prying that sharp beak open and stuffing a catfish nugget down their throat., but they quickly learn to grab that fish or nugget or finger as soon as it appears. You go through a lot of Band-Aids raising Kingfishers. Then suddenly, one day they don’t want you to feed them. They will fight you beak and claw to avoid that catfish nugget. You open the door to the pen and they go. They fly straight up and out, so you better not be in their way.

They never come back to you again. They just scream hello as they fly over you in the garden.

But, back to the bird in hand. I pulled the Kingfisher out of the box, mostly by his beak hanging onto my finger. He continued to gnaw on me as I examined him. A beautiful adult male, he was in perfect prime, except for one wing. His right wing looked as if it had been stripped of feathers from the joint down. There was indeed a very fine red wire fishing line tangled and wound around the remaining primary feather.

It didn’t look good, but I smiled and promised to do my best for him. She left feeling better and promised to try and catch some minnows off their dock. Before she left, she stuffed some cash in my pocket in case she couldn’t. Minnows are expensive.

The bird screamed curses at me and all my offspring as we went in the house and the magnifying light. Once I started working on his wing, he calmed down, almost as if he knew I was trying to help him, though it was most likely exhaustion. I’d never seen fishing line like this, it was almost as fine as a human hair and made of wire. It was tangled and wrapped so tightly that I couldn’t unwind it. Finally I got a darning needle and managed to slip it under the wire and clip the strands and knots with my finest and smallest scissors. (so much for the art of Japanese paper cutting). I came up on the last tangled area at the top of his wing. It took some serious finagling and a few more bites, but the wire was free.

That’s when amazing things started to happen. The feathers were intact. I brushed them back in place with my fingers and straightened them the best I could. I manipulated the wing and nothing was broken or displaced. There was some swelling at the shoulder socket, but otherwise it seemed fine.

I decided that since I already had him pissed off, I’d force feed him some intensive recovery food that comes in a packet to be mixed with water. He actually took it well. I then moved him out to the fawn pen where he could rest in the straw in peace. I only bothered him twice more to feed before dark.

After a night where I listened to the fawns bitch because someone was in their pen (even though they hardly use it any more) I went out to check him in the morning light. He was sitting up (as well as a Kingfisher can sit up with those tiny feet and no legs), he raised his crest and trilled when he saw me. I opened the door. He flew straight past me and is now eyeing the last nervous goldfish in my pond. They will both be gone in a few hours.

If all that wasn’t cool enough. When he reached that tree over the fishless pond. He lifted his head and called out in what sounded like triumph….a dozen others answered from almost every direction.

Hi guys. I’m glad you’re doing well and still around.

I guess I’d better go buy more goldfish.