Archive | August 2019

Who Knew Ducks Were Rascist?

I could hear the ducks raising hell out in back and since the bobcat is loose in the house the doggy door is closed and Sophie is inside. (Not that Sophie has ANY inclination of going outside, in the dark, to investigate noises)
So I grab a flashlight with dying batteries, wake the dog and drag her outside. We walk all the way to the back fence and the ducks are indeed, raising hell about something. The flashlight is now down to the brightness of a wet candle, but I make out the source of their distress and the reason they are all pasted against the far side of the pen.
A turkey. A lone bronze turkey, smaller than most of the ducks and looking very confused is standing in the middle of the duck pen. The turkey pen and the duck pen share a common wall. It has taller fence and high bird netting on the turkey side. Somehow though, the little bugger had flown over, but instead of freedom, he found himself in the wrong neighborhood.
The ducks were livid. You would have thought he was a bird flu carrier or a rabid fox. They all shouted obscenities as I picked him up and carried him from the pen. Two of them demanded that I change their food dish and water pool, just in case he drank or ate from them.
I apologized to the turkey for their behavior and assured him that someday he would be 5 times bigger and prettier than them and face it, who the hell would want DUCK for Thanksgiving dinner? I’m sure he felt a bit better as I returned him to the pile of turkeys in the big pen. That’s when I noticed that there was even more segregation. The geese sleep in one pile, the chickens in the shelter and the turkeys way over by the gate.
Who knew.
On the way back to the house, the flashlight went out like a rejected firefly and Sophie and I were surrounded by darkness. Actually, it was nice. The gnats that had been madly pelting us in the face dispersed and it was calm.
We could hear crickets in the garden and somewhere a treefrog called out for rain. I looked up to see if he was succeeding and saw the brilliance of the stars. There was no moon to compete and they were almost as dazzling as I remember them from my childhood.
My father would spread a blanket out in the yard and we would lay with our heads on his chest or arm. He’d smoke his sweet smelling pipe and point out the Big Dipper, Mars and the Milky way. he used to say if you listened hard enough, you could hear them sing.
In the darkness tonight, I could almost smell his pipe tobacco and feel the rumble of his bass voice in his chest. The night chill was the same and I longed for the warmth of his arm. The milky way doesn’t seem as bright without him.
Oh I know, it’s light pollution and older eyes that don’t see in the dark as well, but I think it’s also that a bright star in my life is no longer there. No matter how old you get. You always miss your dad.
Sophie, unappreciative of the stars and longing for the couch, started to whine. I shook the flashlight, hoping to resurrect it enough to guide me through the minefield of deer poop. Sadly, it failed to shine again and I’ll be washing my slippers tomorrow. We came in the house and Sophie is now snoring at my feet.
The ducks have gone quiet and I can still hear the crickets and that lone tree frog calling for rain. I don’t know if he will get his wish or not, but we could use the moisture. It’s been a bit dry of late.
I think I’ll put the cat away and go to bed, but first……I’m going to go look up at the stars and listen to them sing.

Letting Go

The August moon is waning and the time of letting go has begun. Coons have been gone for weeks and the second batch of possums went tonight. Birds and squirrels are a constant coming and going, so there isn’t much angst involved.
Letting go of porcupines is another story.

I have begun to think that everyone needs a porcupine in their life. Like many people, they are sometimes sharp and prickly, but you love them anyway. When they are babies, they learn to trust you and you can handle them gently without gloves. They are vocal enough to let you know if you are late feeding and grunt happily when you appear with their bottle.

When you feed a porcupine, you can do nothing else. You can’t talk on the phone. You can’t eat your breakfast. You can’t even drink a cup of coffee. It takes two hands, one to hold the porcupine and one to hold the bottle. Sometimes they hum while you feed them. You can’t rush them either. They take their time and you have to go with it or end up with a hand full of quills.

Feeding a porcupine is a lesson in mindfulness. It’s total calm (or else). It’s my Zen. I will set the computer to “The Great Bell Chant” and we sit . Sometimes the porcupine finishes first…sometimes the chant, but no matter what else you have to do or how hectic your day, you have those moments to sit.

I miss those moments of calm and the chance to simply sit. When they are weened, it’s all too easy to skip my times of mindfulness. Sometimes in the evening though, after everyone is tucked in their respective beds, but me, I will sit in the chair and listen to the porcupine softly snore.

The time comes though, that even that ends. The porcupine moves to an outdoor cage or enclosure where he learns to climb and munch watermelon, corn, leaves and grasses and crisp sweet potatoes. I often wonder what they think when they get in the woods and there are no sweet potatoes growing in the trees.

Then in the waning moon of August, it is time for them to leave. It doesn’t always work on the first try. I was worried that tonight might be one of those nights when you bring them back home and try again in a few weeks.

We know of a perfect place at the end of a dead end two track. It was once a homestead and there are little bridges of rocks across the creek that winds through it. The orchard and house are gone, but a few wild apple and pear trees have grown to replace them. It is lush with ferns and thick with oak, pine, beach and cedar. In other words, it is porcupine heaven.
We took along the possums that were eager to run off into the woods when the cage was opened and they were encouraged to experience freedom. The porcupines take a bit more time.

I carried her along the stream bank, showing her the different plants, the crossings and the best trees. I found a beech with a low branch and allowed her to climb from my hands to the tree. She whined and clicked her teeth with anxiety. She nearly tumbled off the branch, so I put her on the ground. She quickly (as quickly and a porcupine can) came to me and started climbing up my leg.

Scooping her up, we walked some more. Her high pitched whine and teeth clicking gradually changed to a lower pitch of excitement and chatters. I found a big white pine with lots of thick low branches and let her crawl from my hand to the branch. At first she climbed away from me, then turned and started whining again and came back to my arm.

We just talked to each other (I talked, she whined) till she calmed down and we repeated the process. After two or three times, back and forth, she climbed higher in the tree away from me. She tasted the needles and bark and grunted happily. She had taken her choice. She was home and I could leave.

I admit. It was hard to walk away. I looked back several times to see if she was trying to reach me. She wasn’t. So in the gloaming dusk, I left her.

I hope she’ll be safe. I hope she’ll have enough to eat. I hope she finds a mate. I hope she has a long life with many babies.

I hope, that somewhere in that slightly primitive brain, she will remember me.

I know, I will remember her.

Cat’s, cats and more Cats.

Ok, so I took in my dead friend’s cats. Annie (AKA Annie Banannie) Is so cool. She is extremely over weight and cannot jump up on things (we are working on a weight reduction program) Even though she is in a mad house and not getting the food she likes, she is pretty content to sit behind and empty aquarium and watch the world go by. If you come near her, she rolls over and purrs. She even purrs for Sophie if Soph sits quietly.

Annie is the ultimate in cool, even if her extra toes do kind of creep me out.
The other one…..well, I always thought he ( she , whatever, there is so much fur on this cat’s ass I can’t tell) was the coolest. A Norwegian forest cat (we believe) showed up at her door already declawed (don’t get me started on that) and I assume, spayed or nutered as a small kitten. It has luxurious gray fur and the distinctive triangular face of the Norse cats.

I always liked him, because he was not an “In your face” kind of cat. He strolled through the room, nodding his approval or disapproval, would try to drink the foam off my coffee and then move along as if he owned the house and he allowed us peasants to visit.

He basically had a lovely “Fuck you” attitude and I like that in a cat.

It took two attempts for her son to get him here. Annie Bannannie, rode peacefully on on the floor of the car and wrapped her arms around me when she saw me. The other cat hissed and swatted (first time I’ve been grateful for declawed cats) when cornered and wormed his way out of the carrier and disappeared before he could even get to the car.. Dave was beginning to think we’d have to set live traps. But the desire for food won over distain.

He arrived in the carrier with a zip tie on the zipper so he couldn’t escape. I was cautioned that I might want to use a long stick to free him. I opened it next to Annie and backed away in case he attacked. He stayed in the carrier most of the afternoon hissing and growling at everything that ventured within 10 feet. (Sophie, Annie, me, flies, the wall…..)

After he ventured out, he still hated the world and all it’s breathing occupants. If I walked too close to the emperor, he swatted. If I looked at him without my head bowed, he hissed. You could hear his growls at regular intervals. I thought “Ok, Annie is for petting and this long haired harridan is for avoiding. This will work out.)
Then last night, he rubbed against my leg. I froze, petrified. He PURRED. Oh my God! He Purred. he jumped up on the table while I fed the squirrels and though he sniffed them thoroughly, he showed no indication that they might be a food product. (as the dieting progresses, I’m not that confident that Annie will share those sentiments). I shut the studio door to give them peace from Sophie and went to bed.

This mornings introduction to the bobcat kitten did not go well, so I put her outside early and went about feeding. Again, the cat jumped up on the table and watched me feed squirrels. He nonchalantly sniffed in the direction of the baby bunnies.

It wasn’t until I sat down at the computer with my coffee that I learned what I’d gotten myself into. It’s like the coffee triggered the memory of who I was. he was in my face. He was in my coffee. He was laying in the keyboard and generally demanding all my attention. It’s not easy with a big ball of floof in your face to use the computer.

HE WONT LEAVE ME ALONE. He’s like an adolescent boy with a can of AXE body spray. He is all over me. I am gagging at the cat hair in my coffee.

But…..I am loved. Hopefully not with this intensity as the weeks go by, but I am certainly loved.

Now, wait till he meets the tortoise.

Warning. Poop Story. Pretty Gross.

When the tortoise first came, she had been eating little more than lettuce, yellow squash and occasionally kale. She was only allowed to graze for about an hour a day. In the winter, she ate hay. Here, she is outside all day and I’ve introduced her to bananas, watermelon, clover, fresh garden vegetables and all kinds of fruit. She is allowed to graze all day. Her first poops were small white and liquid. I didn’t think it would be so bad. II could cope with that and a bucket of water.

Two days ago, I found a big, soft turd in front of the gate. I washed it away with some effort and the garden hose. I was stumped to discover it consisted of barely digested grass. I worried that one of the fawns was not properly ruminating and was ill, but everyone seemed fine.

Skip to this afternoon. A massive pile of poop in front of the gate again. I blamed Sophie and she looked at me like I was crazy. I went looking for the shovel and passed Roomba (the tortoise), just as she was ,I swear, smiling and letting go of another Poop. I couldn’t believe anything that big could come from a turtle! Sophie looked up at me waiting for an apology. My apology was indeed, profuse.

We have a new entry on the Gaskin poop scale.

Before I had time to remove it, Jamie came over with two of her Chihuahua mixes. Luna is a known shiteater (Like a sin eater, but worse breath). She prefers goose, but will settle for deer poop now that the geese are locked up. You can guess what happened next.

She thought he had hit the jackpot and dove into the pile. I didn’t know whether to laugh or gag, but Jamie shrieked as she ran for the nearest shovel. Not to be deterred, Bad Breath Betty, headed for the one on the other side of the yard where Roomba was digging in the fresh dirt. Jamie is not as fast as her dog.
But, in the end, Luna had to settle for sifting through the grass for deer poop with her teeth, like a lowbush blueberry picker with a shuttle as the rest of us giggled under our breath.

Then it hit me. If a 30 pound turtle can poop like a Labrador Retriever now, what is it going to be like when it is 75 to 100 pounds?

It also hit me….I’m babysitting Luna tomorrow. I wonder if tortoises poop every day…..

August Moon

The moon was spectacular last night. Her luminosity made my lantern unnecessary when I went out to feed the fawns. I watched a few stray clouds scuttle across the silver surface and noticed a tinge or orange on the very edges of those clouds. You don’t see that color in early and midsummer moons…but midsummer is past and that moon has become the Green Corn Moon.

I learned the names of the moons from an old Native American friend when I was a child. They often differ from the standard almanack moons of the white settlers. The Green Corn Moon was so named because the corn was ripe and juicy and sweet. Fresh ears were roasted in the fire and The People filled their bellies with it’s goodness. They knew that the winter would be long and there would be many nights of soup and succotash made with the dry corn of harvest. This corn was a treat and was celebrated with stories and songs.

I always feel a bit wistful at the August moon. It’s the last moon of summer and soon the light will change and the softness of the summer will turn to the sharp, crisp sky of Autumn. The moon will rise golden and her light will turn cold as she passes across the sky. The hectic time of harvest will be here and my arms will feel the itch and scratch of wool sweaters reluctantly pulled over my head.

I didn’t want to waste this moon. I took off my shoes to feel the dew and gave the deer their warm, sweet bottles of milk. This time too will come to an end. Some already turn their heads and reach for grass of the sweetfeed at their feet. Their spots are fading and they raise their muzzles to the wind. I wonder if they are smelling the fresh scent of freedom and are already thinking of forests and fields beyond the fence. My time with them is limited.

when they finished, I followed them out into the yard. We walked all the way to the garden and beyond. Every once in a while a cool nose pressed into my hand or against my leg. Sophie came to join us and that’s when the dancing began.
It started with a headbutt to the side of my leg, then progressed with a sideways shuffle to the side, soon all the deer and Sophie were running and jumping around me. The bucks would bow low and shake their heads, then race in circles around us. The does would raise up on their hid legs and then leap in a different direction.

They raced around the perimeter of the garden and then would come back to me, inviting me to run.
But I’m old and slow and not a deer. They are becoming aware of this now. I am not a deer. They long to have the company of other deer instead of old ladies. The tie that binds us will stretch and strain and finally break. Once the gates are lowered, I will see them less and less.

Some will return on a daily basis, still begging for that warm bottle of milk. I’ll indulge them, as much for me as them. Some will disappear within day and I’ll never see them again, not knowing if they have joined in a heard of wild deer or somehow died on the road or in the jaws of a coyote. The longest night of the year is the night that they do not return to the yard to sleep. I lay awake listening for the screech of brakes or the shrill cries of coyotes with prey.

Then there is always that one. The one who can’t let go. The one who will come back just to stare at the house or sleep in her familiar pen. The one that even years later, I will see in the field and it will turn and look at me and want and not want to approach me for a scratch.

I love it when that happens. I know that I succeeded at my work. I know that there is a healthy deer that would not have been there without me. It’s a little thing in the scope of the world, but it’s enough for me.

In the meantime. I have this moon, I have this night where lanterns have no need and I will dance with the fawns in the dew.