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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Little Raccoon and the Soft-Hearted Man

"Why can't you let it go?" our grandbaby Ali asked the last time we trapped a raccoon.
Art patiently explained how raccoons eat our chickens. She didn't seem convinced and I think something in his heart took notice.
This little racoon was in the trap Monday. You can see Art gave it a water bottle, and he'd placed it in the shade. After feeding the rabbits and chickens he called Matthew and explained we were bringing a small raccoon so he and Ali could release it (far away from us). Art put the cage in the truck and we drove the fifteen miles to Matthew's house.
On the way I discovered he always wanted a racoon as a pet. He told me he didn't feel much pity for the full size growling and snarling raccoons we trapped. The little ones, crouched in a corner, trembling, were a different matter. I knew exactly what he meant. This new fella kept looking at me, pleading to let him out. I was glad Art didn't want to shoot him.
Racoon delivered, we went on our way. We called the next day and heard about the raccoon release. They'd kept the cage in the house to keep it safe and cool until evening. The afternoon temp that day was 103 degrees, so that was a kindness. After nightfall he drove to an old, abandoned church; the grass and trees around it would be perfect for little raccoons. He explained the "Facts of Raccoon Life" (as he called them) to Ali and they opened the trap. The little guy ambled out into the dark.
Matthew said she mentioned something about Papa Art not shooting that one, and I wondered if I should have told her the soft-hearted man wanted to keep it as a pet.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Antonio Rides Again

Squint through the wire to see a chicken with courage "second to none and the intellegence of almost one". An old gamer term, it fits this bird perfectly.
The peanut butter bait had already been stolen by a crafty raccoon, and Antonio just barrelled right into the trap and stepped on the trigger plate. He probably entered it to get closer to the roosters he loves to tease. The door crashed down and he was trapped right where the other chickens could see him and laugh chicken laughs at him. Bad plan, Antonio.
When we found him, he was stomping from one end of the trap to the other. Hackles out, he was fuming at his situation. The mighty free ranging "roo" was caged. Probably didn't help that I was laughing, too. When his hackles are up, a rooster looks like he's swallowed a feathered umbrella which opened on the way down his gullet.
You'd think Antonio would come out of the trap when the door was opened? No, he scrambled to the other end to get away from Art. Perhaps tilting the cage would encourage him along in the right direction? No, he went into the far corner and held on while Art shook the cage. Chickens on a slanted surface will prefer to go "up", as I recall. Finally Art tipped the trap completely upside down and the combination of gravity and energetic shaking dislodged Antonio, who ran shrieking into the goat pasture.
No doubt psychologically scarred by his experience, Antonio will avoid the live trap next time, even if the peanut butter is still there.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I've Been Thinking / I've Got An Idea!

The phrases most often causing angst in husband and son are :

* I've been thinking...

* I've got an idea...

I have wonderful ideas about lots of things! There are projects to do outside on the farm and inside the house. Sometimes I find them online or in books or magazines. The best ones are the ones I think up on my own, or modifications of projects I've seen somewhere.

After the groaning and whining have ceased, I've been told my newest idea is a lot of work. Sometimes they'll try to tell me it can't be done.

I find it difficult to believe that as Empress of the HomePlace, my subjects could be so unruly. What good is it being the Empress if all I get is a lot of argument? It's not like I can do this stuff on crutches. I am, however, a fine cheering section and purveyor of food and drink to the workers. I do put forth effort -- it takes energy to think these projects up.

All I wanted was a porch on the front of my office (the Hut)/ guest house. "Oh, I forgot," I said, " It needs to go around the east side of the building, too. And it needs a ramp. By the way, I've been thinking it needs a privacy screen on the south side of the porch so I can sit out and see the woods and not the house. While we're at it, some kind of climbing vine planted to climb up the screen would be good. I've got an idea! Let's have a roof on the porch for shade. I realize," I said," the Hut needs to be leveled, wiring run, AC installed, walls and roof insulated, walls paneled, and floor carpeted first.... "

The rest of my ideas were drowned out by manly shrieks.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Peed On

This is probably the last picture of the three kittens together in the house. I was sitting with 'Boat in my lap this morning when I felt a warm, wet sensation. The little beggar peed on me! He's the orange striped one on the right.
Understand this wasn't the first incident of peeing outside the box. He's peed on the bed twice (once on Art-bad idea), annointed Art's chair, gotten both beanbag pillows, the floor and any clothing items he found on the floor. We've tried spanking him, rubbing his nose on the wet spot, and locking him in the pet carrier. Nothing works. The other kittens use the boxes, which are kept clean daily. He chooses not to.
'Boat became a porch cat this morning. He has food, water, and a litter pan. He looked Art in the face, ambled over to the pan and used it as if to say, "See, I know what this is for. Let me back in?" Not likely, since I just let him in this morning from an evening on the porch.
We brought him some snacks at dinner time, but outside is final unless anyone has any ideas. I feel really bad about this, but I don't want the place reeking of cat urine.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Antonio Banty-Deras

One hundred-fifty percent attitude packed into a banty body, that's Antonio Banty-Deras. Three years old, he's our longest living free range chicken. The first commotion of the day in the chicken yard and the last ruckus at night, you'll find Antonio at the bottom of it.
Antonio begins his day aggravating the penned roosters. He struts, he preens, he crows. He takes a dust bath as close to the wire as he can; flopping, rolling, and kicking up dust which drifts into the face of the full size roosters. Four times his size, the big roosters are "clapping" their wings and clawing at the wire, Antonio flings himself at one, spurs outstretched. The big "roo" goes insane, clawing and striking at the wire. Antonio slowly prances off, crowing in triumph.
He spends his day alternating between teasing roosters and eating. Its wonderful when he can steal someone else's food. Chickens here get kitchen scraps and greens for variety, and food in cages with larger mesh is a target if it gets within reach of Antonio's beak. He'll stand outside a cage waiting for a morsel to get close to the wire and ... snatch! It's his. Out of beak-reach of the offended bird, he slowly picks and swallows the snack one morsel at a time. He'll steal greens from cages even though he has a world of fresh green plants around him. It just tastes better spiced with offended screeching, I suppose.
Antonio's secret to long life is his ability to reach a high roost to sleep at night. Generally he sleeps in a tree in the animal area. As the sun sets, Antonio makes ready to roost. He flies up to the top of a rabbit hutch, accompanied by the deafening "cheers" of the flock. Next he flies to the lowest branch, six or seven feet above. "The crowd goes wild!" He works his way up higher into the branches about 20 - 30 feet from the ground. Settled in next to the trunk, he makes a final crow and dozes off. The Chicken Cacophany Choir peters out, and settles in to sleep.
There have been a few occasions in which Antonio's roost was in poor taste, specifically in a tree over Art's truck. The truck was painted with bird droppings; Art painted the air blue the next morning. Antonio was encouraged to sleep elsewhere that evening.
The worst spot he chose was the porch, up in the rafters. Warm, dry and out of the wind, it was the best place he'd found. I couldn't agree because he painted the porch floor. That bird was determined to sleep there. Art chased him down, and then off the porch with a broom. Antonio screamed curses all the way out into the night, and up into his tree. The next night he was there again. A repeat the chasing and screaming of curses - from both.
The following night we went to our writers' group and returned late. I'd walked over to check something in the porch kitchen (in the dark) when a shreiking, feathery demon flew down from above, buzzed my head, and flew into the night. I screamed! When my heart stopped pounding, I figured it was Antonio, caught in the act. I must have frightened him, too, even without a broom.
He didn't return to the porch that season, but eventually winter will return, and he'll try the porch again. The broom is waiting for Antonio and his outsize attitude.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Due to a commercial I saw at age six, I learned to recite the process of gas line freeze and got lots of adult attention. I was hooked on commercials from then on. Current day TV ads are amazing compared to the ones in the 50's, amazing and occasionally horrifying.

I adore the Prius commercial. I wouldn't buy the car, but the colors and movements are mesmerizing. At first, I'm embarassed to say, I thought the people portraying the sun, flowers, trees, grass, etc. were real. Computer animation, Helene -- technology! I still love watching the colors bloom in a wave as the car drives by.

The SyFy channel plays a commercial using an actual scuba diving cat. What twisted individual thought this up? I know cats, I can't imagine one voluntarily submitting to a water activity. Poor soggy kitty, I hope he gets cream with his crunchers! Worse yet, Art points out the adventurous cat, and disses our (flock? herd? group?) of felines. Inspired, Art gets out the remote control helicopter, and adds "adventure" to their lives. I hate that commercial.

Then we have commercials for Viagra, Cialis, and other drugs of that ilk. Catchy tune there, Viagra. I can imagine a group of six year olds singing that one! Cialis seems to work only in conjunction with non-functioning bathtubs placed in the wilderness or at the beach. Two seperate tubs yet! How does THAT work? Is there water in those tubs, or are they sitting in them dry?And where are the towels or robes? How far did they have to walk naked to get to the tubs? How far away are the neighbors, and do they have a telescope? How do I explain all this to the grandbabies, should they ask?

Gotta go, I think I hear the Uncle Ben's commercial gearing up. Oooohhhh, pretty colors! Good rice, too!


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Varmints ( not for the squeamish)

Living in the country means living with varmints. Varmints are the wild critters you thought were so cute when you lived in the city. Now you see varmints as the enemy, because they see your place as a 24 hour buffet.

Varmint enemy # 1 is the raccoon, the devil in fur. It eats poultry through the cage wire when hens are in sleep stupor at night. Sometimes they just eat the head, or nibble off the toes sticking through the bottom of the wire. They'll dig under fences, and systematically test for holes or weaknesses, too. Whenever they can get them, 'coons delight in eating eggs. We've caught three since Saturday using peanut butter in a live trap. Kept the one from Saturday, now waiting in the freezer. My philosophy: dine on my chickens, I'll dine on you!

Oppossums rate second place, because of frequency of visits. Last month I saw one amble past the live trap, and approach the animal area while I was standing there. When I shouted and threw a soda can, the thing looked at me, turned slowly and ambled back into the woods. Possums have made themselves fat on our chickens. Waiting and shooting seems to be the only cure; they don't seem to fall for the live trap.

Skunks come right after oppossums, due to shock value. One evening Art pulled back a plywood shade to check for eggs and found a furry black and white chicken. He dropped the shade, tossed the egg basket, and leaped backward into the water bucket. The skunk, nonplussed, continued to crack and slurp the eggs. Too busy to spray, fortunately for Art!

Last of the frequent visitors are snakes, who delight equally in swallowing eggs or small birds. We had kept two quail in a cage in a shed. Poor Mr. Quail had a hard night, when I found him the next morning he was cowering in a corner while a rat snake struggled to escape. A bulge prevented the snake's retreat back through the wire. It was Mrs. Quail. Another snake climbed the power pole to the transformer, shorting out our electricity for several hours. The power company pulled the french fried snake free and gave it to us as a souvenier.

Of course there are coyotes, bobcats, and even a cougar in this area, but the 'coons, possums, skunks, and snakes are the worst. If they'd stay in the woods, we'd leave them alone. But no, they just keep lining up at Burnett's Buffet.