You Shall Not Pass!

Each Spring I am delighted, giddy in fact, when the ice melts, the grass turns green and the summer-time critters show themselves once again. The peeper frogs begin to peep, the birds flit about building nests, the neighbourhood ducks waddle down to my pond and the tom cats spray the fence posts, repeatedly.

It is only a matter of time before the peaceful interlude ends though, and chaos commences. Small featherless birds tumble from nests, misplaced baby bunnies land at the doorstep, injured fawns stumble into the riding ring (okay just once) and the occasional catfish parachutes into the barnyard. (I’ll save that one for another time.)

I pride myself on being somewhat Snow White – like. I have an affinity with nature, I sing-song my way through the woods while fairy-tale animals present me with daisy chains as I spin about in my long flowing dress. La la la…  and end scene. Let’s face it, the similarity ends with liking nature.  I sing like a bag pipe and my milky white complexion is littered with age spots and dammit, I really shouldn’t have scratched those chicken poxes. I do however feel the need to protect the animal kingdom, especially those in peril.

Twice now I have attempted and perhaps succeeded (hard to know, they don’t ever write) to rescue muskrats. A few rent space in our pond. They swim about chewing up the shoreline, drilling holes in the lawn and generally wreaking havoc but they are delightful to watch and Captain and Tennille sang a song about them so nothing more needs to be said. Muskrat Susie and Muskrat Sam can stay.  


My most memorable rescue was quite action packed and full of risk, for me, not the muskrat.  It was a late fall day, in fact, it was snowing for the first time.  Darken the skies a titch and add a little wind ~that’s right ~ now you are in the moment.  I was in the kitchen, washing dishes or more than likely pouring some wine, when I spotted a critter smack-down occurring in our front riding ring.  A small furry brown animal was carrying another small furry brown animal in its jaws while the latter flailed about. I did not have my “Furry Brown Animals of North America” book nearby so I quickly surmised, on my own – I am just that in tune with nature, that the perpetrator was a weasel and the flailing brown thing was a muskrat. Susie or Sam I could not tell but I donned my oven mitts, grabbed a recycling bin, and flew out the door. (after putting my wine down.)

The wind whipped against my face as I stumbled on the uneven ground, nearly falling but righting myself just in time.  I’ll concede it could have been the wine, but more than likely it was the sheer speed with which I travelled that caused me to stagger. I flailed my arms about making intimidating large hand gestures and yelled, “be gone weasel,” or something like that – in any event they were powerful words because the weasel looked at me in utter shock and, for a moment considered whether I was just picking up recycling, but he soon dropped his prey and ran forthwith to the protection of the pond.  Take that weasel!

The poor roughed up muskrat was stunned and unmoving when I arrived on scene – in his mind I am certain he saw a ray of light as I approached and felt comfort knowing help had arrived.  Before carefully manhandling it with my oven-mitted hand to see if it was alive, I checked over my shoulder to ensure the coast was still clear … it wasn’t. 

The weasel was careening toward me, prepared for a take down. Never come between a Nazgul and its prey. These wise words from the Lord of The Rings rang through my brain as I braced myself for a potential weasel mauling.  I quickly looked around, but imagine it was slow motion, to make sure no one was watching and then hurled … no … I didn’t just hurl, I hurled my recycling bin at the charging mustelid (you might need to look that up) and then, channeling my inner demonic weasel voice, I yelled, “You shall not pass!!”  No, that was Gandalf.  I didn’t yell that; that line was not mine.  I yelled, “ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”, which could have been interpreted as I am going to kick your weasel ass or Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I am about to die. Either way the weasel stopped and stood on his little hind legs and just stared at me, agog. I gently punted the unconscious muskrat into the bin and ran for my wine, I mean the house.

I left the bin to the side of my fortress, protected and reasonably safe.  I watched the slightly disoriented Sam or Susie leave when the coast was clear. (From the safety of my kitchen, wine glass in hand.)

Makes me wonder if the fox and weasel are in cahoots – collaborating in order to send me to a home for the bewildered. Can’t imagine what will come next… were they the ones behind the flying catfish debacle? Stay tuned my friends. Stay tuned.




Oh for fox sake!

Discovered an enormous egg in the horse field this morning.  (Much better than the day I discovered a headless chicken but that’s another story and best told after a few drinks.) One of our horses was pushing the immense oval with his nose but I am fairly certain he didn’t lay it. I’ll admit when it cracked I looked just to make sure it wasn’t a foal hatching, but it was just a giant yolk, no joke.

This picture does not accurately represent the moment, the egg was not chocolate (I’m off sugar so this is what I imagined), and I don’t own a horse that has hands instead of hooves, at least not that I am aware of. We’d have a heck of a time keeping gates closed if that were the case… and I would imagine they would be flipping the bird and tossing horse balls at me, often.


But back to my story, so the gargantuan egg, (it gets bigger every time I think about it), belonged to a duck. Granted I am no expert but there are ducks living next door and I put two and two together. I’m smart like that. This of course begs the question: how did the duck egg end up in the horse field? I really had no idea but am now wondering if one of my horses does have hands …

The egg discovery made me think back to when we had chickens on the farm.   I liked them, a lot. They were free range chickens of various colours and breeds all pecking and scratching around the gardens, eating out of the bird feeders and pooping and laying eggs freely throughout the barn and surrounding property.  For a couple of years, everything ran like cluck work. Feed chickens, poop and … eggs.

Our chickens all had names. We tucked them into their coop at night, lovingly counting each one. Frantic searches would ensue if one of our feathered friends was missing but it was usually found in a horse stall or behind the hay (most often not flat).  It wasn’t until Kevin was taken by a hawk and his partner Steve went missing that we realized we were sitting ducks. (see how I brought that around there?)  I guess I was a bit naive when it came to the small livestock. It hadn’t really occurred to me how many other species living nearby also “loved” chicken.

Our evening chicken count was lower each night, our feathered friends were disappearing daily and it wasn’t long before we met our new neighbours … why it was a fox family and they had a hankering for some Kentucky fried. I read somewhere that having a rooster would help to protect the hens but we had little confidence in our feathered fellow to protect the brood. Junior (as we called him) had misread the original job description. At the first sign of danger he would sound the alarm and then run for the hills.

“SAVE YOURSELVES!!”  he would bellow, and then cannon through the back yard, feathers flying and run to the safety of the pond shrubs, not giving the hens a second thought, and not emerging again til dark. We even got a call from a neighbour once to let us know that Junior had packed his little rooster bags and was heading down the road. Our rooster was in fact a ‘chicken’ and maybe not overly wise. It didn’t matter how many times I told him to lay low and stop standing on the top of the manure pile “cock-a-doodle-doing”, he did it anyway.

We trained our basset hound, Ellie Mae, to hunt fox. She was a hound and well, they do that kind of thing, right? However, “hunt” is not the right word. Whenever we yelled “fox” she would break into full cry and run, in most often the other direction, flipping on her ears and occasionally stopping to eat horse poo. This suited me fine, the foxes were just doing what foxes do and Ellie Mae was better suited hunting for the couch. The chickens needed to be cooped, the free-range days were over.

Despite the despair, chaos and ultimate bloodshed, I find myself thinking about getting more chickens. Maybe I could have one of those mobile rolling coops that could be wheeled around the property. I could attach it to my golf cart and in the case of an emergency, just drive ~ I probably wouldn’t even have to put my drink down. On other days, I think about getting one of these…