The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly…. of Critters

I’m tired. Every time I seem to be on the cusp of having a nice moment where plans unfurl in a calm, orderly fashion, chaos knocks on the door. Every year carries challenges, and if any part of your routine tasks depends on the seasons – gardening, canning/preserving, raising livestock, farming — each season does too. 

The past week has been a maelstrom of death at my home. No humans, we’re all exhausted physically and mentally but we’re good. No, it’s the time of year when you wake up in the morning and, before you’ve even had a chance to enjoy a cup of coffee, the Lion King’s “Circle of Life” cues up in your head. Last year saw a baker’s dozen of raccoons get into the part of the barn where our chickens roost. With a series of live traps baited with chicken feed, I managed to catch them all without much incident. As stressful as it was, I didn’t realize how lucky we’d actually been. 

With the first dumped feeders and somewhat pillaged barn, I got the traps back out this spring. And despite the first two catches going smoothly, I walked to the barn several days ago to be met with a scattering of chicken feathers outside the barn door. Not good. I’ll spare you the details, dear reader, but suffice it to say that it was carnage. As of this writing, I’ve lost eight chickens and we’ve dispatched additional two raccoons, and it’s not over yet. We’ve upped security measures and changed tactics, yet the ringleader is still at-large. 

At the same time, our front porch is the playground for four fuzzy kittens and their momma, our barn cat Shy. Shy’s in the process of weaning the mischief makers, and she’s an excellent hunter. You can see where I’m going with this. She manages our local mouse, rat, shrew, red squirrel, ground squirrel, and small bird population. Put those things together and there’s a revolving door of wild game on the porch to supplement the kitten chow.  The other day it was three shrews, this morning was a robin. 

It’s how it goes, and there’s a lesson in everything. But I’d be lying if I said I was okay with it. My daughter’s favorite chicken, and mine, were among the casualties. Our best layers as well. We went from 19 to 11 birds within two days. The kittens are adorable consolation, and I guess I’m getting in some good cardio digging holes every morning. All the same, I’m ready for some peace and quiet on the homestead. 

Oh, and the other critters that make up our day-to-day? Sparkles the turtle is enjoying the warmer weather and her first outing of the year around my office. The dogs can’t get enough of the kittens, at least until the furballs turn the tables and try to tackle one of them. You have no idea how scary a kitten can be until it swats at your paws… Whether it’s good, bad, or ugly, one thing you can definitely say is that life out here is never dull.

Amy East is a freelance copyeditor, wannabe homesteader, and recovering archaeologist living in Cass County. She loves her family, her menagerie of animals, and her garden, although depending on the day, the order of those may vary. 

Any views or opinions expressed in “Critters, Culture, & Compost” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Watershed Voice staff or its board of directors.


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