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Monday morning before sunup I looked out to see that a doe had slept in my yard for the night. I love the idea that they feel safe here, beneath the “Fairy Crossing” sign.

Panoramic view of my pretty yard, with the pond on the left and house on the right.

Another panorama, of just the pond.

Some days it’s just another day. And some days everything happens at once. They say when it rains it pours, but while in early May that rainy idiom is typically applicable in my town of Rainier, Oregon, Monday was unseasonably sunny and warm.

After I took photos of the deer on Monday morning, I put on some boots and clogged out to the chicken house. I saw a pile of red feathers inside the pen and gasped “No!” But it was true. I lost my favourite chicken, Tawny. Ugh. I cannot figure out what’s happening. I thought it was a raccoon, because I’ve known them to attack and kill ducks before. But I had circled the pen and blocked every entrance point big enough for a raccoon. Now I think it’s rats. Rats come into the chicken house all the time to eat their food. Periodically I have to poison them to reduce their population. Before moving here I did not know that so many rats live in the forest. I never had to deal with rats in any city I ever lived in, but out here in the woods, rats are as common as mosquitos. Do rats kill without eating their prey? Why? Why does something keep killing my hens and just leaving their bodies? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

I frequently spotted Tawny under the birdfeeder in front of my office window, as she is here last weekend.

There’s my girls on Sunday. Tawny and Jamie, the only two I had left until Monday, because something is killing them.

See that gap under the door into the chicken pen? I thought raccoons were getting in, so I blocked it with large rocks.

I am so sad to lose Tawny. She was my sassiest Hussy, a Rhode Island Red. She was bold and pecked me without reserve, but not maliciously, just to get attention, or to tell me they’re out of food. She would always come running to me when she spotted me, and hovered inches from my legs at all times, and would let me pick her up, or just pet her soft feathers. She’s the one that always broke out of her pen to go directly to my flower beds and begin tearing them up. It would have been more of a problem except that the way to catch her was merely to call “Hey pretty girl!” and she’d come running right to me and I’d scoop her up and take her back to the pen. She laid ginormous dark brown eggs.

Ohh, my girl. I am so sorry I couldn’t protect you.

I’m also worried that I won’t be able to protect my Lil’ Hussies when they grow up and move into that pen, until I can solve the mystery of what is killing them. I am so frustrated.

Just as I finished disposing of Tawny’s body, the bee people showed up. It’s time for bees again! I host them on my property every summer and fall, and get paid in honey.

Bees moved this year to a different place on my property so that they get more hours of sunlight.

Foklift moves hives from the truck to the grass.

The new bee colony at the very back of my property.

Ooooh! Look at them all buzzing around and getting their new home in order. Click the image for a larger version and you can see them.

I went back into the house to my office to do some computer work planning for my upcoming trip to New England, and spotted two more visitors. Hello? Were you two invited?

Squirrel discovered the bird seed. I am used to a tiny grey squirrel and a tiny black squirrel I call the Squirrel Ninja. This one is big and has probably been eating the bird seed at someone else’s house too.

And then right before my eyes, the neighbor cat came hurtling into the garden and up the tree, after the hummingbirds. You could film an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom at my house. (Ooops, did I just expose my age again?)

Then it was time to clean all the rat caches out of the chicken house, and block all their nasty holes and entrances. The caches are cubby holes they pack full of stuff they want to keep. This time it was pineapple tops I had thrown in there, straw, chicken food, and naturally, rat poop. Then I fed them poison because I needed to do something for my broken heart.

For good measure, I then grabbed my poisoned worms that had recently arrived in the mail, and baited 20 mole holes, those little bastards.

Moles were tearing up my yard all winter.

And that reminded me to poison fleas. So I grabbed Racecar and dosed her in flea killing oil. Once a month I dab it on the back of her neck to keep the fleas away. She hunts chipmunks and birds and mice so she collects new fleas from her prey. In answer to your question: No, no she does not hunt forest rats.

It makes me shudder to think of all those toxic chemicals I just put into the world on Monday, but I was mad. And also….I haven’t found anything effective that eliminates these pests without toxic chemicals.

Raccoon paw prints on the cat carrier.

Done with my office work I went back outside and spotted another pest. The cat carrier no longer hosts chickens, but was still sitting on the porch because I hadn’t put it away. A raccoon’s paw prints show that a raccoon was on my porch last night, investigating. Grrrrr! Luckily I can’t prove the raccoon is getting my hens, or I’d find a way to poison it too.

I was mad again and a good way to deal with that is to go to work, so I hauled out the weed whacker and filled the tank and checked the string and harnessed myself up and off I went. I went at it for four hours. It definitely helped. By then I was exhausted and my back was killing me.

I took down the tall grass all the way around the pond, and around all the trees on the far side of the pond.

Me getting dirty. I think it’s so hilarious how splattered I get with what I call “weed guts.” Green glop gets sprayed from top to bottom, coating my glasses, sticking in my hair and onto my face. I guess a person can’t expect to be glamorous when she’s working on the farm.

I went to check on the Lil’ Hussies to make sure at least someone in my realm was ok. They were ok.

Babies had a great day and they are doing fine over there beside the horseshoe pit and the apple tree in bloom. But what is that in the distance by the pond?

Great Blue Heron is hunting the frogs in my pond. I’m cool with that. You do you, beautiful bird.

This is one of the rare times I’ve ever had a chance to photograph this bird properly.

Enough for one day!! It was time for dinner and some pomegranate cider. I have to make my salads look amazing to trick myself into eating them, ha ha.

Wish with me that Jamie stays safe now and that the Lil’ Hussies grow up safe and strong and do not ever have to battle rats.

opossum in the kitchen

I think that word is just fun to say: opossum. Then, I can drop the “o” off and call it a possum, and I feel all redneck, like I’m back home again. Cute little critter, ain’t he?

So, we were lying in bed last night about 10:15. Though that is way past my bedtime, it was too hot to sleep, and we were talking and waiting for the inevitable evening breeze that eventually kicks up and blows through the open window onto our faces.

 

“Crunch, crunch.” I hear, coming from the kitchen. Have you ever heard a noise that’s not so remarkable in itself, but you notice it for some reason…and it’s the noticing that makes you realize it’s unusual?

time for you to go OUT

My man got up to investigate, and found this opossum, who had tried to hide beneath the cabinets when he turned on the light. He put on gloves and reached in to pick it up, and the thing flashed some vicious, vicious looking teeth and looked for all the world like it was about to turn Tazmanian Devil on us. …but it was a ruse. It never even tried to bite, and for the most part gave up the impression of it too.

The critter had come in to eat cat food. Knew right where to go, I guess, which makes us think it was not visiting us for the first time. I leave the door to the basement/kitchen/outside open all night some nights, to keep the air moving through. It must have come up the stairs for a treat.

Yesterday was an animal day.

I went out to pick raspberries from the back yard before I went to work. They are an unbeatable snack. It was a little after 5:00am, and just barely light enough to see which ones were ripe. A couple of raccoons popped up from the “hole” in the back yard (a notch carved out of the hill for a vehicle to park). One at a time, they loped through the grass, looked at me, moved on, sniffing the ground, and then moseyed on around the side of the house.

And of course, our two kitties who are growing to despise each other more every day. Major, major, fight in the house yesterday. Pumpkin, who used to just lie on his back, bewildered, when Cookie would hiss her pants off at him. He wanted her to play, but she only growled and howled at him. Then he started chasing her for sportĀ  and then laughing at her when she took off like a rocket in a panic. Now, after two months, I believe he’s lost his patience with her for screaming and spitting and growling every time she spots him. When he sees her now, he simply attacks her. It’s bad.

I don’t know what to do when kitties fight even more, the longer they live together. What a bummer. My daughter, who comes home in a week – for good! – will be upset to see her two cats behaving like this.

P.S. oh yes, you saw the tattoo? If you are like most humans who have seen it, you recoiled. But I looooooooove it! This gorgeous work of art has no lines, only shading, in Dan Henk’s typical style. Henk is a great guy, and was a champ trying to make this go as quickly as possible since he was only a visiting artist when the work was done. Over four solid hours with no breaks! It is a human-shaped gargoyle (actually something of a Henk self-portrait) who is supposed to be a protector, to help my boyfriend fight his demons. But the gargoyle is actually a punk, so he’s got a bad attitude and isn’t always reliable. However, as a close up view of the tattoo shows, he does fight alongside my man, and he’s got the blood and battle scars to prove it.

One of my many guises

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