The news on the weasel front here at the farm is not good. Despite the heroic efforts of just about anyone who would be on my desert island list because of their superior survival skills, the weasel is winning. Killing has escalated, no doubt because winter is approaching and weasels are notorious for building a food cache. I’ve entered the barn in the morning to find as many as four more birds dead in one wild spree.
Since this whole weasel incident started three weeks ago, we’ve tried everything. We’ve airlifted sentimental favorites to a safe house. We’ve chalk dusted the perimeter of the barn each night with hopes of revealing the animal’s entry point. I’ve stayed up all night with a baby monitor crackling near my head, (not) sleeping in my clothes, flashlight and shovel at the ready. We’ve set traps; arranged for ways to re-home the entire remaining 80 birds. We’ve positioned two different types of critter cams using our most recent intelligence on likely entry points. We’ve had a team of friends, my nephew Ed and niece Tracy, farm campers, and our trusty handyman Keith helping to find holes as small as two inches and cover them with chicken wire; each time we look finding new holes. Hey, I’ve even got an former Marine on our team, so we’ve got some pretty good moves in our arsenal despite our ineffectiveness to end the slaughter.
I don’t like to lose. I never have liked it, but that’s not the point. Three weeks of awakening to birds you have nurtured since chick-dom decapitated and splayed on the ground of the coop affects a person. In my sleep deprived state, here are a few random things I’ve learned.
1. Chickens are surprisingly silent many, many hours each night, though they nearly always percolate with a low level cooing that sounds like the lapping of waves coming in to a dock.
2. Several roosters together have a call and response pattern to their crowing that makes visible the end points in a coop. I am certain I could navigate that dark coop now, using only their crows for guidance as if listening for a fog horn navigating dangerous shoals.
3. Roosters wake up at 3:00 am in the morning. Really. That might be the real reason the weasel is killing: to make them stop.
4. Weasels are the LeBron James of the northeast woodland community. They are top opportunistic predators that are built like torpedoes to fit through the smallest of holes (2 inches or smaller), but still have strong and big enough jaws and teeth to snap off the neck of an animal several times bigger than they are.
5. Front row seats to predation has a way of complicating things. Yesterday, despite the fact that I needed to get the beef stew I had planned on making into the slow cooker as early as possible, I simply could not stomach cutting chuck roast into smaller bits. I instead went to the barn and fed our cows their hay; lingering with them and appreciating the wisps of steam snaking up from their noses into the cold, thin air as they ate.
6. We have the kindest friends, kids, family, farm campers, handyman, and tribe around us who have showed up in ways too numerous to even list. I’m pretty sure that weasel didn’t intend to remind me of this, but as we head into Thanksgiving I am grateful for this deepening awareness.
7. Sometimes what we see when we lift the veil is admittedly not very pretty. But if you are willing to walk the perimeter of the dark, torn edges you’ll find a never-ending stream of new holes where light still gets in.
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