Around here, spring comes in fits and starts. Everybody has a different idea on when it begins, but me? I was finally convinced that spring is here this morning during my run, when I noted three indisputable signs of the season:
1. Peepers According to my research department (Wikipedia), peepers “are heard early in spring not long after the ice melts on the wetlands.” This morning I noted that the peepers are peeping — and while the wetlands near my house are diminishing, thanks mostly to hideous and ill conceived residential development, the peepers still peep.
2. Skunks I don’t know where the skunks go in the winter, but in the spring they emerge from their hidey holes and stink up the neighborhood. Never champs at crossing busy roadways, I found one this morning that had become the proverbial dead skunk in the middle of the road, as imortalized by Loudon Wainwright III.
3. Worms Another mystery of nature, the spring brings worms who slither out onto the sidewalks and driveways after rain. There were many of them this morning, albeit very skinny ones, for it has been a long winter. It is my observation that they do not stick to running shoes. Could squished worms be used to improve a product or process? Perhaps.
So, welcome spring! None of us will be here forever, so don’t take it for granted.
There’s a shortcut I take sometimes after dropping my son off at school. It winds through the Shaker site and past Ann Lee Pond. Maybe it’s not so much a short cut as a more interesting route.
One recent morning I spied something odd: a huge dead bird. On closer inspection I found it was a wild turkey — or most of a wild turkey. It was upright and you might have thought it sleeping except its head was gone and something had chewed a hole in its torso. Do turkeys have torsos?
Every day there was a little less turkey — until finally there were just a few random sprays of feather.
Judging by the prints in the snow all sorts of animals joined in this feast, but I’m mostly curious about what took down this huge bird initially. A fox? Coyote?
A lot of you have probably come out from running an errand and found your dog sitting in the driver’s seat. Hahaha… look at the dog. He’s driving the car! That’s hilarious — but what if your dog really was driving?
Well, New Zealand has stopped talking about this and finally done something:
Actually, this is just a stunt to raise awareness about dog adoption. There’s no way New Zealand would allow dogs to actually drive a car. For one thing, they drive on the left there, and as it says on their tourism site:
We have a good motorway system but weather extremes, the terrain and narrow secondary roads and bridges require drivers to be very vigilant.
Just in case, if you ever go to New Zealand, keep your eyes open.
Authorities in Oregon are investigating the death of a farmer who was — please put down your bacon for a moment — eaten by his hogs.
Coos County District Attorney R. Paul Frasier says that they are not sure how Terry Vance Garner, 69, died, but according to the Los Angeles Times, they do know what happened next:
Frasier said a family member discovered Garner’s body after he went out to feed the hogs and was not seen for several hours. Garner’s dentures were found in the pen. “Further searching of the enclosure revealed that Mr. Garner’s body was in several pieces, with a great majority of the body having been consumed by the hogs,” Frasier said.
Come to think of it, they do look hungry, don’t they?
Aside from assorted roadkill, the things I see most often along the road while running are banana peels.
The banana is a great snack for drivers: a piece of fruit encased in a disposable wrapper with a built in handle. It’s not a great idea to let a banana peel fester in your car, even for a few hours, so many of them go out the car window.
I think motorists who throw garbage out their car window are dirtbags, but something biodegradable? That’s not so bad — but folks, can we please try and pitch them off the pavement?
There are two reasons for this: the first and most obvious is the hazard they present to pedestrians, because everyone knows that people slip on banana peels. The other is that I suspect things like apple cores and banana peels may be attractive to critters. Could this be related to the roadkill? Very possibly.
People often ask if my dogs are related. “Sure,” says I. ” If you go back far enough, all these dogs are related.”
As I was walking them this morning it occurred to me that you could say the same thing about all of us: look back far enough and we are all probably related in some way. Maybe if we thought about that now and then we’d treat everybody more decently. Either that or we’d subject each other to that special brand of scrutiny we reserve only for our relatives.
People don’t believe me when I tell them I once owned an alligator.
It was the 1970s — when laws about buying and selling exotic animals were more relaxed — and something possessed my father to bring home an alligator. I’m sure it wasn’t MY idea, because I would have never have said something so crazy as , “I want an alligator.” My father was a wonderful man, but wildly unpredictable in the use of his hands, and saying nutty things in front of him was not always a great idea.
Anyway, this was a tiny little thing, less than a foot long, and it pretty much sat in its tank all day and did nothing. We grew tired of it quickly.
Eventually the day came along when we weren’t even sure it was still alive and my father took it out to the corner and deposited it into the sewer. Word got around the neighborhood and people would stop by one at a time to peer down at the dead alligator in the sewer.
When it started moving around down there we were all surprised. A teenager named Kenny got a rake and managed to scooped it up. He offered to return it to us, but by that time we were pretty much done with alligators and allowed him to bring it home with him.
I like to imagine what would have happened if the alligator had slithered down deep into the pipes of the storm sewers and taken up residency. He could have spent years stalking around below the streets of Long Island feasting on rats, once an unwanted pet, but now an urban legend.
Here in America everybody is bitten by the entrepreneurial bug sooner or later. We hate kowtowing, whether it be to a tyrannical monarch or the boss. That’s who we are.
But it’s scary going out on your own. Sure, I have skills that people pay me cash money for as a freelancer, but to make that a full time job? It’s intimidating.
Until you find that great idea.
In this case it came in a NY Times article about eradicating phragmites, an invasive wetland grass that has taken over a Staten Island park. The solution? Goats. And where do you get goats? You rent them.
It turns out that the goat owner is getting $20,625 to provide 20 goats for six weeks of work. The goats eat the grass and the goat owner collects his earnings. It all sounds so simple.
The only problem may be the goats.
I met a British expat named Graham in Transylvania. He and his Romanian wife were creating a tourist destination in their small village, a place where people could have an authentic countryside experience. Over shots of his homemade brandy, we discussed the livestock behind their house. Why no goats?
“Sheep are simple to care for, but goats?” Graham explained. “Goats are a problem. They are mischievous, they get into trouble, they escape their enclosure… goats are anarchists.”
So that presents a question: do you trade life as a wage slave just to become a boss yourself — and have a bunch of anarchists for employees?
Remember that stone wall? Well, the chipmunks have moved in, turning my rustic landscaping project into a condo for yard rodents. It seems that I inadvertently created a system of caves that suit the little buggers perfectly, and now whenever I approach to water the flowers or pull weeds they dart out from between the cracks and dive into some other hidey hole in the yard.
Yes, chipmunks are delightful — until they get into your garage and start sharpening their teeth on things like doorframes, sheetrock, plastic hose spools… then they are a menace. It already appears that this year we have a bumper crop of chipmunks; providing them with a friendly environment could lead to an explosive problem.
What to do? First I’ll try repellents that make the wall smell — I think the stuff is made from fox urine or something — but if that doesn’t work, it may be time to take drastic measures. Perhaps we have to make an example of one to discourage the others. I loathe to hurt a small animal, but they’ve overstepped their bounds.
One other question: whose job is it to collect all that fox urine?
I used to ignore at the abuse claims like those leveled against the circus — but now I think about my dogs and how I wouldn’t treat them that way. I’m not against keeping animals, whether it be for pets, to do work, or as an agricultural product, but there’s no excuse for it not doing it humanely.
Some people will say that there’s no humane way to kill and eat an animal, that we’re just tricking ourselves into feeling good when we insist on ethical farming practices. I understand that viewpoint and it weighs heavily on me.
Take these pigs for example.
They are treated better than any pigs you’ve ever seen and spend the day rooting around for whatever it is pigs enjoy rooting around for. The location of their pen is peridically rotated so they have new rooting territory a couple of times a week. When I stopped to look at them and take their picture, they seemed genuinely satisfied. But despite all that, in the end they will be eaten.
I’m struggling with this, and that’s good. Maybe the best I can hope for is finding a place where I’m comfortable with my food, because I’m increasingly uncomfortable with what we’ve done to keep up with our demand for meat.