It occurred to me the other day as I was preparing the barn for my mini-vacation, that I subconsciously feed and take care of creatures that I don’t openly acknowledge.
Well, it isn’t as if I’m ashamed of them or anything like that… it is more like I don’t acknowledge these beings because I have never met them personally. Some I’ve never even seen.
What do I mean?
For example, I know there is a skunk(s) living in my barn. I know this because he/she leaves a slight but telltale, ever so lingering whiff of skunkiness lofting in the morning air. Consequently, I’ve not been able to ignore his/her residency under the barn. And, since I know he/she lives in the barn, I leave extra cat food out at night. I know that he/she finishes the bowl because my plump barn kitties don’t eat that much yet every single morning, the dry cat food bowl is in some new area, totally empty and really schmeary.
I’m pretty sure my robust but not Superfeline barn cats cannot possibly drag that metal food bowl around… so someone who is a bit more strong drools over and carries away the cat food bowl every single night. I assume it is Mrs. or Mr. Skunk. And, for me, I’m happy to provide cat food to M. Skunk in exchange for services rendered.
Now most of you might be thinking, “Ewwwwww” right now. But, not I. For I have learned the important do-gooderness of a skunk. Basically, if you leave them alone, they will happily go about their business of impeccable rodent removal without ever ruining your day.
I had a skunk living under my barn in Oregon and I never saw her – in 5 years – except for the night of her premature demise at the jaws of one of my dogs (so sad). It was then that I witnessed the barn underground tunnel system she had artfully created. And, out of those tunnels emerged her three newborns. Yikes!
Her three newly orphaned babies wandered out during the daylight (unheardof) looking for food. I saw them stumbling about and was bewildered but I also started cooing because they were so cute. After examining them closely (but not too closely, they are skunks after all…), I was nervous that they would be eaten so I hurried inside to go online for help. Luckily, I found the “skunk lady” who told me what to do and how to catch them. It was easy.
These babies were hungry and needed water. So, she said to put water and cat food in a cat carrier. She added that eventually I would find them in the cat carrier and when I did, I had to just shut the door (baby skunks are kinda slow).
She also eased my mind that baby skunks cannot spray if you hold them by the tail. And, most likely, these babies were too small to spray anyway… Over two days, I caught all three. Mission accomplished. I called the Skunk lady and she came in her Skunk Van and picked them up for raising and rehabilitation.
Several months later, I received a photo from her of these babies all grown up! Skunk Lady was ready to release them back into the wild. I asked her if she had ever been sprayed, thinking that she would have many stories to tell… But, she said that in all her years of skunk handling, she had never been doused. Not once.
So, that proves my point of not bothering skunks and they won’t bother you…
I am not a fan of spiders.
I don’t really despise them because spiders eat flies and I really despise flies. Since spiders perform such a wonderful service for me, I let them live in the barn.
I find that they come and go depending upon the food supply. In the height of summer, I find spider pods attached to everything and little DaddyLongLegs skittering everywhere when I enter the feed room.
If I find one trapped in the sink, I usually catch it and put him on the windowsill or somewhere else he can recuperate from his horrible sink drama and then build a nice fly-catching web.
I have noticed that the spider population becomes almost nothing in winter and I feel badly for them – starving in the feed room. I don’t actually feed them but I don’t actively hunt them. We co-exist, both waiting for the sun to shine again.
Big black wood spiders or those hairy kind that jump are a different story… I don’t kill them but I do catch them and put them OUT. No hairy, big ol’ black scary spiders in my barn! Yuk.
I think the birds in my barn are all part of a massive time-share cooperation. Every season seems to bring a different crop of barn dwellers. Some nest, some feed, some sleep… I’m not real good at ornithology so I cannot tell you which kinds live and breed in the barn during which seasons. But, I can tell you that in the winter, we have owls and bats. I know how those look from many years of art classes in grammar school.
But, truly, they are all on a super time-share program that only they know the rules and dates. It never ceases to amaze me that one bird or pair of birds will vacate just a day or so before the new comers fly in and take residence.
The only birds who have their whole area to themselves all year round are the bats. It seems no other bird wants to hang upside-down behind the opened shutters of the barn. Besides, bats have been in there…. yeesh. (I know, I know, a bat is not a bird.)
SEYMOUR TURKEY AND HIS FAMILY OF CLONES
We have lots of wild turkeys here. Lots. I’ve counted over 50 at one time, cruising over the front lawn and then meandering throughout the horse fields.
One of them I have named Seymour because he is here most often. Sometimes he comes alone. Since I know that Seymour comes alone, I will leave bread and other such ‘going stale’ items out for him to sample. Usually, he pokes and prods for a minute or two and then he eats whatever I put out there.
Maybe that is why the gang is up to 50+. Dunno…
Anyway, at night, some of them roost on top of the barn. It is a good spot because trees shield them and no animals can crawl up there. Of course, I cannot see them up there, but I can hear them…
As soon as I come down to feed in the morning, the turkeys rise and shine. I hear them flapping their wings and stretching their legs. And, the true morning birds will hop off the roof and flappity flop onto the pasture below.
The horses kick at them and the turkeys behave… until no one is looking. Then they wander around very quietly, picking up what the horses didn’t eat. And, if they are lucky, grain that I feel isn’t fit for the horse. Pay Day!
I’m sure you have animals that you regard and consider but you don’t know at all. Maybe a hawk that perches on your fence post or perhaps a fox that skitters across your pasture at dusk.
For me, I kinda think we all share the land… If none of us becomes overly gluttonous or out of control, we can all live peacefully – without ever really co-existing – even though we are in the exact same place.
HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!
February Drop in the Bucket Fund: LEROY, THE WONDERPONY
He was found in a Home Depot parking lot with a huge leg wound. To learn all about the Bucket Fund and to donate towards the care of LeRoy, please click here to read about LeRoy!
Our barn is smack dab in the middle of a very urban area. A large shopping mall is across the street, a major freeway borders another side, and there is a residential neighborhood along one side of the pasture. Nevertheless, a lovely family of coyotes makes a home on our 40 acres, as do assorted birds, including hawks, and since there is a creek, I assume skunks, raccoons, and snakes. It’s a piece of heaven in the city, and I love hearing the coyotes singing along to the police car and fire truck sirens on the surrounding roads!
We also have bats and that’s why we never ever have any mosquitos despite being less than two miles as the crow flies (except we have no crows, ever) to the river. Over the river on one of the bridge trusses, very top, there is a nesting bald eagle! In the fields around here, grass seed production fields/sheep grazing, we have white and blue heron as well as the massive flocks of migrating Canada geese which love to stop and snack on the tiny fresh grass shoots which really ticks off the easily offended/bird-hating grass seed farmers (they usually come on the local TV station whining big time about this). There is the occasional fox, a lot of nutria (think slow, furry, overweight and not too bright), and OMG frogs – frog song in early spring here is deafening! But the interesting thing we also have here is a very old, very large raccoon. Now this raccoon is overly fond of plums from our Greengage plum tree but likes to wait til the plums have fallen and ripened so far you’d think the only ones appreciating the now runny, wine-y mess would be the yellow jackets. Not so! In short: have you ever seen a drunken raccoon?? very, very funny!
We like the wild life around here too. Even the coyotes. However, hubby did see a opossum in the barn the other evening, eating the cat food. Not too happy about that as they carry EPM. We do vaccinate for rabies every Spring so the skunks don’t worry us. They sure are cute.
Great article. We try to peacefully co-exist with the life around us too.
I feel the same way about spiders, and also let the fuzzy black one stay around a while before putting them out…and I don’t mind daddy long legs….I DID however find something that does seem to keep them away…believe it or not, those electronic plug in pest removers. I have not had a rat, mouse, chipmunk or spider in the garage where I keep my hay since I plugged one in over a year ago..amazing..who would have thought they worked?! That being said, spiders DO eat mosquitoes…
The baby skunks are adorable….
I am enjoying your blog more and more!
It should be mentioned, that skunks in Colorado are carrying Rabies. Because skunks like to live in/under barns the vets in CO have recommended that EVERY horse in CO should have been vaccinated for Rabies by Dec of 2010. I believe the number of Rabies cases in skunks in 2010 was over 60, and there were 2-3 horses with Rabies. The danger as explained by my vet, is that horses do not display the same obvious symptoms one would expect with Rabies. By the time a horse is diagnosed, often many people have already had contact with the horse. In one case in 2010 (I believe in the Denver Metro area) 12 people had to receive treatment after being exposed to a horse who was diagnosed with Rabies.
If only MORE humans looked at Life the way you do!!
BRAVO for sharing your fine farm with our wild cousins!