Friday, November 14, 2008

Welcome to Uncle Bert's Blog

Life in Kickapoo Center at the Turn of the Century

Welcome to my blog. I'm good at creating titles, fair at writing and terrible about getting my work done around the farm. Stan delivered a crapload of green black locust. For three days with the help of my son and a friend, we've been cutting and splitting wood. I need firewood for the current heating season. The silver maple that fell twice on my beautiful organic gardens is dry, split and stacked. Silver maple isn't the greatest of firewood. I need to cut more black locust. First, because I need to get it under cover and dry thoroughly for the winter. Second, because I've been told it's hard to cut when dry. My buddy Dogg says I'll need to have a lot of chains on hand for the chain saw if'n it dries. Therefore, I won't regale you with current events on the farm. You'll have to wait while I post a few golden oldies. This one was simply titled 8/13/08.

Pucci. Blame him. He the gray striped male tabby I rescued on a below zero February night. I’ve thought of renaming him Dufus. I hesitate with the word Dufus because I’m already in trouble at work for using it to describe the lazy overnight Hill Billy. There I go again. Unprofessional conduct. Three am. Pucci comes upstairs and meows. I usually tolerate the interruption of my sleep by rationalizing that he’s lonely. I’ll shush him and invite him up on the bed. I try not to think of the places-the neighbor’s horse corral, under the deck, the patches of stinging nettle along the fence line-that’s he strolls through in any given day. Usually he’ll curl up next to me. After a bit he becomes restless, moves around the bed until he jumps down and meows. I’m asleep. I pay no attention to the time line here. The behavior is repetitive and I’m impatient.

I am smarter than a cat I tell myself. I would say this to new teachers in my career as an elementary school teacher. “Are you smarter than a 10 year old?” Last evening I brought a 3X4 sheet of hardboard in from the garage and placed it near the doorway to the studio addition of our home. I got a dish of water, a small dish of dry cat food and placed them near his litter box. He can sleep in his favorite chair next to the window. I go to bed confident that if the little bugger wakes me tonight, I can lock him up in the relative comfort of the studio. Presently the only other choice is to close the door to the back entrance, which also leads to a cool and dark basement.

I block the entrance to the studio. Pucci looks up at me from the bottom of the short flight of three stairs. “Why are you doing this to me? What did I do?” Before I could use the bathroom and head back upstairs, he’s out. “Meow.” I change the position of the hardboard so that the four-foot length is wedged between two stereo speakers. He makes a leap from the top stair, curls his paws over the edge of the hardboard and drops to the living room floor. I grab a plaid throw on the chair next to the TV and make a bed for him on the cedar chest in the back hall. I move his food and water. There’s already a make-shift bed in the basement next to the dryer and another litter box for his bathroom needs. He thinks I’m going to let him out the back door; therefore, it is not difficult to get him in the back hall. I close the door. Now, I cannot sleep.

I stumble downstairs at 6:30 and throw on a pair of shorts and a polo shirt. Looking out the window at the foot of the stairs, I see the woodchuck grazing on the backyard lawn. Shoeless, I grab the .22 and sneak to the edge of the deck. I thought I am very quiet. The woodchuck spots me peering around the corner of the house and makes a dash to his hole under the studio. Where’s Pucci when I need him? The woodchuck is momentarily disoriented by the plastic barrier I erected previously to lure him into the live trap. My rife has a scope. I have learned that I am not a very good shot like the cowboys on TV who hold the rifle up and nail the bad guys. I need the cross hairs and the telescopic sights. Woodchucks are faster than one would imagine. I fire an aimless round off as he scurries back into the hole. My feet are covered with fresh grass clippings from the day before. The dew makes them cling between my toes. When I bring the rifle in and grab the ammonia, I litter the kitchen floor with grass clippings. With a dowel, I stuff two rags soaked in ammonia into the hole. The hole appears to go nowhere. I remove all the paving stones I’d laid adjacent to the sheeting around the rear addition to deter just such an event as a borrowing woodchuck. He hasn’t tunneled under the pavers nor is there a sign of entrance under the addition. I am stumped. How does he scurry so quickly into a burrow and disappear?

For breakfast, I am going to make buttermilk pancakes with strawberries. I light the gas grill for the last small piece of flatiron steak. It’s my day off. I deserve a break! Fixing breakfast, I thaw venison for Pucci and call him inside. Two of the three hummingbird feeders are empty. I left the door to the deck propped open in case Pucci wants to come back in for a second helping. Mist hangs in the hills and fog rolls across the valley. It starts to rain. Soon it is raining steadily. I call Pucci. He comes in quickly from under the deck. I grab a white terry towel we use as rags and wipe the rain off Pucci’s fur. He has a bronchial infection and cough. I don’t want him to catch pneumonia. Vigorously wiping the rain off his fur, Dum Dum thinks I want to play. He takes a swipe and his razor sharp claw catches me across the top of my index finger knuckle. When I return from the bathroom and a hunt for a band-aid, he’s sitting on the kitchen table on top of a pile of bills. His feet are wet. I yell, “Get off the table you bum!” He is extremely intelligent and scrambles off the table with a leap. He knows I am not happy with his behavior. The bills go flying.

The rain has subsided leaving a heavy curtain of humidity behind. I kick Dufus outside. In between brewing my morning cup of coffee and flipping pancakes, I remember that I moved the live trap back to the corn patch when I got home last evening. I check the steak, flip a pancake and walk outside across the road to the corn patch. A large male raccoon sits up and stares at me as I stand there staring at him. Aw, he’s cute, isn’t he?

The struggle begins. I should not be interfering with the lives of hummingbirds by feeding them a 4-part water and 1 part sugar mixture. Oh, so what if there’s woodchuck living under your studio addition. You remember those Thornton Burgess animal books you read as a kid? Aren’t woodchucks a protected species? Maybe the raccoons won’t bother your corn patch. I released the possum caught a week ago on Linda’s advice because he did not cause any harm to the garden. It’s my day off. I don’t want to be making life and death decisions on my day off. Oh crap, I forgot that Ted or is it Fred, the riding mower is back from the lawn mower doctor. He’s sitting in the back of the pick-up getting soaked in the rain. I forgot to put the seat up. I’ll get a wet butt when I move him off the truck. Crap!

I wipe off the seat of the riding lawn mower with the terry towel I used earlier to remove the grass clippings from my bare feet. I hunt for a piece of plywood to breach the gap between the hill and the tailgate of the truck. Finally, I resort to the stack of boards under a blue tarp behind the lawn shed. I lift the tarp to find a few boards for a ramp. There’s a large mouse nest made of grass and fur between the used tongue and groove deck boards and some old oak boards I removed from the pole shed. An assortment of walnut shells the mice were saving for their winter food supply is nearby. My back hurts. I’ve a severe case of tennis elbow and lifting a full-size, oak 2X6X10 makes my back and elbow feel worse. It’s my day off. I should be taking it easy. Finding four short deck boards, that fit together perfectly to make my ramp, I throw them in the back of the pick-up. The rain brings about more mosquitoes as I back the mower off the truck and into the garage. The woodchuck makes my mood a foul one.

When I return in a few minutes, I see that Rocky Raccoon knocked over stalks of corn. The fact that the corn isn’t ripe makes no difference to this hungry varmint. One ear of corn is gnawed and the other knocked to the ground untouched. “ You’ve been eating my corn, you shit!” I’ve been waiting for two months for luscious, sweet ears of bicolor corn. I replanted part of the patch and nursed the remaining two rows when floodwaters threatened to drown it. I live in fear of windstorms, which can flatten a crop in a few minutes. Weeks ago, I propped stalks of immature corn against hardier neighboring stalks when a thunderstorm blew them out at a 45-degree angle into the grass strip in between the garden patches. I let pigweed grow as high as the corn in the hopes that it will help support the plants. I’ll re-bait the trap tonight. I make a mental note to run an extension corn to the corn patch and turn on a radio to one of the local obnoxious stations Z93- All Rock All the Time. That should keep the varmints away!

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