Monday, August 24, 2009

Things in the night

Spruce Knob Night Sky 8
photo by

Last night was beautiful! Dave and I took a bottle of wine and two lawn chairs out to the edge of the eastern hay field to watch the sky. There were no mosquitoes. A warm breeze brushed my face as we sat looking at the stars. The Milky Way arched overhead, millions of pale stars partially obscured by the clouds of dust somewhere between Earth and the far reaches of our galaxy.

I am not as familiar with the summer planets as the winter. But Cassopiea stretched to the northeast beside the summer triangle of Deneb, Altair and Vega. The planet Jupiter glowed in the south, the brightest object in the sky. below it, two points of light twinkled.

“Satellites,” I said. “No, that’s too big for a satellite.”

“A plane, I think.” Dave said. And sure enough, one of the blinking lights was suddenly two blinking lights. We followed it with our eyes and eventually heard the sound of its engines.

Trees at the edge of our fields showed dark against a horizon that was lit with the last remnants of the setting sun. Carly, our black dog, was all but invisible in the darkness, but we followed her progress across the field by the sound of her snuffling as she investigated things in the night.

“I hope she’s not after a skunk,” Dave murmured.

We sipped a nice Merlot, and watched the sky, letting the silence and the calm seep into our bodies.

This morning, Dave went out to the barn yard to check the live trap. We had lost fifty chickens to raccoons last summer and I didn’t want to buy new chickens until we were sure the chicken coop was safe. Also, Dave’s bee hives were not producing as well as they should be and the scratch marks in the dirt in front of the hives led him to suspect coons. His plan was to deport any animals he caught in the trap to the sugar bush – far enough away so that they wouldn’t be eating our chickens or our bees.

When I came home for lunch, Dave had a crooked smile on his face and the backyard smelled awful.

“You caught something!” I said.

“Well, lets just say that I have strong empirical evidence that skunks like Fancy Feast cat food.”

Our plan had been to put the trap and trapped animal into the back of the pickup, drive it ten miles down the road, set it in the woods, hold down the lever and pull up on the door. Theoretically, the animal dashes out the front, away from you.

When Dave found a skunk in the trap, he had to improvise. Plan A involved a face shield and a ten foot long pole with which he tried to release the trap door. Plan B included a large piece of plastic sheeting held in front of himself as he laboriously climbed over the half fence in front of the creep shed where he had set the trap. The trap was designed for two handed release, so he had to lower the plastic. Dave crept closer: he depressed the lever and pulled up on the door.

The skunk strolled out. As he headed for the exit, he raised his tail and squirted, just a little bit, sort of a farewell, just enough to remind Dave that he could have done much worse.

“I don’t think live trapping is going to work,” Dave told me after he had bathed with hydrogen peroxide, spread his clothes on the deck to air before washing them, and bathed again. “If I catch three or even four raccoons, there will still be more out there. I don’t want to kill them just because they eat our bees and chickens. And I won't release another skunk. I think we should put electric fencing around the bee hives.”

“We could try that for the chickens too,” I said. “Then we wouldn’t have to worry about things in the night.”

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