Sunday, March 10, 2019


If you have been reading Ocean lately, you'll know that Ed and I have agonized about how to keep the cheepers safe. Cats, too, but we concluded that they're all past the "very vulnerable" stage and likely to protect themselves well enough from any invaders. If asked, I'd say that we were rational in our decisions, listing the pros and cons of various options and strategies. But, as I step outside this morning to feed the animals, it strikes me that we were perhaps not so rational after all.

The thing is, it had snowed overnight: a wet snow, making slush out of puddles, creating yet another layer of winter nonsense.

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The ground is not thawing yet and so all that melted snow formed puddles over hard-as-rock earth. The pathways are pocked with pools of water and slush. But in that fresh cover of snow, animal paw prints show up beautifully. As I walk to the garage, I can easily see Stop Sign's paw prints, a bunny rabbit's prints, and, too, the prints of our resident possum. They're unmistakable.

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I can tell where he came from (the sheep shed), what he looked at (the compost pile and the garage) and where he retreated (back to the sheep shed).

Now, a possum is not really a threat to the cats. The kittens may be scared, but he will coexist with them. A possum does not pick a fight.

But a possum loves chickens. And as I share my paw print sighting with Ed, I am reminded of some basic math: we've been keeping chickens for five years, on the average, tending to to 4 - 6 chickens at a time. In all, we've lost five hens to predators, though one attack was on two little hens together (remember the young Brahma girls?), so you could say we've had four predator attacks. That's less than one per year.

And here's a crucial reality: only one predator loss was at the claws of a hawk. All the others were  likely done by a possum. Too, a couple of times we found a possum in the coop when the girls were not yet there for the night. In short -- the cheepers' greatest foe is the possum.

And we have a hefty guy hanging out here right now.

(Breakfast. Discussing chickens. Again.)

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We'll chase, deter and if that fails -- trap. (Trapping and/or hunting possum is permissible under state law, though you have to be careful where you release, if that's your goal.) Still, even though the weather improved in the course of the day (cold, but with a dapple of sunshine), neither of us had the heart to let the cheepers out today. The possum tracks give us pause.

In the evening, the young family comes to dinner. How grand it is to have them appear when the sun is still high above the farmette lands!

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(Sparrow, studying furniture...)

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Snowdrop absolutely wants to meet Happy and so the two of us trudge to the barn.

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She is concerned that he'll crow very loudly, but I think for now, Happy is simply trying to figure out what the heck has just happened in his life. All these big girls! Where is he???

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(Where did my sister go??)

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Back again! Snowdrop tells a story, Sparrow loves the joyful animation.

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Dinner, still in sunshine.

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After, there's always a little time for play.

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And finally, time for the young family to head home. One last check on the kitties, one last romp through icy slush, all in the fading light of a beautiful evening.

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