Friday, September 25, 2009

Update: It's Been a Bobcat Week

Life is full of unexpected lessons. Sometimes I'd say that with child-like glee, but most of time it's with a sigh of resignation. Today, I am sighing. Big, deep sighs. When I was very little (maybe six or seven), we used to visit my mom's grandmother in a cramped, stuffy, old lady-smelling apartment. I remember that she always complained. And she sighed. LOUDLY. A LOT. In our wiggly boredom, my brother and I noticed that she had all these cracks in her ceiling. We decided that those cracks were caused by her sighs. Today, I am sighing a ceiling-cracking sigh.

It's Fall. Our home education full schedule thudded into our lives a couple weeks ago. Gone are the long days of summer with few plans and luxurious expanses of nothing to do.

"I'm bored!" the kids cried.

"Enjoy it," I tartly replied. "It won't last."

Of course, mother knew best. Now we have classes, events, meetings, playdates and captured learning opportunities crammed in between daily chores necessitated by eating and standards of good hygiene. Non-friggin-stop, I tell ya'. Plus I have all these Things To Do, but Life keeps taking up all my time. So I'm running in place, and getting nowhere. Not that I'm complaining like a smelly, old lady, but my days are full of driving, catering to needs, cleaning, messing up, cleaning, watching other people mess up, cleaning, teaching, guiding, facilitating learning, working on my sundry, piecemeal jobs, procrastinating on Facebook, and yelling, "Stop bickering you two!!!"


I'm a smelly, old lady.

So I did not need one more thing taking up my painfully limited time. And I did not need a stupid-assed Life Lesson.

Enter the Bobcat.

A couple weeks ago, my sweet flock of gossipy but good-natured hens alerted me to a danger. It could have been a lot of things. As we live on the top of a hill, nestled in the woods of western Massachusetts, we are blessed with visits from Mother Earth's creatures. Fox, wild turkeys, deer, moose, bear, and a lovely collection of birds all have been seen on our hill. In fact, as I write this I'm listening to a barred owl ask over and over "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?" Fox and turkeys have been the most regular visitors to our yard. Thus I assumed a fox had struck terror on my flock when I found a mangled but still living young hen tangled in the fence. (The electric fence that my husband had neglected to turn back on, I might add through gritted teeth. My fault for not correctly his fault though, I add with yet another smelly, old lady sigh.) I am not a particularly stoic or tough woman, but since I was the only adult home at the time I had the displeasure of detangling my hen friend, and figuring out what to do with her. She was not dead, and I had seen another hen recover from a nasty fox attacked, so I gave her what I call the Nyquil Cure. I use a syringe to squirt a couple doses of Nyquil down her gullet in hopes that she goes to sleep, and does or does not wake up. Hopefully in the happy, dreamless sleep of Nyquil. Sometimes it works. This time it did not. She languished. It was gross. I'll spare you the details. Unhappy ending.

When my hens started freaking out again, I ran out to scare off this predator once and for all. Was I surprised when a bobcat slowly slunk away from the coop at my approach! It stopped, turned to gaze cooly at me in that fabulously uniquely feline superior way, gave a hiss for good measure, and sauntered on back into the woods. Though bummed about my poor hen, I was kind of psyched to see a real, live bobcat. Beautiful creature. A naturalist friend assured me not to worry. Bobcats don't like people. It wouldn't return.

Turns out bobcats don't confide in naturalists all the time. He returned. And returned. And returned. And returned. And returned. And returned. This week, he visited us five days in a row! I watched him slam him rather hefty body into the coop fence. Yes, yes, yes, I ran out there screaming like a banshee every time he visited. (Apparently, bobcats don't find me suitably scary.) My hens were a wreck. They stopped laying eggs from the stress. They stopped coming out of the coop for fresh air. They took on the heavy trod and helpless appearance of PTSD sufferers.

I scoured everywhere for answers. Here are a selection of the well-meaning and appreciated suggestions: motion-sensitive sprinkler, man piss, a bag of hair (makes me need to clear my throat excessively just to write that,) bacon hung on a strong electric fence, a "bobcat-proof bubble" (from my friend who watched too many Movies of the Week starring John Travolta in the '70s), coyote urine, a promise to send hair from the tub drain (thanks again, Andrea,) a can of pennies, an air gun, and a paintball gun. To those last few, my husband kept asking incredulously, "YOU'RE supposed to hit a moving target? [cruel laughter] You?" He implied that I throw like a girl, a phrase that is offensive but in this case sadly apt. I learned about bobcats. I learned to respect them too. Just to pass some advice on to you, don't try the coyote urine. It will attract coyotes, according to the fur-bearing mammal biologist at our Fish & Wildlife department.

By the way, I love the fact that someone owns a business card that describes their title as "Fur-Bearing Mammal Biologist." If my daughter ends up with that job, I wonder how I will describe it at cocktail parties.

"She's a scientist," I will say proudly.

"Oh? What kind of scientist?" my friend will inquire.

"A biologist!" I shall crow.

"Really? What type of biologist?" the Noisy Nora will drill me.

"Uh, a mfifuui," I say into my hand.

"What?" that bitch will jab my chest and shout.

"Fine. Fine." I'll exhale. "A fur-bearing mammal biologist! A fur-bearing mammal biologist! Are you happy now, you cow?"

I probably won't be invited to many cocktail parties when I'm older. Though come to think of it, the last time I went to a cocktail party I was wearing bell-bottoms. Whatever.

As for the bobcat, I took matters into my own hands, as I am wont to do. I drafted my grumbling son to help me surround our entirely fenced-in coop with the electric fence (sans bacon thus far.) A fortress. My hens have not been thrown into a blinding panic since then, so I have my fingers crossed that the Great Bobcat Lesson is over.

What did I learn from it?

I learned that no matter how busy you think you are - even when you feel like you're drowning in to-do's - there always is time for bobcats.

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