First and foremost, I may be a country girl at heart, but I grew up and lived years of my adult life in city and suburbs. Sure, I had a few tussles with encroaching ants and once or twice mice and rats, but my baptism into the joys of country living was a bit of a shock.
For example, this morning I let the dogs out while I made coffee and opened a bag of dog food (best quality, no corn or byproducts). Emmett returned a few minutes later with his breakfast contribution: a freshly slain rabbit that he proudly dropped at my feet.
I barely shrieked – just a squeak really – but his drooping ears and tail were clear indicators that I had not properly appreciated his prowess and gift. After dealing with the mess and disinfecting the floor, I tried to redeem myself by offering Emmett cheese and an empty yogurt cup. He was more gracious about accepting the gifts than I had been, but he was clearly disappointed.
And back to why we were up early enough for the dogs to hunt the nocturnal bunnies. We had had a brief turf war around five when my daughter took her dog, Molly, out to do her business. Molly likes to push boundaries. For some reason, according to dog protocol, she is not allowed in my bedroom during the wee hours. They settled the issue with a few ritual growls, just enough to wake me up.
I switched on my light only to discover a spider happily spinning a web on the lampshade inches from my face. When I tried to remove her, she dropped down to bunker beside my bed. Telling myself that it was only a little non-poisonous spider, a bonus guest that would probably chow down on the mosquito that had buzzed me the night before, I tried to sleep.
After the third time I had jerked upright, convinced that eight little feet were scurrying across my face, I decided there was no remedy but coffee and grumbling.
In the city, we once had a lone rat take up residence in our shed. My old dog, Billy Braveheart dealt with the intruder ($350 at the vet because the rat fought back). Here in the bucolic woods and pastures, there are uncountable field rats contributing their bit to the food chain – hawks, coyotes, owls, and eagles maintain the balance of nature.
However, I didn’t connect that survival out here means that every creature grabs for any advantage. Trying to be a good neighbor, I had let a friend overwinter his crab traps in my shed. Come spring, I discovered the miniscule bits of rotting fish had lured more than crabs – my shed had become a rat condo where rapidly growing generations safely sheltered from the predations of the predators.
Foul. Smelly. Gross beyond belief. Even little field rats are not good tenants.
My daughter and son-in-law used masks and disinfectant bleach while they stripped the 30 foot shed to its studs. Almost everything stored in there had to be carted to the dump. My ignorance is going to cost me big time in insulation and reconstruction.
Stupid costs money. And nature is unforgiving of stupid.
I’ve survived a rooster who crowed day and night (the neighborhood celebrated when an eagle made a meal of him), discovered that a possum really does play possum when a dog catches it, seen the bloody havoc of a weasel in a chicken coop, come face to face with a snake sunning itself in a shrub I was pruning, been kept awake by the musical yipping of hunting coyotes, and been sadly made aware that young squirrels make mistakes as dumb as young teens (though usually a lot more fatal).
My more experienced neighbors laugh at me, but they help me out. There’s clear evidence out here as to why nature has decreed that small animals have an incredible numbers of babies. In the meantime, I have acquired a little more education on the “circle of life.”
It isn’t an easy transition for a naïve city girl, but the trade off is that I get to listen to the songs of more birds than I can name, breathe deliciously fresh air, glimpse creatures I had only seen in pictures, and above all, experience a deep sense that away from concrete, the natural world continues as it should.