It begins to happen this time every year. Everything has young, or is young. A lot of mouths need to be fed, and all is not peaceable in the animal kingdom. A nest of baby spiders is unspooling from the egg sac; touch it gently, and a hundred free-fall 6 inches farther from home. By morning, they better have dispersed—a chicken or two could eat them all in under a minute.
Night is not night but the dark time in which I cannot see predators, and neither can the guinea hens. The fog, the persistent fog, is illuminated by my flashlight but does not let me see the eyes of what is out there.
It was the screechy cackle of raccoons that woke me. I don’t remember hearing the guinea hen. At dawn, I see feathers, and we investigate. At first, I’m hopeful—there aren’t a lot of feathers. My dog finds the scent, and we’re off, across the potato field, the hunt helping to assuage the sorrow. P.T. loses the scent, makes a big loop; I stop, she finds it again and leads me directly to a pool of the bird’s crimson blood. Here is the death scene. I lose hope.
Just as there are necessary trends in building, there are similar conditions in farming. Where a shovel is good for a family, you need a plow to feed a village whose inhabitants don’t farm. Agricultural implements are the tools used to feed more people.
The newest tool is the deer fence. If you don’t have a deer fence, your yield will be down, maybe a lot. For obvious reasons, people, farmers among them, think deer fences are ugly and problematic. For every fence that goes up, the deer pressure increases somewhere unfenced. Soon, another fence is going up, and so forth.
As someone who benefits from a deer fence, however, I can also say it is nice to sell more of what I grow. I love animals, but deer are literally too big a bite for vegetable farms to sustain.
This morning, following this trail of feathers, I imagine having such a fence for my birds: a great wall around a grassy pasture to protect them from harm. The fantasy alleviates the anxiety of knowing that the predator will be back.
My dog must sense my change in attitude; she stops again, facing south this time, and issues a few barks, but doesn’t proceed. The bird is gone—chasing the smell that proves it will achieve nothing. Wherever that raccoon is, I won’t be able to reach it, and I know it. Besides, I had this article to write and, beyond that, a sunny day with a light breeze and plenty of work to do.
So begins June, the perennial best of times, worst of times.