Two animals ended up in black trash bags by the end of the day. For all the plant life we nurture and control on the farm, there usually isn't much animal life to speak of. Richard's two "guard" dogs that live on site might have something to do with it. There are rodents off and on, lots of snakes, a stray cat or two that lay low and scurry away whenever I spot them, and all manner of spiders and insects. But big animals (besides the human variety) are rare. So to have two close encounters in one day overshadows any of the other highlights of the day I can imagine.
The first came right as we were about to leave for market. Michael comes running, as usual, back from his lunch break and I hear him apologizing for being a few minutes late. Then I look up and need a second or two to register what I'm seeing: he's got a fresh Steelhead salmon hanging from his grip!
This guy goes fishing almost every morning before work, on his lunch breaks, and in the evenings after work. His love of salmonids is both inspiring and humorous: his favorite tomato variety is a Siletz because that's the name of the river with great fishing, and his favorite bird is an osprey or eagle because of the way they catch fish so gracefully. It's an obsession, no doubt, but one that doesn't worry anyone because it's how he finds his flow, experiences nature every day, and feels peaceful and joyful on a regular basis. So for him come back to the farm with a fish-- finally! after three years of lunch break fishing trips!-- felt triumphant!
No time to spare though: he slipped it into a large black plastic bag, bundled it up, and stuck it in the cooler until the end of the day, when he skipped off with the treasure under his arm.
The second animal encounter was, to say the least, not quite as triumphant. So before we go down this dark rabbit hole, here are some beautiful images from the market zone to brighten this up a bit:
Michael, Phil, Alex, and I spent a while after market set-up to tear out the oldest melon patch-- fruit, plants, weeds, landscape fabric, and drip tape-- so we can till and flip the area for new plantings. The final task of the project was to put away the used fabric (which was likely infested with squash bug larvae and eggs) and pull out a couple unused-this-year-yet strips for our last planting of melons in the greenhouse.
I won't go into too many details about the little decrepit shed where we store the landscape fabric and old drip tape sections, but I will say that as we approached it, Michael and I joked with Phil about the names it's acquired over the years: Opossum Shed, Rat Hotel, The Gross Shed, etc. After pulling out the first "new" chunk of fabric, I squealed and jumped back toward the apple tree that overshadows the area. I'm not normally squeamish about spiders, but the one that ran atop the other piece of fabric was bigger (and the context felt a whole lot creepier) than I could handle after a hot, muggy, dusty project.
We hemmed and hawed about the spider situation: did that one hanging on the door look like a male black widow? Was the one playing King of the Hill on the landscape fabric really a brown recluse? And what about all the scurrying of large spiders we could spy up on the shelf and milk crates above? It was one of those moments when the fear of the unknown amplified the size and danger of each little critter, and we almost gave up.
But Michael (maybe still fueled from his lunchtime excitement?) pushed ahead, yanking the last folded chunk out from the shed and preparing to hoist the ones we'd just folded back into their place. We positioned ourselves to fling the first hunk over from the cart, when Michael suddenly recoiled in the same way I did earlier!
"There's an opossum!!"
And there was, indeed. It's fur was still intact, so we thought it might be fresh. After much pacing, fake puking, groaning, wondering if we should just ignore it, and steeling ourselves, I grabbed an old pair of pruners we never use and extracted the body while Michael held up the pallet where it was laid to rest. Desiccated, leathery, stiff, and stinky as hell, the forgotten marsupial specimen made its way into the second black trash bag of the day.
On so many levels, I was purely disgusted, and happy it was over, and wished it had never happened. Memories of that one time I bludgeoned a blind baby mouse in the compost flooded back as I carried the plastic-sheathed carcass to the garbage can. I had sufficiently steeled myself to deal with the gross thing. At the same time though, in some pocket of my consciousness that was hiding by the picnic tables as my body went through the motions of facing death and decay, I was remorseful. I wanted to put it in the compost, to let it be recycled back into the land that once sustained it. I wanted the disdain we have for these creatures to disappear for a while. A proper burial.
Then I dropped the body bag into the trash can, dry heaved a few times for effect, and washed my hands. The not-knowing-- whether that baby mouse's siblings would survive after my compost turning back in 2011, or whether that opossum lived a pleasant life or had a hard death-- still sits okay with me. I can let that one go.