About Me

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I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

That "Language Older than Words"

I have not posted since May. I have been too heart broken and troubled... guilty. I don't want to write the next blog because there is only one story to tell and it is not heartwarming or pleasant! But it must be told...

I broke my unspoken agreement with the fox. I had written about it before in "Mother Nature's Tax" that I felt completely ok with loosing one chicken a year or even one chicken a season to the fox or whatever predator needed for eat, nurse her young, and feed her babies. I owe it to the wildlife. I knew this was the agreement. I understood it even though I had never voiced it out loud. And though the fox and I had never sat down for an official negotiation, I think she knew it too.

One night, before the death began, the fox came early in the morning. The sun was up and the chickens were out in their open pen. At night I had been locking them up, but in the day I allowed them to free range a bit. The fox, hunger stricken, came in the morning and attacked. The dog heard the commotion and alerted me. I ran outside and caught the fox in the act. I watched her, as I ran outside, take one of our red hens and snap its neck. When the fox saw me, she turned with the still twitching hen and tried to hop back out of the pen but found she could not hop out with the hen in her mouth, at least not quick enough. So she left the hen and ran.

I examined the damage. The fox had pulled many feathers out of one hen's tale and bitten another hen, leaving a deep wound. The red hen she had killed had stopped twitching but was warm. I thought to myself, "Why waste the meat?" I should have been thinking, "This is the fox's kill. Fair and square. Not mine." I should have left the hen at the edge of the woods for the fox to easily take back to her den where I knew her babies awaited a meal. Instead, I prepared the hen for our crock pot.

I plucked the its feathers by dipping it in boiling water, which I had never done before. It was very effective! When gutting it I found five eggs, all at different stages of development. I saved them with the intention of eating them but never could muster the courage. It just seemed wrong somehow. Laying hens do not taste like the chicken you buy at the super market. It is not tender, fatty meat. It is gamey and tough. But after 6 hours in the crock pot, it made a delicious meal.

That night, the fox came to our front lawn, just after dusk and began barking at the house. She must have been standing no more than 10 feet from our front door. Her bark is high pitched and strange, like a large bird's squawk almost. She was letting her feelings be know... she was pissed! Our agreement had been violated and the pact was broken.

After that, the fox began falling upon our hen every day. We locked the hens up at night and let them out for shorter amounts of time. But the fox was sly. She would sneak into the yarn and snag a hen at noon... when we were at home! First she snagged one of Fred's chicks, then the other red hens, then... Yes, you know where this tragic story is going... the fox got Fred and all three of her chicks!

Zane was heartbroken. He told me we should kill the fox. His father agreed. I protested, reminding them that the fox was just trying to feed her young and survive. But I also knew I had pissed the fox off by stealing her kill and this was payback.

Maybe you think I am nuts. Perhaps I am reading into the situation too deeply. But I don't think so.
In Derek Jensen's book, A Language Older Than Words he talks about a similar agreement he had with the coyotes. He gives them a chicken every season and they leave the rest alone. I believe there IS a language older than words that nature, all of nature, uses to communicate. It was only when I misspoke that I  realized I am a part of nature and had been speaking this language all along!