Monday, March 8, 2010

of mice and possums

and birds and dirt and buds and sunrises and eggs!

After working all week in the city, turning a blind eye to the warmer days and the burgeoning buds, I was released into the yard.

All the flower beds need attention out at the country house and the garden and the compost pile and the area I am clearing around the peach tree next to the garden shed. I grabbed my shovel and trowel and got to work. I don’t know what it is about digging but I love it. I like moving and turning the soil, I like crumbling the clods and sifting the dirt through my hands getting the weeds out. Saturday I worked with the trowel on a flower bed in the back yard that I am cleaning out and expanding. Sunday I used the shovel and finished clearing out around the peach tree. This mostly consisted of digging up the last of the orange cannas and trees from just sprouted to 2’ tall. Then I dug all the weeds out of the compost pile. Then I started to trench around the garden plot, moving dirt from the compost pile to the garden and turning it in. This morning my body is demanding to know just what the hell I thought I was doing with all that digging yesterday.

I wasn’t the only one out working the land. The farmer who farms the fields on the other side of the road was out turning dirt too. Only he was using a tractor.

I mentioned last week that the bluejays were engaged in nest building. I guess that goes for all the birds. Saturday morning as I was headed out of the garage I happened to glance over at the bag of rags hanging on a peg and this is what I saw.

Apparently it looked like a cozy place for a nest. Haven't seen any birds working at it but I'm guessing it's a wren because it looks like the nest they built on my windowsill once and also the wrens have been very curious about our garage in the past.

I’m not usually up early enough to catch the sunrise but Sunday morning about 5 AM, the cat was frantic to get into the back half of the house which we close off at night. Marc opened the door for her and went back to sleep. I laid there til I heard the clock chime 6 and then got up. I checked to see if the cat wanted out and found her staring intently at the desk in the big room. Listening, I could hear little gnawing sounds. When I pulled the desk away from the wall, I was not surprised to see a little mouse. I say I was not surprised to see a little mouse because last weekend when we got home I stepped on a pecan in that room. I still have two grocery bags full of pecans sitting in that room from the harvest last fall. Looking around, I saw several pecans and empty shells scattered about.

Well, Emma (the cat) pounced on the mouse and before I could get the back door open for her to take her toy outside, she let it go. There ensued a rather silly chase with me yelling at the cat for being worthless, moving things about so Emma could get at the mouse and each time she caught it, she would let it go. Finally it ran into a storage closet adjacent to the big room and between the two of us I managed to get it trapped under an empty coffee can. I slipped a piece of cardboard underneath and took it outside with Emma on my heels where I let it go.

The sun was just barely starting to come up now and when I looked in the back yard about half an hour later, I did not see the cat but I did see a small possum in the middle of the yard. It was moving it's head from side to side and every now and then would snuffle in the dirt and eat something. I have always had possums living under my house in the city but this was the first one I had seen at the country house. They are quiet timid creatures if left alone but like all wild things, they will put up a fight to protect themselves. Finally, it was beginning to get light and it headed towards the fence at the corner of the house and slipped through. I slipped out of the house and followed as I wanted to see where it was going. Just on the other side of the fence there is an opening into the crawl space under the house with screen over it and the drain hose for the washer comes out there. That possum squeezed itself through a small opening next to the drain hose and under it went. Now I know what was under the house back in December.

Speaking of possums, I was relating this story to my sister Sunday afternoon and she told me she heard of a woman who will do rescues for possums and relocate them, that it seems they are becoming endangered in some states. Anyway, they had caught another possum in the trap and dispatched it as well and now they have started getting eggs again. So, not only were the possums (and dogs) attacking the hens and ducks, they were stealing all the eggs as well. I brought home two dozen fresh eggs.

Last night, the cat was being stubborn about coming in and it was 10 PM and all that exertion from the weekend was beginning to show on me and I was ready for bed. I went to the back door one last time and there sitting in the first crook of the chinese tallow tree was the possum.

*possum picture by Tom Wineman (


  1. I would love to take a peek into the mind of the wrens.

    Um, this looks like a nice spot for a nest dear, doesn't it?

    Well, it does look cosy, but a bit precarious, don't you think?

    Quit worrying David, it's perfect. On your lunchbreak tomorrow please sort out the mortgage application.

  2. Oh my, you are ambitious out on the farm. EAsy, there. Your body needs time to adjust to all this pulling and stripping.

  3. Did you know the male wrens build the nests and the best nest wins the lady?

    Possums are endanger here! They better stay away from the dog food and the chicken house.

    Glad you got to "play" outside. Nothing quite as envigorating as playing in dirt.

  4. Lots of animal drama going on over there, it's almost like an animal soap opera ;)

  5. We'll all be complaining of aching muscles and sore backs soon! Worth it to get out there digging in the soil, isn't it?!!

  6. Oh you're killing me up here! That kind of spring is a good month away for me!


  7. Hi Ellen

    while you muscles ached and complained over your exertions I bet that you found immense satisfaction in your digging spree...I envy you...I too love having my hands in the soil...perhaps we come from ancient farming stock! Probably peasants...

    Happy days

  8. Clearly animals love you. That's a good thing. :)

    We've actually had possums way up here for the past several years. They never existed this far north before the past few decades but they're here now. I've had them visit some evenings.

    I'm glad you got to the mouse before your cat did.

  9. I think Emma sounds soft on crime!

    It was 56 degrees here yesterday and felt soooooo good! Today is supposed to be similar, but it won't last. Likely we will get snowed on some more before winter gives up.

  10. I agree with Joanne, it sounds like an animal soap opera!

  11. There are oads of possom up here, their enemy is traffic- so slow crossing the road. Critters - simply trying to live out their critterdom. Poor little mouse- our cat catches more rats than mice, the cute factor gone, I don't mind if he shakes them out of their rat lives.

  12. "oads" of possom- maybe that is the name for a herd of them...

  13. I had ni idea about possums. The place sounds charming!

  14. When I was living in California I used to leave the side garage open for the cats so they could come and go and still have their food and water. One chilly autumn day I was out cleaning in the garage and went what is that "wild" smell out here so I took out the trash.

    Later I caught in the corner of my eye a white furry thing eating the cat food. So I sent Paul Taylor out with his wellies and a broom to oust the possum that had taken residence in the garage behind the washer/dryer. He was not amused he was very comfy thank you very much and did not think being turffed out was such a grand scheme.

  15. I have this fantastic image of you being "released" into the yard, flinging yourself out the door at the bang of some springtime starting pistol.

    The cat and mouse story got me laughing - brilliant.

  16. "This morning my body is demanding to know just what the hell I thought I was doing with all that digging yesterday."

    Ah, ya had me in tears there for a bit. ha ha. Great. :)

  17. Wow, the wild kingdom of Ellen! Fantastic.

    I love how you show us spring in your neck of the woods from very close up, the buds and such, to a more lengthy perspective, like the sunrise and the tractor pic, which I love. Makes me calm just to look over the landscape.

    I love shoveling snow so I would probably love gardening, too. I've never done more than container gardening, having never lived anywhere where I could stick my hands in dirt. I should re-think that.

  18. What a great story. You have a way of telling it that had me hoping the possum would find it's way without being in trouble. But I guess you can't have it under the house. I can't wait to start digging and planting. There is still snow here! Boy, am I ready for spring this year!

  19. All sounds far too energetic for me. I intend to stare at our garden to bully it into submission. That'll work for sure.

  20. You reminded me of my departed feline who was an avid and very untalented hunter. She was all over the fact that a mouse was in the room. Totally fixated on where she had seen it ten minutes ago. I ended up picking up the cat and launching it at the mouse, to no avail. The only mouse she ever caught was one she chased behind the fridge that hit the mouse trap. She reached behind there and pulled it out, parading around the house with trap + mouse. A proud moment.

  21. Sounds like quite an early morning scene at your house! LOL


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