Saturday, 22 February 2020

Me vs A Legacy of Dead Animals

***This post has a few pictures of dead and/or mostly dead animals. You've been warned. ~J

About a year after we moved, my mother told me that she was surprised by how well I was doing living in a small town, and even more so on a rural property. Apparently when we had told her and my father that we were moving out of the city, they'd silently conferred and given me 6 months before I table flipped and came back to civilization.  Oddly, she was very specific about giving ME 6 months before I lost my mind....she evidently felt that my husband was more suited for rural life???

Well, 6 years in, and I feel like I won some unspoken battle of wills. I also don't recognize what I've become.

When we first moved, finding a spider in my house was grounds for a burning.  I will fully admit to emptying a can of raid into a spider nest just to be sure they were well and truly gone. As a child, when we went to our cabin, my sister and I would have my parents do a "spider check" every night, and failure on their part was not an option. Wildlife was fine...when viewed from afar, and preferably on the other side of glass.

Fast forward to now.
I have been keeping a dead bobcat in my freezer.
My life is a Planet Earth blooper reel. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Since moving to our little piece of forested paradise, I've had to become a little more ok with the nature around me. For example, the spiders that I would not suffer to live, are now ok as long as they are small-ish and remain on the ceiling. My children name them. Our current kitchen-dwelling ceiling spiders are called Fluffy and Blacky.  I do have a more limited tolerance for spiders on bedroom ceilings, but even those standards have greatly relaxed in the last few months. I take much more offence to the moths, as they eat holes in my clothes, and arguably the spiders help with mitigating their existence. Initially I tried to combat the spider epidemic, but having a wood stove means a constant need for wood, which in turn means things coming in on the wood. I like being warm more than I hate spiders, and so they are inevitable. I learned to tolerate.

And so we moved up the size scale to mice. I never had to deal with mice in the city. They just never came up. There were zero times where I laid in bed and wondered what that scritching noise was.  But we moved to a forest and mice became a thing. A constant, unstoppable force of nature. In the home we rented before buying our current house, having mouse traps out was just an everyday standard. The first time I found a full trap, I was horrified that this was something I had to deal with now. And I'll be clear, I didn't deal with it well. Emptying traps was solidly chiseled onto my husband's job list.

These days, mice don't usually make it into the house. Only one has that we know of, and it didn't stand a chance, as our two cats and dog spent an evening stalking it mercilessly (and a bit joyfully). Generally, they only make it as far as the garage and meet their end. This is fine, and I've considered staking their little heads out in front as a warning to others who want to try and breach our defences.

But sometimes our mouse traps work...differently...than I'd like.  Follow me up the size scale again. 

This past summer I caught a lizard in a mouse trap. It was still alive, albeit unhappy, so we released it.  As we were taking the trap back to reset it (the mice never relent) we happened past another one of the traps. This one held an absolutely furious snake, which I'm fairly sure had been going after the lizard that I had just released.  We released the snake and off it went. The next morning, the same stupid lizard that had only caught it's leg the first time, had come right back in and repeated it's poor life choices of the previous day, however this time it hadn't been so lucky.

Dead animal bingo: Small Rodents - check, Reptiles - check
What's next?

Right, birds.

I will say that having a bird fly into your window isn't that uncommon. It happens a lot here, despite attempts to put up stickers and dirty kid handprints to signal that this isn't a fly through zone.  That said, having a hawk fly into your window so fast that you honestly thought your giant picture window was going to shatter....well that's a bit more rare.

I can only imagine that while this bird was very aware of its own speed and magnificence, it was maybe less aware of its surroundings than it needed to be. This beautiful, but idiotic bird, ricocheted off the window so hard that it partially decapitated itself, and the force of the hit sent this now very dead bird flying sideways onto our back deck in a spectacular fountain of arterial blood spray. To complicate this already unplanned for situation, it was August and hot, so we had to get outside as fast as possible to wash the rapidly drying blood spatter off the window, deck, and side of the house before it baked on, all while keeping the dog from coming up to claim what he clearly thought was his new toy. 

It just sat here and died
And if the birds aren't flying into the window, they just settle down by your front door to die.  I guess this was some kind of idiot grouse? It just showed up one day, and then later that same day it was no more.  Less blood spray at least, but no fewer dead birds that the dog still feels should be his. Live in the country, they said.....

And no, I'm not at the cat yet. Which means, yes, somehow there's more. *sigh*

I mentioned our dog earlier. He's big, he's brown, and one of his favourite activities is finding bones. This could mean stealing bones from neighbour dogs (which he does frequently and with skill I wish he'd direct to more useful endeavors, like listening when I call him), or it could mean running out into the forest and helping us to add to our ever increasing collection of dead animal bits. 

A few months ago he very proudly came trotting around the side of the house with this:

This one is quite dead
It still had fur. Wonderful.

And of course, it didn't stop there. We (and again, I say we, but I mean my very tolerant husband) bagged the leg and got rid of it.

My dog brought back another full leg. He was a little salty that we'd gotten rid of his first leg, but he was equally proud of himself for having a stash to work from. And so we got rid of leg #2.

Now I will admit that this pushed my limits a bit. I feel like up until the point where my dog dragged a fully intact deer leg and kindly left it in the middle of my stairs, I'd dealt with most things with a kind of aplomb that past Jamie would not have been able to manage. But this was pushing it somewhat.

And then the entire lower jaw of his prized carcass made an appearance in our yard. And it had teeth. And for some reason the gory, cloven-hoved nightmare was tolerable, but the jaw with teeth? Nope, I'm out.

But I wasn't out.

Because what is the next logical step on the ladder of dead animals? We'd had rodents, reptiles, birds, large guessed's PREDATOR TIME!

This winter we had a cold snap. During this time my neighbour sent me pictures of a little bobcat sitting on her porch just kind of...hanging out? In any case, it was pretty odd behaviour for an otherwise solitary and elusive predator, and it was seriously freaking her cat out. It was interesting, but otherwise the event came and went with little more than passing curiosity. 

A day or two later my husband sent me a text with this picture and very little explanation. 

Also very dead

Turns out that the bobcat that had been hanging out at our neighbours house, probably because it was cold and hungry and then had chosen to make its way into our woodshed to die.  

This NEVER happened to city-dwelling Jamie. SHE never had to deal with dead predators in her yard.  I can truthfully say that there has never been one time in my life prior to moving here where I had to seriously consider how to dispose of a body. NOT ONCE. 

This alone was pretty fucked up. I had a dead bobcat in my woodshed. But more importantly, I had a dead bobcat that I now needed to get rid of, and it needed to be done in a way that would not see the dog bringing it back to us in a further state of disrepair.  

And so like the good procrastinators we are, we put it in a wheelbarrow (it's still winter, it'll keep) and went back inside to ponder the situation for a few days.  I felt like someone should know this happened so I called the conservation officer, because that seemed like something they would want to know about.  Turns out they did not care at all. They wanted me to hurl it into the back 40, but given the aforementioned dog, that didn't seem like a great plan. So we did nothing for a while longer. 

And we continued to do nothing until I went to work with a picture and story of my new cat. My boss took one look and asked if he could have it. You want my dead bobcat? Yes. Why??? To stuff it. Oh. 

Anyway, then I (read again: husband) had to put a small dead bobcat in my freezer so it didn't go bad while my boss got a permit to have it taxidermied.  

For almost 4 weeks, I had a bobcat-cicle just hanging out in my deep freeze. That is not normal. Normal people do not have deceased cats IN THEIR FREEZERS.  That is not something that happens. What (and I can't emphasize this enough) the fuck is happening here? I live in the Bermuda Triangle of dead animals. 

This week, finally, my boss got the approvals he needed to take possession of said dead bobcat, and I could thankfully get it out of my house.  That said, I had to get it out of the freezer first. When it had initially gone it, it was....somewhat pliable. But now picture if you will, the act of trying to get a cat into a carrier....all 4 feet braced against the edges, fighting the inevitable. Well, I had a frozen version of that, and this frozen feline was not keen on being liberated from it's new home.  Eventually me and my frozen cat got to take a ride in my car where it then got to go live in the freezer at work for a while. After all, the only thing worse that a dead frozen bobcat, is a thawed one. 

So now my little dead bobcat will be finding a nice warm home as a flatter, rug-like version of itself. I have requested naming rights though....I'm thinking Cleopatra. 

And I feel like city Jamie would be equal parts proud and horrified by the new me.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Me vs Camping

I've been camping for as long as I can remember. I grew up participating in things like Girl Guides and Scouting where we camped at least 3-4 times a year. Our family camped for two weeks every summer in various locations around the province, and now as an adult we take our kids camping.

My style of camping, however, has morphed quite a lot over time into something that is less tenting adventure, and more of a solid, animal attack reduction enclosure.

For years our family camped in a tent until one fateful trip when my mom declared at two in the morning that we would never tent again. To be fair, it had begun raining around one am, and the term "torrential" doesn't do it nearly the justice it deserves. I would consider using "biblical downpour" instead.  This meant that for all future trips we rented a tent trailer, because somehow adding the term "trailer" to it made it less tent-y.

Me trying to look organized while not doing that
Camping with my parents was amazing, and I have so many great memories from those trips. My mother has to be the single most organized camper that has ever lived, and I'm constantly struggling to achieve that level of tidyness when camping.  I haven't yet and don't truly expect to.

Those family trips were an organizational polar opposite to camping with Guiding or Scouting. I mean, of course it threw 5-8 teenages at a campsite with limited oversight....what could possibly go wrong? There are days I look back and wonder how we didn't get eaten by a bear or simply die of exposure. We were the worst campers. We had a blast, but the stupidity was unparalleled.

When camping with Guides, for example, you were not allowed to swim or play in the water unless you had a certified lifeguard. We never had that. Ever. But of course the closest campground, and our location of choice, was right beside a huge lake with beautiful creeks running into it, and on a hot summer day, this was torture. We were early teens and our leaders were amazing. They (perhaps imprudently) gave us a fair amount of freedom, and we took it happily. On the day in question, a couple of us decided that we would go for a hike; we let them know our plans and headed off. The only rule was: don't go in the water.

 Along the way it got hot and we decided that it wouldn't hurt if we just stuck our feet in the creek for a harm, no foul. No one would even know...until my friend fell into the creek.  There's very little hope of playing innocent when you return to your site dripping wet.

Although looking back this girl was a bit accident prone.....she once walked into the cross beam of a swing set and broke her nose, burned her hand fairly badly on a lantern, and fell into (another) river all in the same night. Just saying.

She also provided me the most ridiculous camping anecdote I've ever heard. 

Before I impart her wisdom, however, you need to know that I love being outside, sitting around campfires, hiking, and hanging out with friends, but I hate being outside in the dark. The peaceful forest turns into a nightmarish playground where every sound it a lurking animal waiting to pounce. It keeps me up at night. Every night.  Being in a camper, even our tiny trailer that is almost as old as I am, is a huge improvement over a tent, but I still hear every sound. And I will wake you up to ask if you hear it too. I'm not sure what I think that will accomplish, but it happens anyway.

And just so we're all on the same page, tents are not protection. They are a light film allows you to pretend that nothing is out there, because you can't see it. A toddler with a sharp stick could take out a tent wall....a bear would have exactly zero difficulty getting in. 
Our toddler showing off
the tent/bear take out container that she could
easily demolish if she put her mind to it

But I digress.  It was on a camping trip with my friend that I heard something crashing around in the bushes. We'd long since gone to bed, and she was, I assume, sleeping. I was not. I was imagining the thousands of blood thirsty creatures that were screened from view by our pathetically small tent. And I may have been a little concerned. 

So, because misery loves company, I woke her up to tell her we were going to die.  She sat up, looked me dead in the eye and said "There's nothing out there. All nocturnal animals go to bed at midnight." And then she went back to sleep.

Ummm....I have a question about the definition of nocturnal.

But amazingly, at the time I didn't, and so I shrugged and went to sleep. Teenage logic is stupid. 

And so, if you're ever camping and wonder if you're safe in the forest at night, just remember, as long as it's after midnight, you'll be fine. All the nocturnal animals have gone to bed. 

Sweet dreams.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Me vs Being a Horse?

My sister is getting married soon, so I thought what better time to relive some warm sisterly memories than right now.

As I've discussed in the past, my sister is revoltingly talented. What she wasn't as a child, however, was capable of walking like a human being.  For reasons only a 9 year old would understand, her and her friend wanted to be horses. Not to ride horses, but to BE horses.

And what does being a horse encompass you ask? Let me tell you. It means offering to hitch yourself up to large logs in order to pull them like a draft horse. It means perfecting your horse noises (Neigh!). It also, more importantly, means walking and running on all fours. Horses don't walk on two legs after all.

And so they practiced. And they got good. And my sister, who excels in most things, also excelled in this. Over time, the two girls developed a loping kind of canter, a smooth-ish walk, and an ungainly but surprisingly quick gallop, all of which were done on all fours, with legs and arms extended to their fullest. There were times when I truly believed that my sister could move faster on four legs than on two.

As an older sister, the single best part of this for me was that over time they performed these equine feats so frequently that they would appear to forget what they were doing and just drop into horse stance. Anywhere. Literally ANYWHERE.

I would be walking home from school with my sister and suddenly she would drop to all fours and run.  It seemed  like anytime she started running like a human, there was at least a 40% chance that she would end the run in horse mode. From where I was standing, it was a completely subconscious choice to do this, and it was absolutely hysterical.

My unqualified favourite time this happened was at the local ice rink. We were at public skating, just going around in endless circles when it happened. I guess at some point we achieved critical horse speed, because out of nowhere my sister dropped automatically into horse stance and tried to run. 

Now if you've ever experienced ice, you'll know that it isn't known for it's traction. Horses, as a rule, also don't often wear ice skates. Ice, combined with skates designed to glide on ice, and the act of not actually being a horse created a trifecta of disaster which saw my sister face planting on the ice after taking about 2 to 3 loping gallops in public. She wasn't hurt, and I enjoyed the spectacle immensely. 

I can tell this story now, because my sister has not been a horse in years, and recently got back from winning a world championship medal with Team Canada's women's paddling team. I'm very proud of her, but I also like closing my eyes and remembering that while she may be athletic and talented now, there was once a time that she tried to run like a horse on the ice and failed spectacularly. Neigh!

Friday, 21 June 2019

Me vs The Utter Joylessness of Adulting

So it's been a bit more than a cup of coffee since I've sat down to write anything. I've got a thousand reliable excuses, but the reality is I'm just tired, frustrated, and binge eating m&ms while watching Netflix.  

I think a large part of it is that adulting has been steadily chipping away at the armor of my sanity for the last 4 years. In all my time as a homeowner, I've never had even half of the problems we've had since moving here, and it's breaking me down.

I'll caveat this by saying that I realize that my complaints are for the most part solidly first world problems....except the water issues, those throw me down a few "world" levels. We've been very fortunate to be healthy and generally happy as a family. 
That said, our problems are still problems. They're still draining emotionally, physically, and financially, and it sucks.  

Besides being set upon annually by ants, ticks, wasps, mosquitoes, and a very persistent bear intent upon tearing apart my garden boxes one by one, the house itself seem to dislike having people living in it.

The water situation feels barely liveable some days. We're constantly fighting sediment gumming up 
fixtures and appliance, and have had what feels like endless water depletions, as one tap or another won't shut off because some bloody part of it has been worn down by grit.

We do have enough water to basically run the house, but the well we dug to increase the capacity went...poorly. (read about the unstoppable shit show here), and we've decided to give up after paying some jackass more money than I care to think about, for what amounts to an unsightly pipe in my yard. At least we have sufficient water for the house. Small miracles.

We also decided recently to get a high quality (read: expensive) filtration system so that the water doesn't smell and taste quite so terrible, and the persistent sediment is removed. I've had more fart showers than anyone should have to endure, and I'd like to come out of the bath feeling cleaner than I went in for fuckig once.  It would also be lovely if the water coming out of my tap didn't kill fish.  I don't even like fish, but I feel like if the fish can't survive in the water, I probably shouldn't be consuming it either.

The system went in and for a glorious 2 weeks I had relaxing, fart-free showers. It was the best of times....and then it ended. The $&%$ing system began leaking just enough to be defective, but not wrong enough to get the repair guy in quickly. So for a week and a half I just changed out the towels at the bottom of the tank every couple of days so it didn't form pools. Eventually the guy made it back into town and "fixed" the system, however to date, the tank still leaks and for reasons that I can't explain, I'm back to fart showers. 

And then one deceptively quiet evening, three large wall tiles gave up the ghost mid shower. They came right off fucking the wall in my hands. It seems they'd been loose for some time, as behind them was a colourful selection of mold and moist drywall bits. Of course now I'm terrified that I've been inhaling mold spores for the last few year.  I've also developed a cough.  I'm quite surprised I'm still alive.
And as one would expect, the builder has politely requested that we pound sand.

But it doesn't end there....

Our first camping trip of the summer saw the fridge in our trailer, which had worked flawlessly all last year, conk out in a very permanent way. The toilet also backed up, and I can't begin to explain how that happened, as it's basically just a hole you shit in with a tank underneath. 

We also got rid of a lot of our garden, as I can't keep plants alive (which is a whole issue in and of itself), and we had a beautiful rock fountain put in. It is stunning (and just to be clear, I have no complaints about the person who put it in). 
And it worked for about 3 weeks. 
Again, for reasons that escape me, the pump does not pump. You plug it in and exactly nothing happens until you take it OUT of the water, at which point it sputters back to life. Put it back in the water and it goes completely dead. This is roughly the EXACT GODDAMN OPPOSITE of what a WATER PUMP is supposed to do. 

And my cat just puked on the carpet. I'm not even making that up. 

I quit.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Me vs A Lack of Foresight When Dressing for the Weather

Some days you just don't want to put on pants. On those days, you need to ask yourself "should I put on pants though?"
In my case, the answer should be yes. Always. Unfortunately, so often it's no. Because apparently I never learn.

Just over a year ago, my car went off the road into a ditch as I was driving home. Long story short, I was in my pyjamas, the zipper on my jacket broke, and my 3 year old wasn't wearing shoes. It was -20 outside, I had to walk home, and there was snow. I should have worn pants.  My neighbour who towed me out of the ditch probably also thought I clinically insane. (Read the whole saga here)

Fast forward to the present. 

We have snow, but it has rained more than average for the season. Overnight, the rain freezes, and turns the road into an ice rink. On the day in question, my husband texted me in the morning to let me know the roads were slippery. I should have put on pants to take the kids to school. I did not. 

In my hubris, I threw a jacket on over my pyjamas, put on some boots that I now realize look very much like slippers, and I drove the kids to the bus stop about 4 kms from our house.  I had zero problems. 

Academically I knew it was icy. I could see the sheen. But my vehicle with it's 4 wheel drive and studded tires handled it like a champ. Rocky music was playing in the background.

Like a normal, sleep deprived parent, I waited in my car with the kids at the bus stop. No one besides the kids needed to witness my state of makeup-free undress, and frankly they're pretty used to me in pyjama pants. Honestly, why wear anything else if you don't have to.

That said, I do have a bar. I believe that if you have to go out into the world and interact with other functioning adults, you should be wearing pants. Dropping kids at a bus stop does not require interaction, hence no pants required. This works 98% of the time.

On this day, it did not work.

I got to the top of my road, which is at the top of a rather steep and winding hill. There were a few trucks parked up there and one of the drivers hopped out and flagged me down. He proceeded to tell me that I probably shouldn't go down, as the hill was a sheet of ice, and 3 cars had already tried and had failed spectacularly at staying on the road. One truck was currently laying on it's side up against a tree, and after seeing it I can only say that it's a miracle no one was seriously hurt.

Logically I knew I was stuck at the top of the hill, it wasn't worth the risk to attempt to go home, however all I could think to say to this kind man trying to make sure I didn't get myself killed was "But I need to go home, I'm not wearing pants".

I have a way with words.

One of my coworkers happened to show up on the scene shortly after I did, and was professional enough not to make too many jokes at my expense. I explained that I needed to get home and put some actual clothes on, as I had things to do in town, and that I was weighing the pros and cons of hiking overland rather than following the road. 
My husband, who maps things for a living, wanted
me to tell you he had no part in the drawing of this shitty map.
Also, this map is not even remotely to scale. 
Pro: I figured that it would cut 45 mins off the hike, as the road went down the hill and then back up the other side of the little valley, and I planned to cut directly across through the forest. This would also allow me to avoid walking along the icy road, where I was pretty sure my tractionless slipper-boots would see me on my ass frequently.

Con: There was an excellent chance that hiking alone through the forest would result in my getting eaten by a cougar.

For reasons that still elude me, my saint-like coworker offered to hike into the forest with me to find my house and make sure that I didn't become breakfast for a large cat along the way.  So off we went, headed in the general direction I figured my house was in; me in my pyjamas and slipper boots, and him dressed like a normal person who was humoring a crazy person on an unplanned hike through the forest first thing in the morning.  

About 10 minutes into our unplanned adventure, I heard quietly behind me "You've come this way before, right?"

Conceptually yes.
But seriously, we go in a straight line. It should work.  And thankfully, shortly thereafter we came over a hill and there was the house. I definitely owe this guy a coffee on our next shift. 

I quickly got my shit together and we hiked back to the road and our vehicles. I carried on with the rest of my day until I decided enough time had passed to allow for the road crews to transform the rink into a road again. Crisis mostly averted. 

So the moral of this story is that you should always wear clothes when you leave the house or you may end up hiking through a forest in pyjamas with a coworker who will probably bring it up in conversation at some future team building event. 

And to really bring the story full circle, I'm also fairly sure that the pyjama pants I wore the last time I was stranded in the snow were the same ones I was stranded in this time. Might be time for a new pair....these ones seem cursed.