Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Many Perils of Country Life

This is my first post from the farm, and I am here to tell you that we are okay.  And well you might wonder whether we are okay, given the many perils of country life.

Oh, you're not aware of the many perils of country life?

Neither were we (!) until we announced that we were moving and the scary stories came flooding in.

Did you know that our original barn (not our new barn, circa 1940), was blasted off the planet by a tornado? Which goes to explain why the new barn was overbuilt, in the way that Noah's ark may have been said (by his building inspector) to be overbuilt.

Our new barn, (circa 1940), stands square, its knees slightly bent, shoulder-padded against the expected onslaught.

I can see the barn from my bedroom window, clear as Oz.  It's all that stands between one homicidal breeze...and me.

There is a swarm of wasps outside our bathroom window.  They squeeze through the cracks in their pilgrimage to the tub, the sacred place where they go to die.

There's a swarm of yellow jackets in the chicken coop.  Don't open that door.

A thousand million heat-seeking flying beetles bask in the warmth of the south side of our house.  They cling to the cedar shakes like noodles on drywall.  As the day cools, they begin to search for an opening.  By dusk, they are frantic.

Hundreds find their way in.  I hoover them up with a screaming loud hand-held vacuum.

But at night, as I try to drift off to sleep, invariably, one crawls across my shoulder.  I wake up, turn on the light, throw back the covers, scrutinize the floral pattern of my sheets....

I see nothing.  But I had felt it.  It was there.  It is probably still there.  I have to turn off the light.  Sometime.

I grew up with nature magazines that featured an adorable critter named Rocky Raccoon.

I now know four people who would to come to my farm, armed to the teeth, for the express purpose of blowing away my inevitable raccoon problem.

Like the legions of beetles, the raccoon seeks relief from the cold.  Undesirable tenants, they bring rabies and poop so poisonous that if you touch it to your eyes (and I don't know why you would do this, but do not do it if you're at all tempted) you will go blind.  Truly.  Dead serious.  Don't touch it.  Don't breathe it.  And for God's sakes, don't stick it in your eyes.

Raccoon fear nothing.  Not barn cats.  Not dogs.  Not horses.  Not giant circa 1957 International tractors. Not light, not power tools, not even the giant water slides at Kalahari can deter the rabid and toxic bandit from setting up its "nursery" in your barn.

You have to get a gun.  Or a trap.  Or hire a hit man.

Or, you could get an owl.  Barn owls eat baby raccoon, and that makes for a bad nursery situation.   But you can't find one on Craiglist.  You have to make a barn owl home (a very big bird house) and hope that the owl finds it on Craigslist.

We don't have an owl, yet.  Or a gun.

Among other unexpected frights, we have butternut squash.

What, you don't know about butternut squash?

They were planted in the garden, and they are legion.  Their little forms look like cabbage patch dolls, or, actually, they look like real babies that grow big and plump nestled in among the weeds.

They also grow near our compost,which we haven't been stirring or handling properly, so that is another horror show and we are quickly losing our taste for salad.

I am inundated with the squash, and since they look like babies, I have to take them in.  And then I have to peel them and chop them up and put them in the freezer in plastic bags.  Because that's what you do with butternut squash.

I skinned three the other night, all of them found huddled in the grass around the horrifying compost.  I held each one in my left hand over the sink and peeled its skin off with my right hand.

When I finished, I took up my customary spot on the couch between the dogs.  Phil and Josh were chuckling over the genius of Mike Meyers as Dr. Evil in an early Austin Powers, when I suddenly noticed that I could no longer feel the tips of my fingers on my left hand....

Then the whole palm went numb and took on the appearance of a monkey hand.  The skin was thick and leathery.  Flexing or stretching, it felt as though the skin would crack open, as if I had been ice-fishing all day with only one glove.

Josh and Phil weren't particularly interested in the bizarre reptilian metamorphosis of my hand.

You can Google "butternut squash skin".  It is a real and much under-reported phenomenon.

It's always the hand that holds the squash, never the hand that peels it.

You can wash the hand as much as you like, or douse it with intensive moisturizers.  It makes no difference whatsoever.

If you peel it, thinking it's like an Elmers glue of butternut squash goo, well, you can; but, in fact, that is your skin.

You just have to go to bed and pray that the condition doesn't spread to your elbows and your shoulder and your forehead, and that you don't wake up in the middle of the night with your whole body cracking like an old discarded saddle in the barn, which, btw, you can see from your window, still braced for catastrophe.

Fortunately, the squash condition did  not spread to my eyeballs.  My hand returned to normal by the end of the next day.

But I do wonder:  Why vilify the raccoons?   And not the butternut squash?  I mean, am I going to rub raccoon poop in my eyes?   Probably not.  I am more likely to peel butternut squash.

A word to the wise:  Wear gloves.  All the time.  You never know what you're touching.

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