The birds, the bees, the cat, the possum and the people.
To start, we set the scene. It’s at work, and we have a building in the small semi-industrial park called The Capital District Farmers’ Market. Here, all the farmers bring their goods, sell, barter, trade and buy other goods. There’s a big produce company next door. That’s where your carrots and your celery and salad mix gets washed, weighed and bagged. Their huge trucks leave here bound for your grocer. There are a couple of independent, small-farm family businesses, too. (By small farm, I mean Black Horse has only forty greenhouses, compared to larger farms.) These folks buy produce wholesale, and grow their own flowers and field vegetables. They sell flowers by the pallet-full to landscapers and property management companies, along with produce for other farmers, to stock their farm stands and make them well-rounded. Elsewhere in the market, there are a couple of other non-agricultural businesses besides my own company. (We’re an audio-visual integration company that took this space because it was right up the street from our corporate headquarters, and the price was great!) There’s a wine distributor with warehousing and delivery trucks, and there’s a CDL School, where folks are taught how to drive tractor-trailers, and coached through their license exams. So, the important point is that there’s a lot of produce and plants around. Managing pests can be challenging. During the winter, the Big Produce house and the wine distributor and the driving school carry on with business just as we do. The “flower people” arrive in spring, set up and sell for the season, and retire to their farms after Columbus Day.
Well, first off, I’m a birder. A card-carrying member of the National Audubon Society as well as the local chapter, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. You’ve seen a bit of this in my blogs, one of which tells of the “Christmas Bird Count”, the official annual census of birds we take in mid winter. I live in a peaceful glen in the country by choice. I commute to the big, busy, loud city by necessity: it’s where I work. (FYI: Country life is so important to me, I commute over fifty miles each way every day. People think that’s grueling. I tell them “If you saw what I go home to, you’d understand why I do it.”)
Now this brings us to the birds. The birds are at work and they’re a small flock or a random group of English Sparrows, often called House Sparrows. (“Dave birds” by my daughter, who says their “beard” reminds her of her friend Dave.) I fill bird feeders at home all winter, and I see these sparrows at work every day. I can’t really put up a feeder in the Market because of its likelihood to attract rats and other vermin undesirable to normal people. So, I carry bread in my car, and each morning I pull into work, “Pazlo’s Birds” recognize the silver Funbus and come flying over to greet me. Occasionally they’ll land on my driver’s door mirror or the windshield wipers if they think I’m not making with the bread fast enough. I break up a couple of slices of bread and warm my heart watching these fragile beings take nourishment. Okay, so not so bad I guess.
Then comes the bees. We have a lot of Carpenter bees in the area, also a fact shared elsewhere in my blogosphere. They bore holes into wood to nest, and their favorite is fascia boards on eaves humans have constructed. A matter of taste, I guess. I love them. They hover in front of their holes, dancing, waiting for a mate to deem their’s best. They will drive off competitors. They are not at all aggressive, and sometimes they come down to eye level and hover, seemingly looking at me. Maybe they’re just curious, or want to see if I am food or wood. They move on in their slow, hovering course. So it’s not like I attract the bees or feed them, but I also don’t spray them with poison or tell the landlord to do so. Cohabitation I call it. I suppose it’s only normal for people to not want their fascias chewed, but how much can one little hole hurt? And we need pollinators! (Last fall I told one of my guys “You know, there’s already a shortage of bees.” when he swatted one. So maybe they thought “What a jerk.”, but I’m trying to do my part to save my own tiny piece of the planet.)
Well, now we come to the cat. Somewhere in the depth of winter I first saw Cat, running to hide in the back part of the building next door while Lisa from Black Horse Farm was home and warm 40 miles away in Coxsackie. She had the feral cat look (the cat, not Lisa), moving like a wild animal, not a domesticated one, and running from people. Not running to people saying “Feed me!” So I put out a cat dish and put food in it every morning and call “Here kitty” and make kiss noises, hoping, I suppose, she might come around and want to be “rescued”. I figured she’d be picked up by animal control or move on to better digs or find a family, or perhaps die. Maybe some natural element, maybe hit by one of the many huge trucks that drive through here. At any rate, as long as she was hanging around, I was going to be sure she didn’t go hungry (at least on weekdays). I have a philosophical quote that leads to the end game on such things, to wit: “Let the Cosmos handle it.”. This means I may provide some food for birds or cats, but otherwise will let nature take its own course, whatever that may be.
Along comes April, and with it our migratory Flower People, returning for another season. Not long after, as I pulled into work one morning, pestered by sparrows, I saw the live-catch trap set behind Black Horse’s building. Well, you know, there is food here, produce, for human consumption. There’s also a variety of “foods” if you are another species: bruised fruit and spoiled tomatoes in the dumpster, decorative corn, Winter Cherries (Chinese Lanterns). So it makes sense we’d need to be vigilant against vermin.
Today, the Market Manager stopped by on other business and mentioned the traps. “Must have a raccoon or something, I need to check the traps.”. Well, he didn’t.
Now a couple more precursors to the next section. There is a law that states you must check a trap at least once every 24 hours. To leave a trapped animal longer is considered abuse and neglect, even if the “wildlife” is a squirrel or rat. Secondly, I cannot stand to see any animal, human or otherwise, in fear or terror. Not long after the Market Manager left, I was out back and noticed the trap was shut. Something had sprung the trap door, and was no doubt within the trap. I hoped it wasn’t Cat, though it would be easy for a cat to get over such a thing. I approached the trap and found it was not the cat. It was not a raccoon. Some white fur-oh no, a skunk! No, no. The fur is wiry. There is a huge naked tail like that of a rat. A Cat-Dog snout opened to reveal shark teeth, she froze except for an intense stare that said “I will bite you.”. It was an Opossum.
Now some people would have called animal control. Some people would have called the Market Manager. Some people would have killed the possum and ate it, but we’re too far north for that. Can you guess what I was intent on doing? You may well guess. However, there was a twist, an unexpected sidebar which caused me to reel a little and scramble for a resolution.
Next time, as a Paul Harvey would say, “The rest of the story.”