Fox in Socks


FoxRule #2 on the Cunha farm: Go be wildlife somewhere else because otherwise, I will hunt you down and kill you. I found your little den in the bushes, Mr. Fox. The trap is now set, and if need be, I will stakeout your dirt condo every night until you make the mistake of showing your furry little ass around my homestead again.

I’ve watched you trot back and forth along the fence line, through the bushes, and across the road for the better part of two years. You have been ignored the entire time because you have not taken from me. You were given benefit of the doubt when the first bird disappeared. However, I have strong evidence you have killed and eaten one (possibly, two) of my turkeys, and two of my ducks. That goofy little crested duck was the last straw. He was my favorite. I kept him around for no better reason than he entertained me.

Here are your options, Mr. Fox. One, leave immediately on your own accord and never return. Two, sign your own death warrant by entering my sight. Those are the only choices.

I am tactically patient, tenacious, and possessor of the hardest heart you have ever encountered. I will fashion you into a hat as a warning to others of your ilk that I will not tolerate killing of my livestock and theft of food from my family’s mouth.

This is your only warning and my singular promise under God, Grandpa Miguel, and all the Pygmies in Africa.

Sincerely,

Your Angel of Death Carlos

 

3Thank you to every one of my readers for coming back week after week. The content on this website is free to access, but does take resources to produce. Please visit my Patreon account to see what I have in the works and consider becoming a supporter. Patronage will get you additional content, behind the scenes access, goodies not available on the main site, and unique Thank You gifts for support.

L'homme Theroux CoverIf you’d prefer something more tangible in return for supporting my work, please preview my novel L’homme Theroux and consider purchasing it, if you enjoy the sample chapter.

It’s a Snake Eat Snake World


snake3For every animal farmers and homesteaders bring onto their land, there is at least one other uninvited critter that comes along for the free ride. Most livestock are installed on the homestead because they taste delicious, with a little preparation, or because they produce something else that is just as tasty.

As an example, chickens fill both roles. Who doesn’t like chicken or eggs? Especially, the sort from my farm. Except for the occasional miscreant who meets an untimely end, my chickens have a fairly plush gig. It includes a run with more square footage than the first house I lived in, a muscular lab who hasn’t figured out that hens are made entirely of chicken meat to pull security detail, and regular access to a hay field, where they can scratch the soil and eat bugs until their hearts are content.

If you don’t have a specific purpose on the farm, don’t be surprised when you are what’s for dinner.

In my youth, I had a pet ball python that, despite all reasonable efforts to keep him contained, would escape every now and again to make off for warm, secluded areas of the house.

There is something hardwired into the human mind to avoid slithery sorts of animals because, even for the owner of a snake, opening a closet door to find Monty the Python draped over and curled around a closet rod will give you a start.

I knew I owned a snake. I knew he wasn’t in his glass house when I looked five minutes ago. It’s not unreasonable to think the snake may be hiding somewhere in the house, but I still nearly wet my pants every time.

It’s like those posts on Facebook of a young Victorian lady that suddenly screams and transforms into a ghoul.

One of the horse stalls in my barn is converted into a feed storage closet. Somebody goes in and out of there at least twice a day, so habits develop and expectations emerge because nothing bad has ever happened entering it. For example, I expect to waltz into the feed locker at night and NOT NEARLY STEP ON A FREAKING SNAKE!

Luckily for me, the little fella (or little lady. I didn’t check) had managed to entangle himself in the flap end of a roll of bird netting we had leaned in the corner.

After Mrs. Cunha came running at my shrieking like a little girl, I felt confident enough in my snake wrangling skills to move the whole circus outside. Roll of bird netting in one hand, the safe end of the snake in the other, and about four feet of well-muscled, writhing garden hose in between, I waddled out of the barn with Mrs. Cunha following close behind with a flashlight and a hatchet.

The tree farm on the other side of the road that borders my place seemed like an excellent location to let this snake go be a snake. I wasn’t sure how to free him from the net, but figured, if I couldn’t shake him lose, I’d leave the netting there and let him sort it out.

I’ve seen videos of people bitten by critters while trying to release them from a trap, so I assume trapped animals are ingrates.

Zeus, sensing excitement, came hauling dog-butt from around the corner of the barn, where I assume he was sniffin’ and peein’, to join in. He would have made an excellent member of La Costa Nostra because despite extensive questioning after the fact, Zeus remained mum as to whether his intent was to protect his territory or play tag.

Either way, I now had the added difficulty and stress of trying to keep the dog and this snake apart from each other. For her part, Mrs. Cunha did an excellent job of keeping the flashlight beam trained on the business end of this serpent, so I could keep some degree of control on the situation. I was praying the whole way that the snake didn’t work its head free and take a chunk out of me.

I don’t recall saying, Honey, watch this! but that’s about how things turned out. The snake freed his head and, being that I was holding on to its tail, swung towards me and the dog. That’s the moment things got real, as the kids say.

My regular readers should know by now what Rule #2 is on the Cunha Homestead.

In the heat of a moment, whether it’s a gunfight or pushing Helen Keller out of the path of a runaway horseless carriage, dealing decisively with the threat takes precedence over everything else. Sorry, Mr. Snake. I don’t enjoy killing. Under different circumstances, like passing through on your way somewhere else, I would have been largely indifferent to your existence.

Curious at to the exact form the Devil had taken to invade my garden, I turned to my good friend Google. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as a snake nerd. Such a person is called a herpetologist and their field of study is called herpetology. They are quite informative people.

snake1Turns out the snake we had just evicted from the barn was an eastern black kingsnake; which have the rather interesting propensity to eat rattlesnakes. Who knew? But like any self-respecting reptile of the same proportions, eastern black kingsnakes eat mice and chicken eggs, too. I suspect they would also eat a chick, if given the chance.

This is an interesting conundrum that never crossed my mind prior to owning a farm. To my mind, animals are in either the “good” or “bad” category. This “mixed bag” status forces me to think, and I’m not such a big fan of having to think. Mostly, because I’m American.

If I wanted to deal in nuance, I’d be a Liberal.

After considering the duality of the situation, I began to wonder what the sacrifice of eggs would be versus the benefit of reduced rattlesnakes. They eat eggs, too. Is it really a wash in terms of lost eggs, and the deciding factor has more to do with avoiding inadvertent viper bites? With a fairly young child and her big, goofy lab running around the joint, the thought of someone receiving a dose of snake venom frightens me.

It wouldn’t likely be a fatal event, but the desire to protect my children, particularly the ones of the girl persuasion, increases as the child’s age decreases.

Call me a hetro-normative dinosaur who clings to misogynistic values of the patriarchy, if you like, but girls rate more protecting from life’s traumas. The boys would consider being snake bitten as a badge of honor and show off the scars to anyone willing to see them. I’d probably do the same. Boy and girls are just different from each other.

Considering their relative sizes and how often most snakes eat, how many rattlesnakes can an eastern black kingsnake eat, anyway? For all I know, rattlesnakes leave the area because they are terrified of the eastern black kingsnake’s reputation; like in Jim Croce’s warning to stay clear of the south side of Chicago because of Leroy Brown.

So, yet again, I find myself short of answers and turning to my readers for advice. What are your experiences of kingsnakes and the general trade-offs of beneficial outside wildlife that come with a cost to farm output?

 

 

 

3Thank you to every one of my readers for coming back week after week. The content on this website is free to access, but does take resources to produce. Please visit my Patreon account to see what I have in the works for the homestead and consider becoming a supporter, which gets you additional content, behind the scenes access, goodies not available on the main site, and unique Thank You gifts for support.

L'homme Theroux CoverIf you’d prefer something more tangible in return for supporting my work, please preview my novel L’homme Theroux and consider purchasing it, if you enjoy the sample chapters.

Killer Cows


download (2)Homesteading is more of a mindset than a physical reality. Life circumstances don’t always allow for a fulfillment of the dream. Establishing a full-blown farm is a daunting task that is often tackled in increments with a gradual expanding of numbers and types of animals kept until the suburban home or semi-rural homestead has reached its carrying capacity. Then the search for a new property, or expansion of the current one, is all consuming.

All the while, homesteaders dream of new, more ambitious livestock and scheme of how to turn excess farm production into cash, since there are just some things that can’t be made at home.

Short of importing illegal Chinese labor and putting them up in the barn, I don’t see a way to produce locally sourced laptops.

A smart homesteader does his homework. Countless hours are spent researching the dozens of different breeds contained within each type of animal. God help the homesteader who doesn’t have a short-list of characteristics he wants. A chicken is a chicken, more or less, but even the simplest and most basic of choices between layer, meat, or hybrid will turn your mind to mush.

IMG_0449Rabbits aren’t much better. There are only about a thousand different types to pick from, as opposed to the million choices in the chicken world. Also, there seem to be fewer people raising rabbits, so the fire-hose of information, opinion, and experience isn’t quite as fierce.

I blame the internet for the information overload and paralyzing of the ability to pick.

Whatever your choice of livestock for your homestead, there is seemingly no end to the amount of advice and information floating around. Most of it is decent and borne of personal experience. Although, what works in one area may or may not work in another due to the nature of the property, density of neighbors, climate, or the factor that your particular animal is an asshole. It happens.

Even with the entire world a mouse click away, the best way to lean the how and what of homesteading is to do it.

Experience is the best teacher, but don’t just start picking up animals at the local farmer’s market without a plan or experience. The knowledge gained that way is costly and time consuming. Your best bet is to dust off your personality and make a few friends who already husband the sort of livestock that interest you.

This is where the internet and social media has been the biggest boon to homesteaders since the invention of chicken wire. With Facebook and varying combinations of half a dozen keywords, I’d be willing to bet my brother’s left testicle that there is at least one person within a reasonable distance of you who is already raising your animal of interest.

IMG_0446While looking for a rabbit breeder to supply the start of our herd (I know it’s called a “colony,” but I like to call myself a “part-time rabbit rancher”), we came across a young couple working toward their goal of being full-time homesteaders. When we showed up to select our rabbits, Mrs. Cunha and I discovered this fine young couple was already living a lifestyle similar to our aspirations.

Chickens, rabbits, goats, and ducks abounded. They even had an old mare and a miniature cow who kept each other company in their retirement. We all seemed to hit it off immediately, especially when the husband and I discovered a mutual love for hunting and preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse. Not too surprisingly, the questions flowed, a tour ensued, and invitations to return for work parties were extended.

In the military, work parties are universally loathed, and to the uninitiated, contributing an uncompensated day’s labor to someone else makes about as much sense as enrolling a child in the Jared Fogle ‘Lil Ones Daycare and Sandwich Shop.

In reality, it’s not providing free labor. However, my kids would disagree since I dragged them along with me. Screw what they think. They were building character.

Think of the experience as a day-long apprenticeship. My labor was exchanged for hands-on experience in skills I wanted to learn and the opportunity to pick the brain of someone who has already done the things I am trying to accomplish. The exchange typically includes feeding you, too. So, that’s an added bonus.

Farm life being what it is, it will be a rare person who turns down any help you offer; assuming you don’t put off the serial killer vibe. Even if you want to learn a skill that isn’t used very often such as castrating, disbudding, butchering, or birthing, a little willingness to be flexible with your schedule will get you an experienced hand to guide you through all manner of nasty, but absolutely necessary, homestead projects.

I have yet to meet a homesteader who didn’t relish the opportunity to pass on his skills and knowledge. As a group, we are a remarkably welcoming and informative bunch.

Understanding that one man’s “reasonable” may be another man’s “impossible,” you may not be willing or able to drive an hour to work on someone else’s farm. It just happened that these folks have similar personalities, backgrounds, and life ambitions to Mrs. Cunha and me, so we knowingly bypass at least a score of other homesteaders.

images (27)My parents can take the blame for instilling this “labor-for-skills” ethos in me.

They used to have a second house in Northern California where we would spend long weekends and summer vacations. It was all farms and ranch lands at the time. I haven’t been there in twenty years, so I have no clue what the area looks like now, but I suspect the population density is still pretty sparse.

For whatever reasons that I’m sure made perfect sense to my parents, the plan to move the whole family up there never came to fruition, but they certainly laid the groundwork for understanding the nature of farm chores with me and Jake. Much of our vacation time, we would be farmed out to split wood, move hay bales, help shear sheep, shovel shit, or anything else that wasn’t terribly dangerous for kids to do.

And we loved every minute of it…except for the days we shoveled shit.  Personally, I could have done fine without learning that particular skill, but I’ve come to learn shoveling shit is a big part of life, even if you don’t live on a farm.

I was fourteen the first time I really thought I was going to die. I don’t mean that in the figurative sense like “I was so embarrassed. I nearly died.” I mean a situation where I genuinely thought a mortal injury was imminent and my time on Earth had run out.

Spanish Pete was an old gravel-voiced, barrel-chested Basque with Vice Grip hands, leathery skin, and a shuffling gait that was the result of multiple limps acquired over a lifetime of ranching. Although he spoke Spanish reasonably well to communicate with his ranch hands, Spanish Pete’s primary language prior to immigrating was French. I still don’t know how he wound up being called “Spanish Pete.” It’s just what everyone in the area called him.

Jake and I called him “Sir,” just to be certain we didn’t get cross-ways of the old man because we had seen him castrate sheep “the way we used to do it in the old country.” There’s an episode of Dirty Jobs that shows the details.

I probably won’t ever know how Pete was turned Spanish, and will have to chalk it up to one of history’s mysteries that are lost to time.

PeteCommon wisdom in the area was that old Pete owned half the county and leased another third of it from the Bureau of Land Management. If I wasn’t a product of the public school system, I could tell you how much that was. On the upside, I feel really good about myself for not knowing.

Me and Jake were helping Pete’s ranch hands shoo cows out of a milking barn on a muddy, overcast spring morning. Semi-permanent cattle pen sections created an alley that led from the door of the milking barn and turned right sharply before leading out to a small holding pasture. I’m fairly certain neither the ranch hands nor the cows needed our help with the maneuver, since all parties concerned did this every day.

For lack of anywhere else to put us where we would not be underfoot, Jake and I were positioned in the elbow of the turn and given profanity-laced instructions in Spanglish to direct the cows into the pen.

Like most fourteen-year-olds, I wasn’t terribly bright. It didn’t occur to me that these cows knew the route better than I did.

Jake grew up as a skinny child, and I hated him for that. For a time, we thought he had Tuberculosis, but it turned out he was just a skinny shit.

As for me, let’s say I’m glad skinny jeans were not the fashion of the day. I had to spend most of my youth shopping in the “husky” section along with Danny DeVito. The upside is that, unlike my brother, I have never been lifted off the ground by a large kite in a heavy wind. So, I’ve got that going for me.

Jake and I stood in the center of this turn waiting for the cows to appear like a bad Laurel and Hardy impersonation team. Due to Jake’s waif-like construction, he only sank into the mud up to his ankles. The turd nearly floated atop the homogenous mixture of clay mud and cow shit.

Daily Spring rains and frequent hosing out of the milking barn had turned the paddock into a mud field. For anyone interested, I’d put the mixture about 90% mud and 10% cow shit. However, it smelled like the opposite.

On the other hand, I was sunk to the tops of my rubber boots. Every attempt to free one foot from the mud sent the other deeper into the mire until I decided I would be able to direct cow traffic right where I was. The last thing I wanted to deal with was that mixture oozing down my bootleg and between my toes. It’s a special kind of nastiness when dried.

As the cows came trotting out of the milking barn, something occurred to me.

1cowsThere must be something special about the design of a cow’s hoof because they weight a lot more than I did, but had no trouble hauling ass across the bog straight toward us.

Grinning and laughing like idiots, Jake and I swung our arms about wildly to coax the cattle down the only path available to them. We waved and shouted like a couple of retards at a clown parade. The lead cow looked at us as if to say, “Who brought the Special Olympics children out here?”

The cow didn’t have long to think because she was being pushed forward by the cows behind her. A mass of bovine flesh thundered through the mud toward us and cut right, splattering us with muck. It only made us laugh harder.

The reason for the hurry became clear when I spotted Pete’s Australian Blue Heeler, Maria, chasing the last cow and biting her heels whenever she lagged.

The last cow slid through the corner past me and Jake with Maria nipping at its teats. Jake and I were splattered with mud from the cow rush hour we had just witnessed. Dammit, this made is cowhands.

My feet must be defective because I was the only one having trouble moving through the muck.

After the stampede passed, Jake went bounding after the herd, or more likely, the dog to congratulate it on a job well done. I tried to follow, but mud suction kept my boots planted. Brute force only resulted in stripping my foot out of the boot.

As I was figuring out how to keep my feet inside my boots and move around at the same time, a straggler appeared in the barn doorway. Maria had missed one. I made a mental note to take that up with her supervisor at a later time.

heeler1The cow looked at her friends in the field, looked at me, and back at her friends. I don’t know if being sunk in mud up my knees make me look like a four-foot-tall salt lick or if cattle have a sense of humor. Either way, this bossy bitch started trotting toward me, putting her head down, like Melissa McCarthy going to the fried Twinkie booth at the state fair.

One of the few things I remember from Physics class my senior year (In the Cunha family, that’s generally the eighth grade) is that force is a function of both velocity and mass. For example, a ping pong ball at one hundred miles an hour probably won’t hurt you. A car traveling at ten miles an hour will definitely hurt you, and just might kill you.

A cow is a lot closer in size to a car than a ping pong ball.

On any given day, given a flat, dry surface, even as the old man I am now, I can dodge a trotting cow. With my lower extremities encased in mud, my options become limited very quickly.

As the cow drew closer, I debated whether I had a better chance of survival by bending back and risk getting my nuts stomped versus leaning forward and risk breaking my spine when Ol’ Betsy trampled over me. The closer the cow got to me, the less survivable the situation seemed, so it became an exercise of what type of pain I’d prefer to endure while the cow did a Mexican Hat Dance on my fat ass.

In a moment of clarity, the phrase “Stomped into a mud hole” made perfect sense.

I’d like to say I managed to free myself by executing a perfectly times somersault over the cow’s head while slapping her on the ass for good measure as I stuck the landing.

I didn’t.

I was saved from being trampled to death by this milk cow when one of the ranch hands came running up from behind me waving his hands and cursing in Spanish. That’s all it took to make her cut right and join her friends. I wish it was a more spectacular ending, but it’s not.

However, I did learn a couple of things that day.

Firstly, don’t be too proud to shovel someone else’s shit. Especially, if you can get some experience out of it.

Secondly, despite all the knowledge in books and wisdom from the internet, there are some things you just have to learn by watching someone else do in front of you.

And finally, cows aren’t afraid of husky Portagee kids, but they sure seem scared of one-hundred-twenty pound, cursing Mexicans.

No Free Lunch


I used to like wildlife until I realized they were little more than furry thieves. I’ve been derided several times for my particular hatred of coons and squirrels (I like to call them “Tree Rats”), but people don’t seem to get upset over possums and snakes. Maybe it’s their cheeky antics. If snakes and possums had more than one facial expression and engaged in entertaining shenanigans, maybe I’d be yelled at for killing them, too.

Part of the homesteading mindset is consume that which you produce. Another part is to minimize waste, maximize resources, and innovate to create imaginative uses for otherwise used up items. The next time you drive by a yard full of rusty cars and a barn packed with “junk,” think of it as someone’s supply depot. A Redneck Re-purposing Center, if you will.

Liberals and hippies with their reduced carbon footprint to save the planet ethos love this sort of stuff, but until somebody makes an electric truck that can match mine on performance and beats it on cost to purchase, operate, and dispose of, anybody who thinks I’ll abandon internal combustion is smoking too much of whatever it is they grow on the back forty.

Having said that, I’m exceedingly interested in alternate forms of energy when it makes dollars and sense. Just quit trying to get me to spend two dollars to save one.

VZM.IMG_20150527_185020 (2)As the types and numbers of livestock I keep increase, new challenges present themselves. A recently constructed chicken coop and freshly fenced off run were flooded by runoff from a spring thunderstorm a week after completion. I hadn’t taken into consideration exactly how much water can run through the culvert at that end of the property.

Luckily, despite being dumb and mean, chickens do have a survival instinct, so they spent a sleepless night perched above the flood waters waiting for them to recede. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one awake.

VZM.IMG_20150527_184857 (2)Even though the water wasn’t very deep, it was swift enough to be a concern. Experience with flash floods leaves a lasting memory, so I wasn’t overly thrilled at the prospect of wading out there to be pecked by panicked pullets. The chickens would wait in vain for a rescue. I don’t think they have forgiven me for that decision.

I don’t think I make bad decisions so much as I have good ideas that I build upon until they collapse under their own weight.

The chicken run ended up having more square footage than my first apartment. The rabbit hutch is better constructed than my house, and after putting in a watering system, my little fuzzy bunnies live better than the average Pakistani. The fact that I call their hutch a “rabbit condo” tells you something about the way I do things.

The daunting prospect of a self-reliant homesteader lifestyle isn’t the work. Even though there is a fair amount of it depending on size, scale, and numbers, efficiency comes with experience. It’s the I’ve got an idea moments that get me in trouble every time.

IMG_0390A simple chicken watering rig put together with PVC pipe attached to a five-gallon bucket had to be completely started over with new pipe, new bucket, and new watering nipples after I couldn’t get any of the three to seal enough to stop leaking.

The damn thing leaked like a pipe organ. After two days of cursing, breaking parts, and chain smoking, I admitted defeat and made a trip to town.

In my area of the world, Home Depot has better prices, but when I need a goofy part or advice to prevent electrocuting myself, Lowes is the place to go. I hadn’t finished explaining my project to the plumbing associate when he held up a single finger, said “Follow me,” and headed two aisles over.

It seems I’m not the first person he’s encountered with more ambition than ability.

I don’t know the name of this fitting because I was so excited that I forgot to ask. I knew it was perfect the moment I laid eyes on it. The plumbing associate stood there smiling like Indiana Jones’ head guide when he led Indy to the golden statue.

IMG_0387Of course, while trying to escape the giant bolder that chased me through the aisles toward the cash registers, I somehow managed to pick up a thread and tap kit.

I shouldn’t say somehow. It’s not like I tripped, and it fell into my hands. This was my wife’s doing. She likes tools just as much as I do, and since the water nipples were threaded, it was a perfect reason to acquire another tool. She’s pretty smart like that.

IMG_0132Oh, and we had to buy another bucket because the hole in the first one was too large for the new fitting. Actually, we bought three buckets because…well, because you never know when you’re going to need another bucket on the homestead. There’s a list of things like fence posts, wire, and three-inch deck screws that you always want to have around because they don’t take up much space and the need for them is near constant.

Buckets are on that list, too. They are useful and versatile. I’ve mentioned the multitude of uses they can be put to around the farm or construction site:

  • Chairs
  • Work benches
  • Sawhorses
  • Step-stools
  • Garbage cans
  • Planters
  • Wash basins
  • Toolboxes
  • Emergency toilet (Line it with a garbage bag first. You’ll thank me later.)

Port OuthouseOther containers I’ve found useful are metal garbage cans. Of course, in this modern era in which we live, I know precious few people who put traditional garbage cans out on the curb for pickup. If you have any sort of garbage service at all, most of the companies have switched over to those big plastic monstrosities on wheels with a lid that pops open every time the wind blows.

Yeah, they work well enough for their intended purpose, but try carrying one into your kids’ room banging a stick around the inside to wake them up at sunrise on a Sunday morning to mow the lawn. Municipal garbage service has taken all the fun out of being a parent.

Up on the deck of my house is a row of metal garbage cans that line the wall. Each one neatly labeled to indicate their contents; Rabbit Feed, Chicken Feed, Alfalfa, Dog Food, and Hey. I’m pretty sure that last marking was a subtle joke, since my mailbox is similarly identified; “Male.”

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell in my family if we’re rednecks or just playing the part.

These metal garbage can came with snug metal lids that keep out water and, so far, pesky wildlife looking for a free meal. I trapped and hunted the woods around the house very heavily this winter, so between that, some preventative measures, and general harassment of everything that isn’t supposed to be there by the dog, I haven’t noticed any real problems. Every now and then, we’ll find evidence of where something tried to get into them and gave up in frustration.

The dog seems embarrassed when I point that out to him.

IMG_0420Whether securing the food for livestock or the animals themselves, we go to a lot of trouble to protect our resources. The chickens have their coop inside a fenced run that is inside a larger fenced area that makes up the back yard. The rabbits are in raised cages inside the yard, as well. We let the dog patrol at will. Even though they won’t admit it, I suspect the cats get in on the action, too. I’ve heard some hellacious goings on in the dark after I’ve turned in.

It’s not the setup I ultimately desire. It’s too insecure for my taste, but neither the property nor the landlord will support me erecting substantial permanent structures. Those plans are on hold until I secure ownership of the land on which I will live the rest of my life.

I may have to institute some nuisance trapping, if I begin to notice eggs, or worse yet, chickens missing. I understand the argument of the wild animals being there first. I understand the position and I reject it. My responsibility is to my family and the animals we husband. I don’t mind them living around me, but they are the animal equivalent of Portuguese third-cousins visiting from Massachusetts. They plop their fat asses down on the couch of a virtual stranger and expect to be fed from my larder.

At least, the visiting cousins don’t shit in the flower bed to add insult to injury. Well, usually they don’t.

No. Them critters can find food someplace else. I have plenty of my own mouths to feed. If the little patch of earth I jealously protect is the difference between some forest dweller eating and starving, that’s just too bad. Those animals will have to adjust their territory.

Fair warning to wildlife entering the borders of the Cunha Homestead: The laws of my state put you at a distinct disadvantage in terms of crop and property damage. “You lose every single time” seems to be the philosophy. I suspect the folks who wrote those laws kept livestock, too.

We don’t take prisoners. We don’t relocate so that you become someone else’s problem. We don’t ask you nicely to leave like some bouncer in an overpriced nightclub. You are met with violence for taking what is ours.

You coons, possums, coyotes, foxes, and snakes will extend your lifespans significantly by keeping that in mind.