possum

Opossum Etiquette

What’s the proper protocol once you’ve trapped an opossum?

Is there a rural edict regarding relocation? If you release one, are you passing the nuisance to someone else? Is it liken to dumping your lawn clippings over a neighbor’s fence?

Earlier this week, we found ourselves in the company of another Oh Possum.

Periodically, we have trouble with nocturnal critters, who treat the barn cat food like a buffet bar.

“You stop feeding those cats, you wouldn’t have these problems,” an animal control guy once said, when a raccoon was loitering around the house.

It’s true, cat food temps the wildlife. But solving one problem would create another: without cats, there’d be a rodent revolution. They keep the mice to a minimum.

Back to the opossum conundrum. The last time we pulled a critter from the buffet line, we deported him.

To Virginia.

Remember this guy?

But Monday, we didn’t have time for a road trip. So I texted our local marsupial wrangler, Liz, for advice.

Last fall she caught one in her barn.

And picked it up.

By the tail.

Liz’s little friend

But as I learned, she set him down nearby since her barn is sealed tight at night.

Our structure, on the other hand, has nooks, crannies and crawl spaces. Critters can hide in the daytime, and emerge to party like rockstars at night.

Last Sunday, one particular rockstar refused to leave the feed room area. (He parked in plain sight, and played possum.)

So out came the trap, and we discovered him, contained the next morning. Then Martin and I pondered how far was far enough, to prevent his return.

Google wasn’t very helpful. I did stumble on a forum discussion entitled, “Dispatching with a captured opossum humanely.” Some person caught one, using a Havahart trap, then debated whether to shoot it with a .45 pistol, a .22 rifle, or a .17 bolt-action rimfire rifle. Which to use? And will the shot ricochet off the cage?

The answer was never revealed but suffice to say, that critter is in marsupial heaven.

Our opossum was transported to the river’s edge and set free. Apparently, he did not enjoy his Gator ride — imprisoned, and jouncing along at 20 mph, with 3 gleeful, raucous children.

When Martin released Oh Possum, he couldn’t flee the scene fast enough. That crazy ride might’ve put him off domestic living for good.

Frog Report

What happens when you want to get rid of a family pet?

You ditch the dog (or cat) and tell the kids, “We sent him to live on a farm, in the country.”

That’s fine… unless you already live on a farm.

What then?

Well, you try to foist your beast onto someone else’s farm.

That was my plan for Toulouse, our bully barn cat.

Toulouse is a 2010 model, acquired in a package deal with his sister, Olive. As I recall, we got those kittens around Halloween; Toulouse was coal-black like a panther, and Olive bore orange stripes.

Both have proven to be avid hunters, but Toulouse is a true hitman. Year ago, when voles invaded the yard, Toulouse dismantled their tunnels and devoted two straight days to rodent eradication.

Toulouse: “be the vole, be the vole…”

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Unfortunately, this summer, our black panther added Frog to his list of prey.

(Frog was also adopted as a kitten with her brother, 11 years ago. She was named by the cat lady’s daughter, who desperately wanted a pet frog. The name stuck. The kid called her brother “Cool,” but we opted for “Mel” instead.)

Pictured: Frog & Mel, wrestling on the deck, 10 years ago.

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Our cat colony has existed harmoniously until a few months ago, when Toulouse turned on Frog. After repeated beat-downs, Frog disappeared from the scene. She simply vanished.

And Toulouse moved along to beating up Mel.

That’s when I announced: Toulouse has gotta go. I posted a Facebook plea and a few folks stepped up to take him. But they lived nearby and I worried that he might be hit by a car while hiking home again.

Life got busy and project “panther placement” was shelved. I didn’t have time to deal with feline relations.

But now I have an update:

Frog has returned! She floats between our property and the neighbors’, and has staked out the back pasture and the culvert beneath the driveway — territory less traveled by the black panther. She still visits our barn to eat, but only when Toulouse is out hunting.

So for the time being, the cats — Mel & Frog, Toulouse & Olive, and odd-ball Felix appear to be coexisting.

And I’ve turned my attention to evicting another barn dweller:

Oh Possum 2.0.

Here we go again

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Finally: The Roof!

 

The barn roof. I promised “after” photos and a rebuild synopsis weeks ago — way back in 2014.

What can I say?

Sometimes life derails your plans.

If you missed the first chapter on the barn roof, you can play catch-up here.

Otherwise, here’s the finished product.

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John, our Amish contractor, did a great job. He estimated that roof replacement would require a month, give or take weather woes. And he was spot on. He and his crew dismantled the original roof, circa 1910ish… 1920ish… and rebuilt it within four weeks.

Well done!

There were, however, a few dicey days.

Initially, John planned to tackle the roof in bites, shelling a small section and replacing it, before crabbing along the framework to the next patch of real estate. That’s how construction proceeded for the first few weeks.

But near the end of the renovation, the guys changed their game plan: they stripped the roof naked, in one ambitious, magnificent gulp.

Behold, the belly of the beast:

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Unfortunately, this bold declaration of roofing nudity coincided with a shift in the weather forecast: meteorologists swapped their fair-sky guarantee for a wavering prediction of “maybe rain.”

Maybe-rain is a huge motivator. John and the boys moved fast.

Here’s the roof on a Thursday afternoon in mid-December:

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And here it is the next day, with rain imminent. See? A flurry of activity when precipitation is breathing down your collar.

 

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So, the barn roof roof is done. Mission accomplished. (Note: when the kids pine for anything, I point to the roof. For example — Brynn: “I wish I could sleep in my own bed.” Me: “You want your own bed? Look at that barn. See that nice shiny roof? There’s your new bed!”)

I’m relieved that this project is completed. I won’t miss the construction scene… living amidst a cast of pickup trucks and a crew of boom lifts and skid loaders. I’m tired of counting the throng of rutted tire tracks snaking through the muddy yard.

But I’ll miss you, John.

John would’ve made a top-notch regular among the Funny Farm cast.

His Amishness was entertaining. Granted, at times he was totally high-tech. John worked off a cell phone and I watched him maneuver earth moving equipment and pilot the boom lift to raise roofing panels skyward.

But in other ways, he was refreshingly clueless. There was the rubber snake incident.

And when he pointed toward a distance cell phone tower — so obviously a tower, thinly veiled to resemble a silo.

“Wow,” marveled John. “They must have a lot of cows at that farm.”

Martin was quiet, before stating, “John? It’s a cell phone tower.”

 

So many good John lines… so little time.

My favorite exchange?

John was standing beside the barn, trying to make small talk with Martin.

“So,” John said to Martin. “You play polo?”

Martin looked blank. “No, I don’t play polo. Why would you think that I play polo?”

John shrugged, then gestured at the pocket of Martin’s rugby. “Because of your shirt,” he said.

Hey Ralph Lauren, here’s a tip off: the Amish community is unchartered waters.

There’s a final frontier for your Polo brand…

 

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