If there’s a delicious romance to be found in life off the grid, it’s eluded me this time around. The freak snowstorm has been horrific, where warm snow stuck to leafy trees and caused utter devastation. I don’t believe it’s only Wednesday. The primary tragedy here was that my entire flock of chickens was murdered by a mink, the night it snowed. My previous post, about Josephine getting killed by a hawk, was more typical of the livestock losses we tend to suffer: one or two every couple years. That’s the cost of free ranging. Every now and then, somebody gets nabbed. But a massacre inside the barn where everyone gets killed is new to me, and the scene was horrific. You don’t want to know. It set the tone for this disaster-zone week, which actually started on the wrong foot by us not being able to attend a party where a friend’s homebrew made from my hops was premiered, because the white stuff was starting to come down in earnest. (He did bring leftovers yesterday, and they were a rare taste of victory.)
Then, the storm blanketed Harvard with a foot of wet snow, and the damage was vast. My fruit trees are in rough shape. Many major broken limbs on nearly every tree. Beyond the obvious cosmetic and structural issues, that’s a problem in part because it will make the trees more susceptible to winter damage and disease. I hope the commercial orchards fared better. And of course, three million people lost electricity, which in many cases also means heat and water.
We’re now ending our fourth day without power. We were slightly better prepared this time than we were for the ice storm of 2008, which caught us with our pants down. After that third-world refugee experience, I bought a generator, as soon as stores had them back in stock. I should have gotten it up and running when it arrived, as figuring it out this past week added yet another level of anxiety to the situation. (Like, I learned that it shipped without oil and then needed an oil change after the first two hours of use, which of course happened on a Sunday morning, and we didn’t have any extra oil in the house….) But its presence has made our lives a lot easier. Our electrician hooked it up so that it runs heat, water, and refrigerators, and there’s room left to spare for a couple extras, now and then. This time, we also have a wireless modem, so we are able to get on the Internet. And I’ve had two big water containers in the basement, which bridged the gap while we waited for the electrician to come, so that our well pump would work again.
Live and learn. Next time, we’ll get a permanent emergency switch set up, so that we don’t have to wait to plug it into the house safely. At least, we’ve been able to sleep here.
Meanwhile, the saga of the chicken massacre continually unfolded. The first night, the mink got all but one. He got the lone survivor the second night, at which point I borrowed a trap,which I baited with the corpse of a dead friend. Last night, he finally fell for it.
What to do with a trapped mink? It’s illegal to transport them. The animal control officer suggested killing it and throwing it out with the trash. The trap’s owner suggested drowning it; a string tied to the handle makes that convenient. I asked a local zoo-type place if they wanted it, but they declined, out of concern that it would have diseases.
There’s actually no way I can end this story and emerge as “the good guy.” Even my post about killing mice a while ago resulted in hate mail. (For the record, this mink was a non-endangered animal that killed nine rare heritage-breed chickens: one to eat and eight for sport.) And if I say that I let him go somewhere, I’ll get skewered for being a liberal softie pseudo-farmer. Or one of my detractors will rat me out to the cops.
So, let’s just say that I strangled the bastard with my bare hands. I buried it alive, and boiled it in oil. I beat it to death with a stick. I drowned it in a pond. I freed it in the backyard of someone who was mean to me at a Historical Commission meeting. I shot it and stabbed it and dissolved it in lye. I pickled it in piss and baked it into a pie. I skinned it alive and turned its pelt into a hat, to warm my heart, finally turned cold by too many years of witnessing the world’s cruelty.
One of these must certainly be true.
Choose the grisliest, and hang onto that. For in my heart of hearts, that’s what was done.