Monday, May 19, 2008

The Cull, the Greeks and the Gliders

A few stubborn broody hens had created a flock of over 35 chickens and as nature would have it, half were males. Seven rapidly maturing cockerels can create quite a stir around the coop and order needed restoration. Saturday was unusually cool and damp. I woke with the roosters declaration of dawn. I boiled a large pot of water. I collected all the necessary implements. Out of respect and empathy, I had a few words with the chickens, but they didn't seem to care. Cymande and Charlie woke shortly before I began the cull. Two hours later we had seven cleaned chickens. We celebrated over a few waffles and a stroll around High Springs.

Sunday evening we had a memorable meal of chicken, biscuits and fresh carrots from the garden. The garden continues to grow with new vegetables and flowers sprouting daily. Our little water garden has been sustaining itself for over a year now and the small native fish have kept it clean of mosquito larvae. We only have one complaint. There seems to be an unseen and powerful creature that seeks out and eats entire flowering plants in the quiet of the night. We have theorized that it is a deer, but it has yet to reveal itself. Sometimes it is just easier and more enjoyable to blame Buckley for any destruction.

Our wide variety of roses all seem to be thriving. Cymande reminds me of the specific names, but more powerful bits of useless information force them out. Charlie and I have been working on the patio area between the barn and house. He seems obsessed with perfection, but this doesn't bother me. I mutter something about the Greeks and the Parthenon and something I call the "correction stone." This seems to distract his criticism long enough for me to inaccurately lay another block. It's a fascinating process.

The morning of the chicken slaughter I sat at the edge of the field enjoying the cool day. I noticed a bluebird nest box that I hadn't checked in about a month. I carefully opened the box and revealed not a bluebird, but two large-eyed mammals. Upon further examination they were determined to be:

Glaucomys volans

Common Name: Southern Flying Squirrel
Description: 8-10" length, light brown with white abdomen, large eyes for nocturnal activity. Gliding membrane, or patagium, extends from wrist of front leg to the ankle of the hind leg. When the legs are extended the patagium forms a wing-like gliding surface. Additionally the tail is flattened and serves as a rudder and stabilizes gliding. Flying squirrels produce both an audible "tseet" sound and also high frequency sound which is inaudible to the human ear.
Range: Eastern North America from Ontario to the Gulf Coast with isolated populations in Central America.
Habitat: Deciduous forests with oak, hickory, pecans or walnuts. Live in cavities and will inhabit nest boxes. Live communally, especially in winter when huddling gives them significant energy savings.
Food: Primarily vegetarian: nuts, seeds, fruits, berries, mushrooms, flower buds and blossoms, and tree bark. Occasionally bird eggs, insects, shrews, mice. Nuts are eaten in a distinct pattern, usually cutting a smooth oval in the shell to remove the nut while tree squirrels crush the nut and shell.
Other facts: Apparently, Southern Flying Squirrels have been kept as pets and have formed close bonds with humans when obtained at a young age. This is frowned upon...but what isn't these days.

Buckley maintains that he had nothing to do with anything.
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