AgriCulture: The World’s Biggest Etch-A-Sketch

Atop the rock garden, a great spot to survey the land

World’s Biggest Etch-a-Sketch
This week the polar vortex blessed us with another half-foot of snow and a three-day cold snap. Luckily, we were at the edge of its harsh boreal wrath, experiencing a mere -5º F, as opposed to the record-breaking lows in the Midwest. Even so, it was enough to keep us and the animals nestled in our shelters, waiting for the next micro-Spring to shoo away the biting winds and relieve our poor noses.The cold and snow have certainly dampened the noise and activity around here, but not everyone has decided to sleep through it. In fact, the snow has revealed quite a bit of wintry drama unfolding while we huddle by the fire. After a few nights undisturbed, the ground is now criss-crossed with tracks from a menagerie. All together, the tracks look chaotic, like they were made by a bunch of wandering drunks, but I know each one is the result of some secret mission. As I do my morning rounds, I try to read them like so many leaked confidential documents – What were these animals up to?Making my way to the pigs, I couldn’t help but notice the deer tracks going right across the pond and up to our fence. Upon reaching the fence, the tracks circle around a few times and continue alongside it for a good distance. No doubt they are looking for defensive weaknesses. I’m sure they’d love to get a taste of the evergreen shrubs we have planted by the back door. Fortunately, the new, highly decorative eight foot fencing Peter and Mark had installed a year ago has held fast. There is no evidence of the deer on our side. Yet.Dancing around the pigs’ feed bin is a host of little feeder bird prints. There are even a few wing prints in the snow indicating they put on a real show. I can only assume these pesky birds have been there to chirp at and tease our poor old boar, Vernon. He’s slow and lumbering, and frankly, he’s seen better days. I can only imagine what kind of name-calling and ridiculing those birds are subjecting him to. Although, to be honest, sometimes even we find it hard to resist the urge to pick on him. Poor Vernon.On my way to the sheep, I catch the tiniest little paw prints exploring the edges of our compost mountain. The little dots in the snow made a hopping pattern like rabbit tracks, but could there be a rabbit that small? Is there a bunny out there that dwarfs even our tiny baby rabbit, Mapquest? Some sort of mythological bunny that fits in your pocket, never grows up, whispers secrets to you, and loves compost? The snow only tells us so much.After finishing the morning chores, I decide to do some more investigating. I find an extensive network of tracks that meander all around the property. By their size, I guess they belong to a fox, but they have an almost spectral quality to them. Several times the tracks approach our fence and then pass right through as if nothing were there at all – no sign of struggling or digging, just an unbroken stride. I begin to think this was not a fox, but rather the spirit of a fox haunting our property, longing to punish the mice that slipped through its paws when it still had breath in its lungs. But then I saw some of its scat, and decided it was probably just a normal fox, as ghosts are not known to defecate.Eventually, the tracks lead me to the fox’s cozy den not far from our house. How exciting to find our furry neighbor’s home! Is it inside right now? Will we be friends? But soon, this excitement turns into self-consciousness. Am I disturbing it? Will it be nervous that I discovered it and make a home elsewhere? Perhaps the snow has shown me too much.


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