01 October 2010


For two weekends we've been stacking wood in the barn. Kevin splits the wood from trees that have fallen in bad weather or from age and then stacks them behind the barn to dry for a year. This year he's helped two other people remove large trees from their yards for next year's wood. I know that I do a lot of things many women wouldn't do but one thing I don't touch is the chainsaw. That is completely my husband's forte. I get to do the lion's share of wood stacking though.

Here it is stacked inside the barn, three rows deep stacked six feet high. The long rows are about 20 feet long and the short row is about 16 feet long.

When stacking wood I always discover the critters whose lives are intertwined with it. There are snake skins, from those who enjoy the protective coolness of the wood pile and perhaps enjoy rubbing against the rough bark. There are wasps who build their paper nests like Japanese lanterns, colorful fungi, and sometimes, near the bottom of the pile, there are bright orange newts crawling in the damp grass and soil. Today I discovered a nest of mice, one mother and her five babies, all nursing with their eyes closed.

Mother mouse peeks out at me.
My instinct is not to disturb any creature, especially one nursing its babies. But, they are mice and there's little room for sympathy on a farm. Mice get into the barn and burrow their way into the tractor's motor, dragging insulation and other nesting materials with them. They eat through the wiring. They chew through the boxes we store in our garage leaving holes in our things and their droppings behind, and they carry Lyme disease. Kevin scolded me for not killing them and I see his perspective, but I find myself asking whether a pink wriggly baby that hasn't yet opened its eyes to the world is a worthy opponent. It only craves the warmth and milk of its mother.

Two of the babies with eyes shut.
Once upon a time I worked in a laboratory where it was my job to breed a mutant strain of mouse, and to sometimes cull the babies the day they were born for tissue cultures, which I also performed. I used dry ice so the death was painless, and the purpose of my work was to learn more about muscular dystrophy treatments, but still, it's never escaped me that all those lives were in my hands.

Today though, I couldn't do it. I'll let Kevin make his own decision about the nest but my mothering instincts are too strong to destroy this home.

1 comment:

Ana Funderburk said...

There is always room for empathy on a farm. You can't be one with nature and pick and choose which aspects to embrace. Good choice :)