Monday, August 10, 2009

Only in Minnesota

Common Snapping Turtle sitting on top of a bea...Image via Wikipedia

Last night we spent a few hours finishing the fence around the new cow pasture. It was a sun-kissed, golden late-summer evening, and even the deer flies were held at bay with a modest spritzing of bug repellent. Some girls prepare for a relaxing Sunday evening with their spouse by dabbing on Chanel and packing a picnic basket... but not me. I pour on the Avon Bug Guard Plus and toss my fencing supplies into a plastic pail.

Okay... so the tools vary... but the general idea does not. There is always a project to tackle, but this year it seems the focus has been specific to building fences meant to contain domestic animals and repel the wild variety.

So far... the fences have performed well in the former category... the latter, not so much. This spring, numerous pairs of Canadian geese saw fit to take up housekeeping in the horse pasture, and now upwards of thirty of the noisy feathered nuisances graze there, peacefully co-existing with the horses. At least, as peacefully as possible, for geese. They do get progressively more bold, and now come right up to the barn. Ironically enough, we live across the road from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "Waterfowl Production Area", which the government spends quite a lot of time and tax money maintaining... but the geese don't go there. No geese there at all, not one. It seems they feel they are above living in government housing and instead prefer this side of the tracks.

The geese aren't alone, however. They've been joined by, of all things, snapping turtles. We saw a few earlier in the summer, when they would come up from the lake to lay their eggs. It seemed an interesting anomaly to see two of them in the same year. That is, until we were out fencing last night...

We were wading through the tall grass, chatting away, my husband carrying a huge spool of fencing wire and I, the bucket of insulators and tools. Suddenly, he emits a surprised "Whoa, hey, look at this... I stepped on a rock and it moved!" And there, hissing at his feet, was a huge, algae-covered, prehistoric-looking creature. We marveled at it for a bit (always have to do that, looking at a snapping turtle is akin to rubber-necking while passing the scene of an accident... the temptation is hard to resist), and then my spouse picked the two-foot behemoth up by its scaly tail and moved it out of the pasture... carefully avoiding the snapping end.

It was not five minutes later, at the opposite end of the pasture, when he stumbled across another, even larger snapper. I'm not sure if its an omen or what, but seeing two of these lake-dwellers crawling around high ground outside their normal breeding season really was pretty odd. We speculated that the second was Momma Snapper out hunting down her philandering mate... at least that's what we garnered from her cranky demeanor... moved Momma out of the pasture, as well (meanwhile cautioning her that we have, in fact, been known to consume snapping turtle)... and finished our work.

Now, finally, my cattle have a nice new pasture with belly-deep grass in which to graze and lounge under the oak trees. And, for once, the shoe is on the other foot (hoof?), as I cautioned them to watch where they step.

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