Wildlife Interlude & The Last Lessons of the Year

Listen, just ’cause I drank one bottle of wine and sang a Christmas carol about my power tools does not mean we’re done talking about the holidays around here. Oh, no. I’ve got new tools to fawn over, Christmas pictures to share, and all kinds of nostalgia and big plans for the new year to talk about.

But I’m going to interrupt the slew of holiday-related posts for just a minute, to talk to you about a little fun-filled adventure that I like to call Saturday-Morning-with-a-Tequila-Hangover-and-a-Pissed-off-Raccoon-and-a-Pickup-on-Ice.

It happened.

So, first of all, let’s address the big elephant tequila bottle in the room, which is this: I am actually sober most of the time. But, you know, holidays. Plus a friend’s birthday thrown in there for good measure. And, yeah, so what happened was that during the Friday morning feeding I noticed my stalwart guardians of the barn– yes, these guys…


…who are usually rightupinmyface when I’m putting the hay out for them– wouldn’t come within ten yards of the barn. About the same time I noticed this, I heard a small scratching noise directly above my head. This prompted me to look up, at which point I noticed a small bear, uh, raccoon staring back at me from the hay loft.

I screamed.

It screamed.

Then that raccoon defied all laws of physics and managed to wedge its considerable bulk into this little space next to the straw.


Turns out that I own a live traps that can catch all manner of animals– chipmunks, squirrels, opossums– but, none, apparently, that can catch a bear. So, most of my Friday was spent locating, setting up, baiting, and obsessively checking my brand new bear raccoon trap. Since the varmint was up in the hayloft, I figured that would be the best spot to set the trap.


Anyone see any issues with this? No? Well now let’s picture it the next morning, post-tequila, like this…


I’m not sure which one of us was more surprised at this point. What hadn’t occurred to me, but became very quickly evident even through my hazy brain on Saturday morning, was that now I had thirty-pounds of pissed off raccoon in a cage. And I had to get him down a ladder.


Also, this…


Carrying a cage of angry raccoon down a ladder is infinitely more difficult when that little shit can stick his hand through the wire and grab on to you.*

This whole scenario was a lot for me to process after, you know, The Tequila. And I’ve got to be honest, I had to think long and hard about how to get this little guy down from the loft. And by “think” I mean “repeatedly climb up the ladder determined to pick up the cage, only to beat a hasty retreat when Ricky the Angry Raccoon blinked at me.” (Well, blinked and/or hissed. There was a lot of both.)

So, let’s pause at this point in our story for a Moment of Truth. Here it is: A very large part of me—the part that didn’t want to have any of my fingers forcibly removed by what appeared to be an angry, hissing, overstuffed teddy bear—really just wished I could rely on some big bearded dude to take care of this for me while I went back inside and climbed under the covers. On a daily basis, there are zero minutes in which I have a problem with being single or doing things on my own. Clearly. But every once in a while there are moments, like this one, where I’d play the “girl card” and let a man deal with tough stuff if I could.

And I would laugh it off, or tell myself it’s okay to let someone else do this one thing, because Hey! Look at all this other stuff I do! Except this isn’t something I can’t do. It’s not something I’m physically incapable of doing without help. It’s something I don’t want to do. It’s something I’m a little bit afraid to do. As much as I don’t like to admit it, even to myself, I have these moments.

I have these moments, and in them I do dig deep for a little bit of courage or ingenuity. I do tell myself that this is what I signed up for when I took on this farm on my own, and to put on my big-girl Carhartts and get the job done. And I believe those things. They sound good when I’m saying them to myself, and they sound good when telling the story. But I also know that a lot of what motivates me to do-the-thing-that-I-don’t-want-to-do is simply that it needs to be done, and there is no one else there to do it.

So if you’re ever wondering why—despite my undying love for boys, and beards, and flannel—I haven’t gone out and found a big strong dude to live with me on the farm in the last couple of years, this is it. Because sometimes I am only strong by default, not by choice. And it’s not in my nature to accept that. One day I might invite someone along on this adventure of mine, but not until I’m sure that I can walk the path on my own.

And in the meantime, I used earplugs.

Wait. What?

Yes. Once I resigned myself to the fact that a bearded man in flannel was not, in fact, going to materialize miraculously on the farm to help, earplugs were the thing that allowed me haul Ricky the Angry Raccoon down the ladder and into the truck by myself. Well, earplugs and a sheet. Because when you can’t hear the angry hissing, or see the claws reaching out to get you, then it’s actually just another thing to haul down the ladder, and lord knows I do plenty of that every day.

It’s perfectly legal to relocate wildlife where I live, provided you don’t move it into another county. So I loaded Ricky up and hauled him to a large wildlife preserve that’s some miles away from the farm. Getting him there and letting him out was rather uneventful…it was just a few hours into the morning, the ground was covered with snow, the sun was shining. And I was still in my pajama pants and a hoodie, because this whole adventure was supposed to take, like, fifteen minutes, and then I was going to crawl back under the covers.

But the problem with a beautiful morning where the snow is on the grown and the sun is shining is, well, the snow starts to melt. Not all the way, just enough to get packed into a two-inch thick sheet of ice covering the entire uphill driveway out of the parking lot of the preserve. Guess what doesn’t do well on a two-inch thick sheet of ice going uphill? My truck, apparently.

This is when you know, without a doubt, that you are being smited by the gods of Tequila.

I spun my tires in various ways/directions for a good fifteen minutes and then this was the point I finally called for help. My dad was all, “take whatever you’ve got in the back of your truck and stick it under your tires to help get some traction, and keep a couple of bags of kitty litter in the back for next time.”


I tried the rubber floor mats.


Ah. Unsuccessfully.


I tried a piece of plywood arranged under both tires.


And then I got the brilliant idea to try the piece of plywood long-ways under the tire that was spinning the most.



Yep. My truck literally launched that thing out from under the tire with such force that it rocketed across thirty feet of snow and ended up in a cornfield.

After an hour, desperation forced me to try a sheet/plywood combo that actually worked, and I managed to drive my bigass truck out of that parking lot eight feet at a time.

The good news about all of this is that I now know without a shadow of a doubt that I built a raccoon-proof chicken coop. And I also know that I need to keep kitty litter and emergency tire chains in the back of the truck. Plus, uh, lay off the tequila.

It seems that 2013 wasn’t going to let me go without teaching me just a few more lessons about life, trucks, and working the farm. And I’m certainly grateful for that.

*If you’re wondering why, at this point, I didn’t just dispose of the raccoon, I’ll say this. I don’t take life lightly. I don’t kill a wild animal that is just doing what it does– looking for a warm place to sleep and something to eat on a cold night. I don’t kill something that isn’t an immediate threat to me or mine, and because I built a strong coop, he wasn’t.  And I certainly don’t kill a creature who is trapped and frightened because it would be easier.

37 Responses

  1. Love it! Lots of good lessons here. I only wish I could have been there to see it all in person!

    I am so glad you did not kill that adorable raccoon. I just love their masks!

  2. You put in words the shadow that been on my heart since I got married: the absence of the requirement to be strong and do the tough stuff. I’ve always thought of myself as self-sufficient, but I’ve gotten so lazy about being strong when you don’t need to be. This may be the little bit of self-awareness I need for New Year’s Resolution time…

  3. You are such an inspiration! I just started reading your blog and am so so so impressed with what you’ve taken on. A barn filled with horses is somewhere in my future and seeing you handle a farm on your own makes me believe I will be able to do it too. Kudos to you and thank you for taking that raccoon to a new home rather than killing it.

  4. Awesome story! A couple thoughts,…

    1. As a former Michigan, no longer flannel-wearing, sometimes-bearded dude, it’s nice to have a lady appreciate what it’s like to be at the top of the crappy / scary job around the house food chain. Most dudes just have to face these things, however unpleasant.

    2. I’m glad that the “whatever is in the back of your truck” traction kit wasn’t a live trap filled with pissed-off, screaming raccoon.

    1. In retrospect, if I could have gotten a rope around him, he might have been able to pull the truck up the hill…

  5. You are seriously awesome! I wish I could be as strong as you and most of the time I am… sort of:) It’s funny, most of my single friends and me talk about this stuff. I own a house in the city, which is absolutley nothing like owning a farm, but every once in awhile I am just tired of doing shit and wish some dude would come along and do it for me. It’s like you said- it’s not that I can’t do it, it’s that I don’t want to. But then the whole strong woman thinking comes back to me and I’m like “F- off, I can do everything I guy can do”. Empowerment at its finest or at least a way to motivate myself.

    I’m glad you finished the story up with that end note. It boggles my mind when people kill animals just because it was in their way. Share the earth people. Relocate when neccessary, be good stewards.

    If you were in Atlanta I know we’d be drinking buddies.

  6. You’re my hero! Er, heroin! No wait, HEROINE!

    Your story reminds me of the time when, about a week after breaking up with my scruffy, flannel wearing mechanic I did battle with a ground hog armed only with a broom and a pair of BBQ tongs.

    I lived in a tiny efficiency apartment in Trenton, NJ. I went to leave for work and started up the Blazer. Heard a clunking sound and quickly shut it off. I was thinking that I’ve chopped up someone’s poor kitty who was just looking for a warm place to sleep the night before. With much trepidation, I popped the hood and took a peek.

    Two big brown eyes looking up at me, and what at first glance looks like a rabbit. Uh oh. Hysterically called Mom and see how Dad used to get the cats out of the car when they got stuck. Mom suggested that maybe the critter was just frightened. OK, grabbed a long broom for poking, and BBQ tongs for who-the-heck-knows-what.

    Gave him a little nudge with the broom handle and he sprung into action! Mr. Ground Hog hauled his fat butt up through the engine, slid over the side of the truck, and waddled his fat self back into his cemetary. Boy was I glad I didn’t need to use the BBQ tongs.

    1. Ha! I feel like every story should end with that line… “Boy was I glad I didn’t need to use the BBQ tongs.”

      Pure awesomeness.

  7. I asked a friend of mine, with plenty of money but very little time, why he didn’t call someone to fix whatever, dryer, pump, flashing, etc… He responded that once you hire out or ask someone for help, you give them control.Y’all are the type of folks I’d like to be with on a desert island or in an end of the world situation.

    Cute mask, yes, but raccoons are a pain. When they find a easy food source they will invite their friends and family to join them. So congratulations to you for a varmint proof coup and secure feed station! Can’t wait to hear about the bathroom reno! Happy New Year!

  8. That raccoon is dang cute. I know it shouldn’t be in your barn, but there is a very big part of me that wants to knit him a sweater and give him muffins.

  9. I can’t tell you how many times I have been impressed, well astounded, that you have the presence of mind to take photos (and great ones!) during your adventures and projects and life and…

    Thank you for sharing yourself and your thoughts and for being so dang real! You inspire me and give me peace knowing that there are others out there who are just figuring this life thing out bit by bit. It has taken me a long time to realize that life is a lot like getting your truck unstuck – use what you have and get ‘er done!

    Wishing you a Wonderful New Year and many, many donkey hugs!

    1. It’s funny when you’re, like, bleeding profusely from the hand and your first thought is, “Oh, I need to get a picture of this…. and also I should get a band-aid or two.”

  10. Fantastic story, hilarious as usual, and I love the “but not until I’m sure that I can walk the path on my own” line. I might just steal it. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I think your barn loft needs a winch. And think about all the fun ways you could use that word when your write. The wench and her winch (ok maybe not that one).

  12. That raccoon hand picture is pretty much the creepiest thing ever. That said, my father in law had a pet raccoon back in the day… Yep.

    What an adventure though, great work!

  13. I just said to myself while trying to catch a mouse that I wished I had someone to pull out the girl card to. But alas, just me and my non-existent balls here…

  14. I literally beamed with pride when I read that your chicken coop was raccoon proof, you are the epitome of girl power. Also you put into words the perfect response to the “why aren’t you married yet?” questions I constantly get as a single woman homeowner…. Thank you for walkin the walk and writing it all down, Happy 2014!

  15. Glad that both you and the coon are doing fine. It’s that old human/nature clash at work. And good job getting the truck out. Patience and ingenuity (and desperation) usually work.
    I’m a single homeowner, too, and while I don’t have a farm, there are often things that I’d love to have be someone else’s job. Oh.so.often. It’s been 18 years, and it never goes away. But some moral support from anyone goes a long way, and there is some real satisfaction in knowing that you can take care of most things.
    However…now being in a relationship, my independence sometimes makes my Dude shake his head and laugh. He’s finally learned that if I can do it myself, I will usually do so, even if it’s something that he thinks should be his job.

  16. Thank you again for everything you share on your blog! Relocating un-invited critters may not be the easiest chore, but thank you for taking the time. We have live trapped 6 racoons, 3 ground hogs and 1 skunk in the last year. Needless to say the skunk was the worst. Happy New Year and please please please keep on sharing!

  17. When I have a super crappy day it always makes me feel better to read about yours. Thanks so much! Can’t wait to see what the new year brings you. May it be the best.

  18. Wow, you’re brave! Really, inspiring (and makes me feel a bit wimpy).
    We have the same animal trap – purchased when one of our cats escaped, in hopes of trapping him – finally after 2 weeks we did.

  19. Way to put on the big girl panties & get it done!! We’ve all had those moments when you just wish some man could do it so we don’t have to. I had it with rats (omg so gross). But in the end, it’s nice knowing that when the shit hits the fan, you can get it done.

    Also, maybe a rope over the loft railing & lowering it down would be easier next time?

  20. OMG. You seriously crack me up! This post was hilariously awesome – and completely relatable… especially to this transplanted Michigander! I’m the DIY’er in our house – taking on all things tool-related, but when it comes to stomping the cave crickets that occasionally inhabit the basement I tend to pull my girl card (unless he’s not home and I have no other choice but to throw old textbooks at it from the other side of the basement)!

  21. Kristin

    I’m late on the computer but have been home for 3 days since the weather will not let me out and your raccoon thing was the best laugh I have had in a long time. I hate raccoons since I have death with them many times in attics. Rick once braved the attic in the garage with his gun at one point. They are cute but I have gotten over that.

    And when it coming to have someone else so the thing you don’t want to do anymore, i love to have Cindy do that for me. I can still do it, I am getting lazy, You have inspired to keep doing what I know I can do. You are such a inspiration for me. Thank for being my grandaughter. I admire your spirit. I love margarites, by the way. Mamie

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