The Girls of Halfmoon Bay

November by

hen shot reduced

I experience a kind of bemused pleasure when someone in my community who I have only scant acquaintance with refers to my writing in a general way as if for them I am a ‘writer.’

I don’t fully identify myself that way…probably out of  aversion to the limits of categorization.

I write, obviously. But I garden too….sing (well enough to please me at least)….invent a bit…channel the odd witticism….retain some hand skills and the physical wherewithal to use them. My guitar playing sometimes surprises me and can draw the odd approving comment. I have recorded four albums of my songs.

I’m about being manifest in as many ways as bring me some level of satisfaction, wishing to be complete…for no better reason than to not be incomplete.

From which observation I can go ‘writing off in all directions’.

This bit of pondering is in aid of  finally getting around to re-vitalizing this web-site from which I have been too long absent……. attending to those other interests.

Other content on this site indicates, I would think, that adventure is one of my delights. And still, now out of the mainstream of endeavor as it were, the odd one comes my way without my seeking it out as I once did.

It might bring a degree of associated fear, suffering, hurt and loss, but also delight and triumph…as is the way with adventure and my experience of life in general.

Last week, for instance, to kick off November 2013:

It is late afternoon of a pleasant fall day. I nevertheless have gotten busy inside the house when the phone rings, as it does infrequently nowadays. One of the very good neighbors whose places bracket mine relates anxiously that four raccoons have just vacated her back porch and might be after my hens.

Guilt suffuses my very being. I let them out of their enclosure and forgot needing to keep working outside where I could keep an eye on them. I thank her for the heads up, hang up, glance out into the yard and ponder how to quickly arm myself.

After losing birds last year to the weasel from hell and then to a black bear I went to great trouble to rebuild their run to exclude predators. It’s a fair-sized enclosure but doesn’t work if the ‘girls’ aren’t in it and my own dislike for feeling penned in has me free them into the larger yard when I’m working out there. On a nice day, I generally am and was earlier on this one.

Long-tailed Weasel

Long-tailed Weasel – Image Matt Lavin, via Wikimedia Commons

I have a couple of rifles from my hunting days, but I’m not going to use either in this semi-rural residential area. I have a pretty good sling-shot, precisely for this kind of occasion. But, hanging underneath a coat and long unused it just plain doesn’t come to mind.

So I pull on my high rubber boots (as a hedge against bites), go out the back door, grab a piece of bamboo about four-feet long, slip through the gates that bracket the bird run and hurry to where, sure enough, four raccoons are dragging my spunky little barred-rock hen towards the alders and salmon-berry bushes on the other side of the back hedge. She’s on her side, one wing dragging, head bloodied.

The hen is either in shock or is realizing that deliverance is at hand. She and I seem to connect at the soul level, very much eye-to-eye. Seriously. And she is by far and by habit the more aloof of my two hens.

The four-raccoons….this spring’s litter by the size of them….orphaned perhaps….their mother, at any rate, thankfully, not on the scene…..are looking warily up at me.

I’m not afraid of being bitten….particularly….and I would like to deliver them at least something in the way of a memorable deterrent to hunting in my territory….but can’t quite get past their combination of temerity, timorousness and (dare I use so pithy a term) ‘cuteness.’

The stand-off lasts less than a minute, until one of them can’t take the tension and starts to sidle off towards the hedge. Two more quickly follow. The third reluctantly looses the bedraggled hen from its salivating jaws and joins the retreat.

And up she springs…..literally…..and gallops across the scrub grass into the bird run.

Run resized

I herd the four raiders off the property…..directing a few half-hearted pokes their way. They go and return and finally go for good.

And that’s it. I flush out the other hen from where she’s hiding under a clump of bamboo, herd her into the run, close it up, and get back to whatever I was doing in the house, feeling strangely blessed to live where I do, at the edge of the forest, where such things can happen.

The next morning, in an act of noble obduracy I thought, but more probably because it was in process already, my little hen gifted me with her usual egg. The last of her laying season, as it turned out, but then the other hen had laid herself off a few weeks earlier, as hens will in winter, and my rescued one was due for a rest, on multiple counts.

My Brave Little Barred Rock

My Brave Little Barred Rock


Young raccoons might be appealing but a sow with her teeth bared is a different matter.  And once they have a taste for your wares- animal, vegetable or fish, deterring them takes more than a little application.

Live traps can work on raccoons, if you terminate those you’ve caught, and only until more show up. Relocating them might accommodate your own understandable aversion to this, but it shifts the consequences of your intervention elsewhere. Dropping a predator off in habitat that already has its balance of species just means some other creature or creatures are going to take the brunt of the move….if the raccoon doesn’t find its way back to you.

This year I kept them off fruit trees with a few feet of barbed wire wrapped artfully around the trunks and main limbs combined with some wrapping of foam-belting coated with ‘Tangle-Foot.’

Deterrent reduced

My pond plants sit snugly in a grid cut from galvanized cattle panel, about 30” square, with barbed wire laid around them on the surface. I hose-clamped this grid atop a galvanized milk crate within which I located my pump, the spout just clearing the surface. For a change the raccoons left both plants and pump alone. The array provides shelter for fish and frogs. A plastic crate would work just as well.

pond resized


I could not trap and never did see the weasel that lay waste to first three and then another two hens on separate nights. Rare they might be, but nothing else could have got in through two-inch stucco mesh. I rebuilt the whole run…with chunks of old concrete, stucco wire and rocks buried eight to ten inches deep around the perimeter, all of that covered over with foot-wide swimming-pool material and smallish stones for looks. I will be adding electric fencing as a deterrent to bears.

My alternative to all that was to give up on having hens and perhaps adding a drake-for slug deterrence. It was immensely satisfying to refuse to be beaten. The re-framing and rewiring with one-inch mesh was excellent if painful therapy for wrists that were sequentially operated on last winter.

It isn’t having the eggs that I like best about having birds in the backyard mix….it’s having close-to-hand a place to throw organic kitchen and garden waste. It just plain disappears. A roomy run for two hens generates no smell and one or two eggs a day for much of the year.

I got my heavy-duty, factory-seconds 1” mesh from Fraser Valley Wire and Steel, in Abbotsford. They make it there and carry cattle panel…..54” x 16′. They can order in the 5 gauge (1/4”) 7 1/2’x20′ concrete mesh that I cable-clamp end to end and have located pretty much free-standing between two row of hedge to keep out deer. A pretty neat place to check out for the practically inclined. They sell top-quality hog-ring pliers and the rings…18-gauge hold up pretty well to the pressure of stretching. Chain cutters will run you about $40 at GBS in Sechelt. You’ll need the 24” ones to cut cattle panel or barbed wire..or a small grinder. The upper-body strength some folks might have to borrow from a friend.

Photo by Gary J. Wood via Luminosity

Photo by Gary J. Wood via Luminosity




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