In the morning a four-foot black rat snake…

In the morning a four-foot black rat snake crossed the drive from the prairie. I thought there he goes–he’ll be in the chicken house soon. That afternoon I found him looped in a nesting box with an egg three inches down from his hinged jaw. I lifted him up and out with a pitchfork, and then hacked him with a spade.

We’ve tried snake repellent, mothballs, taking them miles from the hen house, but nothing except death works. Once one of them discovers the eggs it will return. I felt horrible about killing this beautiful creature, but these snakes makes the hens anxious and will eat as many eggs as they can.

I’ve seen rattlesnakes about a quarter mile from the house while walking with a friend who grew up on a farm. She claimed they should be killed. I said no. A black rat snake lives in the composter. I’ve left him there, hoping he’d catch the pack rats who wreak havoc on the winter garden, denuding evergreens for their nests.

Each spring we remove the eastern phoebe nest from above a light fixture on the front porch. I tell them to move under the protective eaves of the garage. One has taken up residence there. We love their superb nest, the hatchlings, but the Jackson Pollock painting at the front door becomes too much as we tire of tracking poop into the house.

While we live in a bit of paradise in the Flint Hills, life is not perfect. Animals have as much right to be here as we do, maybe even more. Idealism doesn’t always work well. After four years of dealing with the snakes in the hen house I will myself to kill them. The sadness over killing lingers and troubles my conscience. We hate taking the nest down. So much work goes into building it.

One summer a skunk family lived under the front porch. It was fun to watch Mergatroid and her kits come out at dusk and walk along the fence line down the hill and into the woods. They never sprayed but I was a bit anxious as they ambled within six feet of where we sat watching the setting sun do its magic.

We each make choices that others disapprove of. I’ve learned I must act whether if it’s for marriage equality or peace in the hen house. Some choices are clearer than others. I believe we can learn a lot from the choices which have ambiguous results. Refining our decision making skills is a lifelong practice. It’s in the nuances where truth lives. How do you balance hard choices?

Wishing each of you good balance …


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