It’s one wild adventure after another out here in the otherwise very domesticated countryside (which, ordinarily, is all canola fields and maize fields (for biogas production, not for eating), but this year is all grass for hay). The sparrowhawk comes and takes a little songbird out of a backyard tree once every day or two. We get a cluster of visits from one of the hungry goshawks every few weeks or so. The owl that has taken up residence in the trees across the street goes who who who all night long every night. And for the last two weeks I’ve actually been watching white tailed eagles (which are huge, HUGE birds) flying around, dog-fighting playfully, and generally hanging out in the trees about half a mile across the field from us. Which is weird. These trees are not where they’re nesting and, as they line a farm road that everyone uses for jogging, horseback riding, biking, and walking their dog, the area is a bit too busy for giant, shy, mainly fish-eating eagles’ tastes.
But yesterday was Wednesday, which is the day the neighborhood alpaca lady takes 10 euros each from a couple of us for letting us paint with acrylics in her “studio” for 2 hours. Is the 2 hours of electricity and firewood worth 10 euros each? (Whoop! The sparrowhawk just flew past my window! Crazy.) She’s a nice person, but she’s not god’s gift to teaching, so I wouldn’t say the lessons (which is a very generous word for two hours of mainly totally unsupervised stabs at artistry) are worth the cash. Certainly for nearly 500 euros a year each, we could be filling our houses with actual art.
But if I never went, I’d miss at least half of the local gossip, etc. Sometimes that alone is worth the price of admission. Which brings me back to yesterday.
The alpaca lady has been feeding the cats of her next door neighbor (currently on vacation in Thailand), who lives about 25 meters further along the road from her and right at the edge of the farmland between our settlement and the surrounding couple of villages. The two cats have been banished entirely to the out of doors and nobody loves them anymore (they belonged to an ex, who moved out and into an apartment where cats were not allowed, or so I understand). But they get fed. But for the last week or so, the alpaca lady, who cares about animals, hadn’t seen one of them. Long story short, it turned out to have gotten shut the in the across the street neighbor’s now fairly unused barn (they are retired farmers). But she only figured this out after she’d tromped across all the fields looking for a dead, half-eaten cat. But what she found was a dead, almost completely eaten full grown deer. (Which is why the white tailed eagles had been hanging around. They’d been picking of the carcass clean– apparently you could see the beak marks).
Not only is the alpaca lady nice to animals, she’s the sort of person who knows (and often has little fights with) just about everyone in her community (she’s an idealist and also has very strong feelings about what is right and what is wrong, although, perhaps this is the definition of an idealist). So the first thing she did, even before she went and collected the skull to boil clean and keep (you should see her collection of the balls of fur and bones owls regurgitate!) (seriously), was call the local hunter. (Every little bit of countryside is assigned one hunter who manages the deer and boar populations by hunting them and selling the meat and also controls who else can hunt in the area and how much they can take.) His first question was, was the head still there? And it was (and not only because she hadn’t collected it yet). So he say, “Wolf.”
Which was all very exciting. This was only a few hundred meters from our house! Although there aren’t supposed to be any wolves here. On the other hand, whose to say some don’t pass through on their way from one place they are known to live to another? Certainly almost two years ago I found a ripped, shredded deer leg that wouldn’t have been the work of a hunter or dogs. And at one point a few days later I passed by something silent and large dog-shaped hiding in some bushes, watching a deer cavorting in a field 25 meters away. It felt like a wolf, but I respected its privacy and did not stick my nose in to find out. But Spouse, who was with me on that walk, didn’t notice it at all, so maybe there hadn’t actually been anything there other than shadows.