Last Saturday, after moving the Mulefoot pig house to the pigs’ paddock, I noticed that we hadn’t put much of a dent in the pile of lumber and other miscellanea in the barn. I was considering spending the rest of the day sitting and watching the pigs, chickens and cattle, but Kate wondered whether I might spend the time more productively by building, or at least starting, a chicken house.
I had tripped over the remnants of a wooden ramp (that once connected the mudroom door with the garage) enough times that I decided to use it as the base upon which to build the structure. Of course, the bulky piece was wedged between the box blade on the Kubota’s 3-point hitch and the barn foundation. After a bit of jockeying and levering, I managed to free the platform and tipped the heavy wooden structure up on edge. This would have been uneventful if the terriers and I didn’t just happen to be staring face to face with a couple of startled skunks who had been huddled beneath it.
After a quick assessment of the situation, I decided to lower the platform to the ground before taking the skunks’ fury full-force in the face. I was so hurried that I trapped Woodrow, the Cairn terrier beneath the structure, right along with them. Knowing that Kate would get after me if I let Woodrow battle two skunks alone, I lifted the platform again, narrowly missing the aromatic spray as I propped it with a stick. Woodrow, in a rare moment of obedience, headed out of the barn on my heels.
The scent wasn’t altogether unpleasant at first. It had tinges of musk, onion and other sulfur-containing compounds. As its power dissipated somewhat, and my over stimulated olfactory nerves calmed down, the smell was, well, very skunky.
Since I really wanted to get the chicken house started, I went back into the barn with a 12-foot-long stick. I peeked over the box blade. No skunks. After a bit of investigating and poking, I discovered that the skunks had moved to the space behind the old Allis-Chalmers combine pickup, left leaning against the wall by the farm’s previous owner. In spite of the smell, I horsed that old piece of ramp outside and set to work.
The first task was to spray some of that de-skunking solution on the underside of the ramp to make the work bearable. And it did.
Kate and I managed to install four short legs beneath the platform and cobble a nest box together before it became too dark to see. By the time we packed up the tools, Lucy the Westie and Woodrow had visited the skunks’ new hideout often enough to wear the badge. Luckily, we had plenty of that magic de-skunk formula left and gave them a good going over. It worked again.
Photos courtesy Kate Will.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.