Thursday, April 14, 2011

Starting Over, Learning Anew

So I've been going thru a bit of culture shock the last several months. I moved from deep in the undisturbed country to the middle of where I honestly thought I'd never find myself again... suburbia.

I went from no neighbors, fences or paved roads ... to prying eyes, having to hear the business of others at any given moment and pretty much an entire lack of privacy. I can't even seem to go outside most days to enjoy some fresh air without someone wanting to know who I am or what I'm doing.

I previously lived in nearly pure privacy for over 8 years and didn't talk to anyone unless I wanted. Don't get me wrong I'm exceptionally friendly. Especially with complete strangers. Most times I'm standing in line at the grocery store or post office I start talking to someone else in line.

But my privacy and freedom have always been very important to my well being... and now I rarely have either.

As a person that collects the remains of animals to use in art, jewelry or for display... my life has become especially limiting. And I have to relearn many things because of these new limits.

Before, I could have an entire deer carcass on my property and nobody would flinch at the smell. Now, anything larger than a squirrel would attract far too much attention from the 4 neighboring houses so closely backed up to the short chain linked fence.

So far, all carcasses I've put in the back yard have been taken by an opossum or raccoon. So I have to figure out how to resolve that without having a big cage like I did in the country. That's not something that's socially accepted by the neighbors here I'm sure. Plus, there are small children in the yard. That's right, I'm also trying to adjust to being an instant Mommy figure... to two twin 3-year-old girls. My boyfriend's girls.

For a suburban area there is an abnormally large amount of nature here compared to say where I grew up. I'm especially in awe with the low flying vultures everywhere. I find myself trying to make a mental note of where I see them roadside eating roadkill. In hopes of coming back to get the remains.

I did just that recently when I hopped onto my bike with many plastic bags in tow. I went alongside train tracks that also ran parallel a main two lane road into the center of town. I headed out fairly late in the day to minimize the heat and sun.

BONELUST - Along the Tracks View

Within five minutes I found the remains of the opossum I saw a vulture eating weeks previous. If only I had got to them before the big city lawnmowers they' be in better shape and the skull might still be around.

BONELUST - Along the Tracks: Opossum Bones

There had also been a lot of severe thunderstorms and torados in the area so much of the smaller remains were lost in the sand.

BONELUST - Along The Tracks: Opossum Spine

This particular area was covered with hundreds of tiny armadillo bone plates (or skutes). But just too many and too small to pick up.

Just beyond this I found what I thought at first was the spine and ribs of a small mammal. But then realized it was a small part of the remains of a fish skeleton. I found four more sets of remains of fish on my trek along the tracks that day. Mostly at the bottom of large telephone poles. Which makes perfect sense because I see Osprey flying overhead frequently with fish in their talons. I imagine they sit atop the poles and eat their catch there before dropping it.

BONELUST - Along the Tracks: Fish

Funny, because only a day earlier a friend brought me the remains of what he thought for sure was a reptile skull. Which I quickly figured out was only part of a large catfish. He found it on a sidewalk in the middle of town so no surprise he didn't think it was a fish.

I also saw several animal dens going under the tracks. I wondered what kind of creature lived in them because I saw no fur or tracks.

BONELUST - Along the Tracks: Animal Den

Sadly I think that question was soon answered when I found the remains of a large tortoise (or turtle?) that looked as if it was traveling down the tracks when it was hit by a train.

BONELUST - Along the Tracks: Turtle or Tortoise Shell

Nearby were the remains of a vulture that appeared to also have been struck by a train.. perhaps while eating the remains of the tortoise. But that's likely just a coincidence. What are the chances?

BONELUST - Along the Tracks: Wings

Amazingly there were only feathers and some skin left behind of the vulture. No head, beak, bones or feet. Something really stripping it clean. Not that I'd pick it up anyway since it is illegal to have, being a protected species of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The ride home was quite stunning for suburbia.

BONELUST - Along the Tracks: Sunset & Bike

BONELUST - Along the Tracks: Sunset

And when I really looked at my bags of loot I didn't do too bad.

BONELUST - Along the Tracks: Finds

The remains of several opossum, 4 various fish, tortoise shell/bones and possibly various cat/dog/raccoon/rabbit/deer bones. I realized afterwards that I need to make this bike ride more frequently if I want to get the remains before they are damage or taken. Plus, there's a LOT more of those tracks I can explore. This was all found only after a couple miles!

So while I can't process my roadkill finds like I did out in my country home, I do have options. Finding bones mostly flesh free hurries the process and I don't have to have large carcasses in the yard.

I now have these remains in two different sealed containers. One has water and fleshy bones that need to rot off to nothing but bones. The other has the mostly flesh free remains that are soaking to clean and whiten in a dish soap, water and peroxide bathe.

Fingers crossed this works without a terrible smell coming into the house.