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.


The Tame Lion said...

Absolutely fantastic and inspiring!

Jana Miller said...


thuglifebaldwin said...

haha, all we have up here are wolf/bear bones/skulls

azurea said...

I just come across your blog from Flicker. What a beautiful collection! I love to collect bones, particularly bird skulls. They're so fine and detailed, perfect architecture! I'm in Australia, so the everyday animals you seem to come across and post here are really unique to me. Ha vultures! Thats awesome.

I moved to suburbia from a rural area a few years ago and had the same problem as to what to do with the stinky dead things I usually keep in the garden. I never thought it was a problem any one else had! Hope you sorted something out. I found large sealable containers helpful, and also wrapping things in newspaper and burying them in the veggie patch covered with a wire cage of some sort, which is good for the warmer months.

Anyway, Thanks for sharing. I'd love to see more!

Jana Miller said...

Thanks azurea and welcome! Please add me on flickr! That's where I've met most of my bone collector friends. Through our photos of our bone collections. We'd all love to see your bird skulls!

I'm still processing these bones. Not because it was hard but mostly because I became occupied. Two months after I posted this I left suburbia.

And actually just yesterday I rinsed/separated them and put them in their final hydrogen peroxide soak. Thanks for your ideas. I need to post a followup blog!

Carissa said...

Kindred Soul Jana, i came here by way of your lovely jewelry on etsy... and am *so* intrigued by your process!! I love that you are a bone collector, and a fellow Floridian to boot!!

I am a *huge* animal listener as they appear in my life with powerful messages... I recently had a raccoon carcass appear in my front yard. I imagine she was hit by a car because her jaw condition. Her skull bones were missing entirely. I tried to save her bones, letting her decompose in the yard naturally, mainly wanting her jaw and spine, but once I got those inside I couldn't seem to get them clean (I used bleach).

Sadly I ended up burying them instead, and had a lovely little ceremony for her. It was beautiful, but I wished I had come across your lovely space here sooner! Alas. It is great to "meet" you...

Is that *Mt. Dora* train tracks I spy?!!!! I grew up venturing those very tracks!!! From downtown to Lakeshore Drive! I still go back to visit. I love it there. I hope your neighbors will ease back and give you some privacy! Also, THe Variety Shop thrift shop(I think in your picture) on the right side of the road is one of my favorites!

Well, I've babbled on... sorry for all the typos & grammatical errors... ;-)

Big Love,
(my art/blog: