The circle of life

"Felix is eating the broccoli strunks," I said to Sam. He looked at me. "Who?""Felix.

“Felix is eating the broccoli strunks,” I said to Sam. He looked at me. “Who?”

“Felix. The bull calf. He and his mom are back, so I thought they might as well get names now.” We had enjoyed about 10 days of mooselessness, with only one brief visit. Now apparently, the cow and calf had moved back in with us. It was wonderful to have them around, but moose are like all visitors: the first day, you’re all revved up with excitement because they’re there, the second day you’re just plain happy and on the third day, all the little extra arrangements are starting to wear on you a little bit.

“And what are you calling his mom?” Sam wondered.

“Ethel,” I said. “Somehow it fits her. Anyway, he’s standing right in the garden beds and eating the broccoli!”

“So what? Are you worried because you are feeding wildlife?”

“No, but the broccoli strunks are for the chickens. And he and Ethel are blockading the chicken coop again.” Of course, out of the 24 hours in a day that they could choose for feeding, they had it down to the minute again: pruning the willows and now the broccoli by the chicken coop exactly at feeding time. Just as during their previous week-long stay with us.

“The chickens are useless anyway. They don’t lay any eggs despite all your pampering. Let the moose eat the broccoli – they’re welcome to it.” Ah, now he had touched the sore point. Eggs.

“They do lay eggs,” I retorted. “Just not right now.” It being winter, you see. Lack of light and that sort of thing. I sighed and put the feed bucket down, still full of chicken dinner. Well, the dinner for the chickens. I would try again later.

We took the dogs out for a round instead, exercising extra caution because of the moose. How long would the moose stick around this time? Their visits would be a lot more fun, I felt, if they would rather come more frequently and stay for shorter periods of time. Like a one-day visit every four days or so. We had just managed to establish a normal sleep pattern again after the week of numerous 3:30 am wake-up calls by the dogs, due to the moose feeding in front of the cabin. Why couldn’t they feed over at the chickens’ at that time instead?

Half an hour later, I gamely tried advancing on the chicken coop again. Ethel and Felix were still around, but thankfully not right at the hen house anymore. They stared at me over the chewed-off remnants of a runty Saskatoon bush.

“The return of Chicken Woman!” I sang to them, waving the feed bucket for emphasis. “Chickies! Little chickens!” I paused for the chickens to answer, as they always do. Silence. “Chickens! Dinner time!” No reply. This was odd. Had the moose scared the chickens? Surely, they should be used to them by now. With an uneasy feeling, I walked past the moose to the chicken enclosure. Not a single hen out in the run – and then I saw the lynx.

“Hey!” I yelled and started running, hunting around for something to throw. The lynx turned and leaped through the snow, looking back at me over his shoulder. I reached the fence of the enclosure – everything intact, though pretty dented. Through the open door of the coop, I saw the huddled hens craning their necks. “Yeah, it’s me. Just have to chase the lynx away.”

I dropped the feed bucket, made a snow ball and hurled it at the lynx, who had stopped in his tracks to look at me. Sadly, I missed. My gym teacher would not have been surprised.

With big jumps I ran after the cat, snow filling the tops of my gum boots. When the lynx had retreated, I stalked back to the hungry chickens. The two moose were looking at me inquisitively. This was an interesting new development, they seemed to think. I fed and watered the subdued hens, locked the coop tightly and with a last look in lynx direction and a nod to the moose, went back to the cabin.

“Now there was lynx over there as well! He dented the wire of the run pretty good but didn’t break through,” I informed Sam.

“Oh, let him eat the useless chickens, since I’m not allowed to eat them. The bull calf is eating the chickens’ broccoli and maybe next fall, we’ll eat the bull. It’s all the great circle of life,” Sam said. And in a confused kind of way, it was.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of

the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.

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