Varmints En Mi Vida + other Stuff From 5/25/06

I’m pretty much a country person. Not like on a 40-acre homestead down a dirt road 10 miles from town, but on a half-acre homestead in a community of a few thousand people, on the edge of a national park. Our town and its environs are an interface between paved civilization and countryside.

I’ve been reflecting lately on all the critters we deal with in our daily lives:

-Aphids, earwigs, sow bugs, and the gamut of creeping/crawling/sliming garden pests






-Birds that eat our strawberries

-Gophers and moles

-Red-Tail Hawks (after our chickens)

-Blue herons nab fish in our pond

-Weasels (rarely)





-Deer with big appetites

What else? I’m mentally walking around our place, thinking of all the fencing, netting, chicken wire, traps that are part and parcel of living on a piece of land, however small (half an acre is about 100 x 200′) on the edge of wilderness. These are just the critters we have to deal with because they want to eat our garden, kill our chickens, establish a food line to the sugar bowl, nest in the woodpile, eat the roses, burrow into our rafters, nest in the attic of the tower, shit all over my woodpile, eat our wheat berries. You get the idea.

We’ve been here over 30 years, and a host of animals and insects are continually trying to move in with us. Skunks spray some nights under the bedroom window, I once trapped 13 possums over a 2-week period (Have-a-heart trap & released 3 miles away, they’re too dumb to make it back here); bats getting inside the tower (took months to block them); raccoon getting into chicken yard; rats/rats/rats (maybe 30 trapped per year – I’m the only rat trapper in the neighborhood; termites in rafters persistently, and since I won’t tarp the place and use poison, it requires constant “Electro-gun” zappings. It goes on.

Those are the varmints. There are also the good guys. Canadian geese that have multiplied here lately, in fact birds/birds/birds. I take my paddleboard down to the narrow channels in the lagoon, paddle along, and get to look closely at egrets, herons (very wary), ducks, seals, the occasional osprey swooping down to snatch a fish. We put out seeds for doves, quail, and finches. Lately a very spooky flock of maybe 20 pigeons has been eating seeds out the window from our breakfast nook. Hummingbirds, smart-ass blue jays. Crows that I try to imitate (they think I’m an idiot!)

Running out in the hills I’ve seen bobcats, deer floating over fences, coyotes slinking around, and on two occasions mountain lions — formidable!

Ten or so years ago there used to be a lot of red foxes here. One started coming around when we’d barbecue and we’d give him scraps of meat. He didn’t lose any of his wildness; he’d keep his eyes on us humans intensively and was always ready to bolt. I loved seeing him, he was beautiful and sensitive, it was rare to get close to such an elegant creature.

I was thinking of animals this morning as I drove into San Francisco along the coast. I wrote most of this at Cafe Roma in North Beach. Couple of other notes from today:

On The Importance of Havin’ That Swing

Recently I said to a friend, “It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing.” I had just heard the Mills Brothers versiopn of the song in the ’30s.

“You know what Sharon Stone said about liking men better than women?” she said to me.

“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that schwing…”

Words Of The Day

Succés d’éstime, told me by Bill Newlin. In my line of work, it can be applied to a wonderful book we did on symmetry that sold poorly. An artistic but not commercial success.

The German word lebenskunstler, meaning “Someone for whom life is an art form.” What a wonderful word! Told me by Hans Frey.

Bumf, meaning promotional crap in the pub business. Also told me by Bill Newlin, who also said, in explaining it to me, “It’s a print version of tchotchkes.” From the American Heritage Dictionary: Chiefly British Slang 1. Printed matter, such as pamphlets, forms, or memorandums, especially of an official nature and deemed of little interest or importance. 2. Toilet paper. ETYMOLOGY: Short for bum fodder : bum + fodder.

New Info On Septic Systems

The above reminds me to announce that we’re doing a revised version of our book on septic systems, The Septic Systems Owners Manual showing people how to avoid unnecessarily high-tech, high-cost systems, new state-of-the-art hardware for failed systems, and how towns can cope with corrupt engineers.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

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