skunkI grew up a city boy. Now, as a city boy in a small mid-western city I was probably a lot more familiar with wildlife than someone born in a vast urban center, but I’m still not fully acquainted with some of the life skills you need to get by in the country, even though I’ve been living here for about twelve years.

Take for instance a burn pile. I’ve never maintained one properly. Despite the wife’s encouragement to burn ours sooner, it’s probably been eight years since I did anything with it. As a result, the burn pile had become a towering mass of sticks and tree limbs. Worse, the manure pile was too close. Manure, you see, is inflammable. (We have so many sticks and tree limbs because we have so many trees. In any big storm we lose a lot of branches.)

Anyway, Sunday I finally went out and started organizing the burn pile so it was safer to burn, and then I had to dig out a safety zone away from the manure. I was out there for most of the day, fairly tired and sore, and right in the final section I found a skunk! Turns out there was a little burrow hidden on the edge of the burn pile.

HJ Sagan TreeThe skunk sprayed the air in the vicinity rather than me, directly, but I still smelled pretty rank. I may have to throw the shoes and belt away, although numerous washings of the clothes seem to have salvaged them.

Monday morning I knew there was a rain storm coming for an hour around 11, which I didn’t mind. I figured that since I didn’t really know what I was doing burn pile wise a huge thunderstorm would lessen the chances that I’d set the manure pile on fire, or, say, the barn or horse fence.

It all went as planned; the burn pile remained under control and continued to burn even through the downpour. Unfortunately, because I’m safety conscious, that meant that yours truly was also standing in the downpour. Even with the rain poncho, by the time I’d been out from 9 until 2:30 I was soaked to the skin. The burn pile, though, was mostly conquered. And lesson learned, I’ll not be letting the pile grow so large.

I’d thought that I’d be able to kick back and watch the burn pile, maybe read a book or take notes or something, but it turns out that A. the rain never really stopped once it got started, and you can’t do that in the rain if you care about your notebook or book and B. you really need to constantly monitor the pile and, in my case, feed it fuel from the other pile of sticks that had overflowed.

I did get in a brief phone chat with Lou Anders, who suggested that with my recent skunking and burn pile experience I should consider myself countrified. I don’t think so. There are still a number of life skills I’m pretty deficient on, farm/country wise. But I earned my merit badge now on de-skunking and burn pile control. Oh, and for the curious, the skunk had vacated his burrow long before the fire began. the next day. The scent, however, lingered.