Thursday, 26 July 2007

I see yer Remolque and raise you a Least Weasel

It's harvest time 'round here, the fields are full of machinery and the farmers are up and about half the night. The big rush is almost over, I am told, and the "eras," or threshing floors, are piled high with heaps of different kinds of grain. This picture shows the one in Moratinos. A huge truck from Galicia came this morning and hauled away a couple more heaps; the grain-buyers were all over yesterday, sticking their hands into the cool, slippery corns. The farmers stood by quietly. That's a year's work stacked up there for judging.

The harvest has brought about a few unintended circumstances. On the right side of the picture is a big wagon, what around here is called a "remolque." A week ago, that very remolque was parked outside the gate at the Peaceable Kingdom, and a smiling young Rumanian lad was filling it up, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow, with dirt excavated from the space that will someday be our kitchen. But this week the remolque was needed elsewhere. The dirt downstairs is left in a gigantic pile, waiting for the remolque to roll back this way. I wish I had a remolque of my own! (but then I'd need a tractor to pull it.)

(Still, the work continues upstairs -- they're putting in frames for the walls, doors, and windows. They just told me they need more money to buy the things they will need for next week. I told them they already have way too much of our money, and I won't give them any more. I think the boss is pretending he does not understand my Spanish.)

Having all this grain around is giving rise to lots of other things. The most noticeable is a sharp upward spike in the field mouse population. These guys are glossy and fat and full of attitude, and they were making nightly appearances in my room. For this reason only I am now permitting Una Dog to sleep in the cave with me. She is delighted, and spends the night on the floor, growling at things I cannot see, which isn't exactly reassuring or restful.

(I put down a mousetrap yesterday behind the dresser and got two mice, straightaway. They are cute. Their tails are luxuriantly long, their eyes bright black beads, their ears have little folds at the ends, like bows. And they made an almighty racket trying to chew their way into a bag of dog food, stored only about 3 feet from my bed. It is not very Buddhist of me to end their existence, but they were ruining my equinamity, dammit!)

The mouse boom has emboldened all the critters who enjoy a mouse luncheon. I heard the owl last night, after the mice packed it in. There are more raptors wheeling around overhead. And yesterday evening, best of all, I saw something rarely seen, out on the path beyond the dovecotes: a mostelo! In English it's a Least Weasel, the world's smallest carnivore, and supposedly one of the meanest little critters out there.

The one I saw, on the path just behind us, looked just like a half-size, chocolate-brown ferret. (I know my ferrets.) He was hot on the tail of a mouse, but he stopped dead right on the path, just so I could get a good look at him. He moved in that same smooth humpety-humpety slink, then leaped into the weedy ditch after his dinner. It made my day!

Una, meantime, killed four mice of her own.

So... soon the grain will be sold off or gathered in for next year's seed, and the tractors will be oiled up and put away, and all the farmers can go to the beach and relax for a couple of weeks.

And the remolque will come back, and the dirt will go into it, and the kitchen can be built. If I can convince the builders they can keep working without weekly infusions of cash.

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