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Farm Bleat: 'Tis the season for gift giving

For the past month, the cat chores at the farm have been my responsibility. Either I go out morning and night to deliver Jarde, Tux, Cedo, Midnight and Fluffy some fresh water, canned morsels of beef, chicken, turkey or fish, a pan of dry cat food and some warm milk, or I find some other willing soul to do it for me.

So far, the cats haven’t complained.

In fact, Jarde and her boys have started leaving “gifts” in exchange for the buffet meals they’ve been dining on.

It took a little online research to identify the “peace offerings” left by my meowing minions — research that involved looking at a few pictures of beady-eyed, short-tailed, brown furry critters in full color on my large screen computer monitor.

It’s a bit difficult to compare online images of made-to-look-cute live critters with the images burned into my eyes of rodents curled as though they’d cowered to the killer cat just before their brutal demise.

The “gifts” my precious purr-boxes have left me have tails not long enough to be mice nor hairy enough to be voles, and feet not big enough to be moles. Through the process of elimination, I’m pretty sure our feisty felines have discovered a colony of short-tailed shrews.

Thus far, I’ve only seen the non-moving kind, which I’m grateful for. Still, after finding four of the full-grown variety stiff as a board next to the cat food platters — and one itty-bitty one left in the dry cat food dish — I’m ready for shrewpocalypse to end.

I still remember the time I was traumatized by a beady-eyed field mouse while doing chores as a kid.

Our barn has a little room near the front door that was often used as a feed shed. It’s where I stored 50-pound bags of goat feed, and it’s where the chute from the grinder-mixer unloaded ground ear corn for the goats and sheep. During afternoon chores one day, I grabbed the metal coffee can-turned-grain scoop, pushed the scoop into the feed sack and let out a blood-curdling scream when a mouse ran up my arm. I’m not sure if the mouse jumped to safety or if he was flung across the barn by my flailing arms.

I’d say we both learned our lesson that day. Mine was to never stick my hand in a feed sack (or a cat food sack) without first looking to ensure there isn’t a critter inside, and that mouse, well, I never did find it in a feed sack again.

Just like my furbabies, my loveable pooch, Molly, often left me “peace offerings” when she was growing up. The difference between her “gifts” and those of the cats can be described by size and shriek value. Molly left dead — or playing-dead — possums and snakes for me, both of which I’d assign a very high shriek value. I’d guess Molly thought I was saying thanks.

Dead shrews, other than making me wince a little bit, I can handle — just as long as the cats make sure they’re no longer moving.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

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