July 31, 2018
Hello again Deb,
Isabella here from the high hills of Scotland with further news of our furry friends. We’ve turned another corner with the habituation on the mountain and events are moving forward in the contest between the local clan and the landowner. I thought your followers might be interested in developments as the world in general faces a melt-down in the environment and what we’d all counted upon as the normal behaviour of nature. We’ve gone through a portal, I feel, into new times and we’ll never go back to what we once knew.
Likewise, the sides here are clearly drawn and there’s a stressful alignment of businessman versus forest people. The erecting of fences that was underway when I last contacted you is now finished and the end of the woodland completely closed-off just over the lane from the cottage.
As I’d mentioned about a month ago there were posts driven into the ground every eight feet or so by a pneumatic pile-driver and rolls of fencing laid out along the ditch. Then suddenly all went quiet and the workmen fled. Within days the posts were ripped out like so many toothpicks and scattered along the edge of the forest. I held my breath and waited to see how the landowner might react. Eventually the muddy posts were collected, loaded onto a truck and taken away. A week later someone delivered their replacements – huge round pointed logs that would create a barrier six feet high.
Then came another pause and the logs lay there like so many great dead bodies in the rain. When the sky cleared the pile driver was back and, one by one, they were pounded into the ground with enormous force. It was obvious the estate owner was making a counter move to the Alpha’s anger and intended to win this war with the clan one way or the other.
Meanwhile, the commercial rubbish bins at the foot of the estate were replaced. No more flip-top lids but bins with large curving tops reinforced with steel, lids that had to be rolled back with a low-set handle. For a while this appeared to have foiled the clan’s access. But within a few weeks every one of the new containers was torn through along the edge of the lid – steel metalwork and all. Even the youngest of the clan can dip in at will to enjoy left-overs from the estate.
Several days ago, the crew returned to finish the fencing project next to the cottage with heavy-gauge metal and electric wire along the top. I was working in the front garden and watched the access to the woodland slowing narrowing and closing; supposing that this might be the end of easy-travel for the clan – and perhaps the end of our strange and wonderful association.
When the crew had departed I drew up a chair at the glass-topped garden table and took a break with a cup of tea and biscuits, marking the conclusion of an era. There’d be many easier places for the clan to cross from the river and the estate rubbish bins – their favourite night-time raiding spots. Now there’d be no phony owl calls in the darkness, nobody thundering by at midnight slapping the side of the cottage in greeting, no whoops and answering calls as the clan headed en masse to the river for fishing under a full moon.
I glanced over toward the Alpha’s hidey-hole that had only begun to grow back, having been shorn away by the forestry crew as they surgically removed every area of thicket and overgrowth last spring. The great rectangular stone where he’d sat and watched me through the dining room window had been removed and deposited next to the gates of the estate some time ago – as though in warning or maybe as a mark of domination. [Or perhaps the Alpha had taken the stone from there in the first place?] A woven tangle of branches that had decorated the entrance to his lair were now gone as well. Everything had been done to dethrone him, to destroy his quiet reign, to collapse his hidden kingdom.
Unsure what to expect next I gathered my tools, garden gloves and tea cup from the table as the rains began falling again in a quiet mist. I spent the rest of the afternoon baking bread and it was several hours until, putting away my garden gear, I realised I’d left one cloth glove on the table outside. Back out I went — but it was gone. I searched the beds I’d been weeding and found nothing. I’d been nowhere else and the glove had clearly disappeared.
The following day, now wary that the clan might be trying to message me with their behaviour, I was up early and outside with my dog to let him run. Weather reports said that we’d have rain all day but so far the sky was cloudless. We headed toward the back of the property and, right away, some important change was evident. It’s a space where I’ve known the clan to relax and feel safe; a fenced lawn where the dog runs and beyond that a small orchard and a row of old, graceful maple trees that border fields sweeping away from the cottage and uphill a few miles to high pine forests.
A few years ago after a disruption in telephone service a BT crew had been out there to cut limbs from one of those gigantic maple trees; lush foliage that cascades fifty feet to the ground and shrouds an entire corner of the property. They maneuvered a cherry-picker crane into place, sawed away two great branches and then there was shouting as they scattered. It was a while until BT reclaimed that machine of theirs. A hole remains in the maple canopy, gradually filling in each summer. I’d come to visualise that corner as a perfect nesting place for female members of the clan and their young with useful hiding places for sentinels high above the ground. I wasn’t surprised when the BT crew ran away.
At any rate, on the morning after my glove was taken, both gates were hanging open to the back garden and to the orchard beyond. I was sure I’d closed those to keep rabbits out. One of the wooden clothes-poles along the dry-stone wall next to the field was snapped off at the ground and laid along the fence, the shattered base pointing toward the mountain top. I never hang clothes back there and the poles are rather slimy and water-logged. I don’t harvest all the fruit either, but leave some for the clan. There are apple, pear, cherry and plum trees; currants, gooseberries and raspberries. I’ve long thought this could be a treat for them after a fish meal and dip in the dumpsters down the lane. In my mind, we share this area, the clan and I.
Inspecting the broken clothes pole for hand-prints I found smears all the way around in two places. My missing glove might be a coincidence but this certainly wasn’t. Even so, anybody I’d tell about these discoveries in my garden would find an explanation of how “these things just happen.” Most people would watch what’s going on up here and never make any connection to a forest family who are the true regents of this place. Meanwhile, you and I both know Deb that the clan is telling me nothing will prevent them coming by and making full use of anything we’ve agreed to split between us.
Fence or no fence the Alpha swooped in and claimed my glove in the light of day. He left the gates ajar and made it obvious he’ll be anywhere around the cottage as he pleases. He obviously knows how to open the gate latches in my garden – which means he can also open them on the now-enclosed woodland. He operates with brute force or fine dexterity, whatever the situation demands. Nobody and nothing are going to stop him. Not guns and certainly not electric fencing. He is still king, although I’m the only one up here who knows it. And now your readers will be reassured as well.
That’s all the news for now my friend. Back to pruning roses and herbs. I wish you a happy harvest as we roll down the year toward autumn,