Friday, April 17, 2009

You'll find the oddest things in our barn!

I have a confession to make...

In my barn, I have a severed head floating in a jar of water. No, not a HUMAN head! I get ticked at Gordon sometimes, but it's never gotten THAT dire. No, it's the head of that animal Tristan brought me about a month ago. To be exact, he dropped it at my feet. I could post a photo, but I'm thinking most blog viewers reeeeally wouldn't want to see it. That deceased star-nosed mole shot was bad enough. At least IT was fresh.

Now why, you may ask, do I have this head in a jar? Well, since moving here I have been collecting the various animal skulls and bones I find around the farm. That's the amateur naturalist in me! But besides that, my friend's 10-year-old-son is an even bigger nature-lover than I am (if such a thing is possible.) And when he and his family visited last summer, I showed him the bone collection. He was enthralled! I now have to email him a complete report of everything interesting thing I find on the farm, which he follows up with 101 questions.

So even though Tristan's gift of an animal head was vile and disgusting, I knew that under all that gore lay a very neat and complete skull.

However, I would not have known how to uncover this bony treasure were it not for the fact that I now know a very nice palaentologist (you rock, Nature Boy!) who has kindly given me instructions on how to macerate a skull. Not only that, Nature Boy thinks the head might belong to something as interesting as a pine marten! Neither of us knows for sure right now, but if I have a clean skull, Nature Boy can do the I.D.

Wellllll, first I had to cut off the excess fur and, ahem, skin (more like rawhide after spending so much time outside) from the noggin. I should point out that I have an extremely weak stomach when it comes to bad smells. It doesn't take much to get me heaving! So I put on a truly lame dusk mask. Let's just say it was not adequate for the task, and it's a good thing I didn't ingest one of Gordon's big breakfast fry-ups beforehand. Between heaves, I cut off as much gunk as possible, then ran from the barn gasping for air. There's a reason I'm an artist and not a scientist. Or, God forbid, a coroner. I have no problems viewing gore when necessary (not that I seek it out!) but smell is a whole other issue. I think it's a blessing I never became a mother, because my poor child would have had its Mum changing diapers while clad in a Hazmat suit. Which no doubt would have led to a large and lifelong set of neuroses for the baby.

Anyway, the trim job was enough amateur-naturalism for one day. My noble husband kindly found me a jar and I managed to drop the head inside, but I didn't have enough stomach left to fill it with water, which would initiate the maceration process. So the jar sat in the barn for a week, sealed with a tight lid. Let's just say it's a good thing we don't live in Bangkok, instead of pleasantly chilly Canada.

Yesterday, I finally plucked up my courage to finish what I'd started. Or rather, to finish the start of the process. I found a brand-new dust mask, stuffed it with sage leaves from my herb garden (hoping they'd mask the smell), went down to the barn and poured in the water. I got the lid back on and ran, but this time the mask did its job and I didn't smell a thing.

The problem is, I realized today that instead of filling the jar 7/8ths full of water as instructed, it's more like 4/8ths. So I fear I will have to go out there today and add water.

And is the end of the process? Why no, dear readers. Once a week, for however long it takes, I have to take the jar out to the field and pour off whatever vile liquid it contains (liquid brains, probably!) then refill it with clean water. For this, I have decided I need a real respirator-type mask, because from what Nature Boy told me, I understand the stink will be pretty potent.

If you were wondering about my sanity after those sock-monkey videos, you can stop wondering now because I think you have your answer. Nevertheless, this summer a certain ten-year-old boy is going to be HUGELY impressed with me when he visits. And that's all that really matters, right? That I'm a hero to a kid? :)

PS Anyone got a used Hazmat suit?


  1. Anonymous9:43 am

    oh god this makes me want to HURL just to read it .. rrruuuurrrppp. good think i haven't eaten yet today.

    ok pouring off that water is just going to be TOO MUCH. I swear I don't think i could do that. can't you just hang the damn thing in a tree and just come back at the end of summer?

    ya shore gots some balls. hahhaha.

  2. If I hung it in a tree, I swear Sophie would climb the tree and get it...

    I don't gots balls, I lacks sanity!

  3. The things paleontologists do!

    I'm sure you've already considered this, but I would take a pail of nice clean water out into the field before you try moving Mr. Head-in-a-jar.


  4. Looks like the Monatuak Monster:

  5. OR, try this link:

  6. Um, actually it does look like the Montauk monster.

    And that was the longest URL I have ever seen in my life.

    Um, no, HWB, I hadn't thought about the pail of water...

  7. I think my face had the most interesting expression throughout this whole post... sort of "ewwwww...." frozen smile.

    I am very, very impressed; as a science major I don't think I could even stomach that.

    I'm sure my kids would be glued to the screen if you were to post a pic, though. They're into that stuff, apparently ;)

    (okay, your word verification is "expleens"... LOL!)

  8. Karen, I don't think this is something I could have done in high school. Which worries me, because it means I'm getting more... eccentric? ;)

    And HWB, 'breathing through the mouth" would absolutely not cut it here. Respirator or fume hood, yes, closing off nostrils? Insufficient for the task at hand!


Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!