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?