15 July 2010

Scorpions and a Trash Can Full of Feathers

LET'S BE QUICK about this: until today, I'd never seen either. I'll start with the scorpion.

There is a large free-standing lamp in the corner of the main room in the house we are in this summer. When Kerri decided she wanted to move it a couple feet to the left (?) she obviously disturbed the scorpion that was living underneath the lamp stand. As it scurried across the room and up onto the stone wall, Kerri found the camera and called in the kids:

Hard to tell the size from the photo, but probably about 5-6cm.

After a few minutes on the internet deciding how dangerous it was, we (and by 'we' I mean everyone else in the family) decided that I should capture the scorpion and release it outside. With a plastic cup and a spatula (are those the absolute greatest things in the kitchen, or what?) I was able to trap the little guy and Henry and I took him to field across the street. Turns out this European variety of scorpion is quite common in this part of Italy and is usually not terribly dangerous, even if it stings you. Kerri vaguely remembers seeing scorpions at her grandparents house in North Carolina when she was quite young, but for me and the kids, this was a first.

[Quick sidenote. Is it wrong that Kerri and I have now used this scorpion as an illustration for the children as to why it is important not to leave clothes on the floor? From my point of view, why let this unbelievable opportunity go to waste. Sure, the kids are petrified any time they see a piece of their clothing on the floor -- but isn't that kind of the point? I believe someone quite famous once said: the ends justify the means! If the clothes are off the floor, I don't consider it exploiting the situation. Your thoughts?].

Now to the feathers in the bin. We share an outdoor trashcan with our neighbors -- a large Italian farming family. This morning when I took out our trash I opened the lid of the shared bin and dropped our bag to the bottom. Much to my surprise, this resulted in a face-full of what appeared to be chicken feathers. As I tried to pick up the feathers and put them back into the can it suddenly occurred to me that these feathers were probably from one of the many chickens our neighbors have on their farm -- and that the chicken was probably served for dinner the night before. Of course, it could be that it was from the local butcher (I believe you can buy chickens, pheasants, etc. with the feathers still attached) but the more I thought about it, the more I was going with my first inclination. The feathers were still 'fresh', if that makes any sense: light, fluffy, no odor at all.

I've read many Italian cookbooks and I know that killing the animal that you are about it eat is not only quite common -- especially in the countryside -- but is also an important part of the food experience as it is seen as an important aspect of the respect Italians have for the food they eat. Our area of Italy is very agricultural and every farmhouse has a large garden and several kinds of animals. I'm sure that 'living off the land' is much more than a saying in these parts.

But it was still a bit startling. I don't normally see feathers in my trashcans.


Anonymous said...

The only live scorpion I have eveer seen was in a house in Forcalquier, France. Must comment that your photo of the scorpion is climbing on wall, which is creepier than just floor.

Anonymous said...

We have far, far too many scorpions at our home here in Texas. And yes, i keep the kids terrified of throwing clothes, and especially wet towels on the floor. They seek water. While our variety does not usually kill, it is a very painful sting, sometimes requires hospital visits, and I have no second thoughts about squashing them.