For us, those years took on the aspect of a sort of twisted Chinese calendar. Anyone who was born in the Year of the Rat or the Year of the Pig already knows that calendar isn’t without its downsides, but we took it a step further.

For instance, who could forget the Year of the Skunk? An irascible musteloid moved in under the deck outside and defended his territory with the ferocity of a Frenchman at Verdun. In addition to the persistent odor, the dog took it upon himself to root out the intruder and found himself repeatedly sprayed with foul musk (before tracking said musk in through the doggy door).

And the Year of the Hornworm had its trials and tribulations as well. We decided to invest in some tomato plants to try and eat healthier on a budget, but all we managed to do was raise a crop of hornworms. The thumb-size green caterpillars devoured the whole crop no matter how many we plucked off and dunked into the alcohol-filled Jar of Death. We probably could have given the seeds directly to the caterpillars and cut out the middleman. Or eaten the caterpillars.

Our personal Chinese calender wouldn’t be complete, of course, without the Year of the Mole? Our yard looked like some kind of a crazy quilt mosaic with mole tunnels and molehills and mole superhighways. We tried poisoning them, flooding them, and of course the dog did his best to dig them out. The only casualty? Our lawn. The moles left of their own accord once they were sure every last blade of grass was dead.

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