Diamond Tooth Taxidermy

Exquisite Taxidermy Art and Design

© 2013 Diamond Tooth Taxidermy
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About Beth Beverly

I am a State and Federally licensed taxidermist who graduated from the Pocono Institute of Taxidermy in 2010 with high marks. I have a deep respect for this craft and those who strive to preserve it.

It is my pleasure to work on any trophy mount, be it a shoulder, life-size, rug, or fish.

I accept custom orders for fantasy mounts, wearables, and bridal hair pieces.

Sculptural mounts and hats are available for rental provided they are in stock at time of inquiry.

Contact me describing your wish and I will be delighted to make it so.

Diamond Tooth Taxidermy Blog:

"Depends on your will to live."

Snow day!  School was cancelled and I had an entire day to lounge about, watch movies, play arts&crafts, cuddle with the cats, and stuff my face with Bailys & coffee.  And cheese.  And pistachios.

I attempted to go out sledding but the snow was falling so heavy that the work to fun ratio wasn't anywhere near being in my favor so I gave up and hung inside by the fire.

The loneliness feels overwhelming sometimes, being so completely isolated.

I was getting my yoga on in front of the wood-burning stove though and looking around, and I noticed how much of the art on display at this cabin was created by people I know and care about.  I took comfort in that, and hunkered down to about 8 more episodes of "Honey West".  I took a break at one point and watched "Powder Blue" which my friend had lent to me mainly for this scene (My apologies in advance for the poor vid with dumb commentary; it's hard to find a decent one of this part):

It's really beautiful, and I'd never heard the song (the first one) before but now I need it in my collection (the second one is an old fave though).  Despite all the hate I read on Jessica Biel, I think she's a good actress. And she has a face that I could look at for days.  I think she's one of the most gorgeous people I've ever seen.  Honestly, though, she could be a little more graceful.  Dare I say, I think with the right training I could do better.

Yes, I dare.

"You Betcha."

Today we began prepping our deer forms and capes for a trophy mount.  These are the capes we skinned out back in January, and they were sent to the tannery as a rush job so as to get them back in time.  Usually hides can take around three months to return from being shipped out for tanning, which has me tempted to try it myself.  It's not recommended, though, as it's easy to ruin the skin.  I went ahead though and bought my own solution and intend to tan some of my own stuff in a couple weeks.  Wish me luck!

Anyway, these hides were "wet-tanned" which means they have to go into the freezer immediately upon return, until they are to be mounted. At this point there is usually a little bit of excess flesh that may have escaped the initial round of skinning so we went in and split the ears a little more, opened up the nostrils, thinned out the skin, etc:

Here is the bullet hole, which needs to be sewn up in a specific, top-secret-taxidermist-fashion.  The hair around the point of entry is scorched so you can't just leave it. Plus it'll get stretched over the mount and look terrible.

Those little holes to the right are actually Xs punched in a formation to mark your cape for the tannery so when multiple skins are sent in they won't get mixed up.

Here is my deer form, with the rack screwed in and the eyes clayed up.  This is just practice clay though, we had to set and reset multiple times until we felt confident in our mastery of the shape, size, symmetry, alignment, etc.

All of this under the watchful eye of my fox, sitting behind me on his table.  I hope when I take his ear cards off and finish up his face he appears more serene.  A day-dream face is what I was going for but that isn't translating quite well at this point in the process.

I was feeling particularly cranky because when I stopped for gas on the way home the little snot behind the counter called me "ma'am", and not in a respectful way.  Seriously, what woman likes being called "ma'am"?

I cheered myself up with more of my new favorite show, "Honey West".  I love that womens' bodies looked authentic, and their faces made expressions.  Plus, one punch could knock someone out for minutes and then they'd be right back on the horse again.  Hardly any guns, but they found ways for a fight scene to use everything in a room:

And the dialogue!  Nonstop wit!

"We call 'em slut bugs."

Today we began working on our coyote rugs, using hides purchased from a distributer already fleshed and tanned.  My fellow student also brought in a huge skin from an Alberta Buck her friend had gifted her, and I helped her flesh it out a little.  I've got a knack for getting my little fingers on a hunk of flesh and ripping it from the skin which is more economical, time-wise, than knifing it out.  My nick-name for the day is "The Ripper."

Here is my head form for the coyote, with artificial jaws set in.  Original skulls are rarely used these days because over time the teeth crack and break.  I think when I'm doing this on my own, however, I will use original skulls, simply because I have a disdain for all things plastic.  Maybe I'll cast metal ones, who knows.

I wanted to challenge myself so I studied some reference pictures and carved a snarling shape into the form.  Creating this expression also involves various sculpting techniques with clay but I'll keep that info to myself.  I'm trying really hard to keep my inner-brat from emerging as my patience grows thin with all this conventional, commercial mounting.  I think when I'm getting paid to do it, I'll have no issue, but I long to be putting jewels on paws, false lashes on eyes, pheasants on stilts, etc.

Pinning the face.  Mine had a scar just inside his eye, and since a typical client wouldn't want to feature that in his prize rug, I learned how to obscure it.  Top secret!!!!

When Mr. B came back from lunch he had a present for me- one of his hens had died over the weekend and when he'd mentioned it to me in passing this morning, of course I asked him what they did with it.  "Well, we usually bury 'em..." ...but surprise!  He brought it in for me!  She's a real looker, too, and she's all mine to mount however I wish.  Stay tuned.

After we finished mounting the head portion of our rugs, the hides were soaked and stretched on a table.  I am not so adept with hammering; I whacked my thumb several times.  What's even more tantrum-inducing than smashing a digit repeatedly with a hammer and staying silent about it so as not to draw attention, is your instructor catching it every time and reminding you  "not hit your thumb with that hammer.  It really smarts."

I noticed several lady bugs on the table; the other student and Mr. B were eager to destroy them.  Apparently there is a huge LB infestation in the area and they are not viewed as the luck-spreading, charming little guys we here in the city know them as.   In fact, they are a different breed.  The LBs up in the Poconos are an Asian beetle which look exactly like Ladybugs, and were brought to the US to aid in pest control.  I guess they then became the pest themselves.  I'm told they reproduce like crazy and clog up vents, eat through stuff, and bite.

Not so cute:

I took the scenic way home, via back roads, and stopped for coffee at a little shop in White Haven.  I'd wanted to stay and enjoy it there while I soaked in the environment, maybe get some networking practice, but it was just myself and the "barista" I doubt he'd call himself that) there and I felt him eyeing my every move so I stepped out.  I hate feeling watched when I haven't made it clear I'm looking to be the center of attention.  I start to second guess my every move and can't think straight.

When I got home, I took a walk around the hilly fields behind the cabin and then took a nap with the dogs in front of the fire while the boys made dinner.  They ate and headed out, and I went to bed.

"Tell ya what-your husband is one lucky man."

Today I finished my fox mount.  Here he is, face still unset.  My classmate's mount is in the background.  You can see the carded ears, which keep them from moving while it dries.  I'll take more pictures this week.

It was a short day; I drove home the long way, on back-roads, and lazed about, reading "The Glass Castle".  Great story.

More next week!

"You're bein' too feminine with it."

Today I finished skinning my fox, and de-greased/fleshed the pelt.  Here's a pile of some of the scraped out residue:

That oblong red object in the center would be a fox penis.

I chose a mount in a supine position with one leg curled under its body. This made sewing up the legs a little tricky, but I was up for the challenge.  Unfortunately I was taking too much time and my instructor was getting on me about it, reminding me of the perils of lolly-gagging with skin.

I managed to get him sewn up almost all the way, and had to store him in a cool spot overnight.  I really need to pick up the pace.

My thoughts drifted a lot today as I wrestled with my moral boundaries, and where I'm comfortable setting them.  I hate that fur-bearing animals, like fox, mink, racoon and possum, are typically caught in traps.  It breaks my heart to imagine  this creature snagged by the neck or paw, waiting for the trapper to come finish it off.  I see so much roadkill everyday and am repeatedly thankful for the millions of happy accidents that placed me in the life I have today, as a human, on top of the food  chain, living my dream and doing it quite comfortably.  I silently apologise and thank each animal I skin, imagining a different scenario in which I as a human would be out for a stroll and then snap-my foot is caught in a trap and I wait around for two, four, maybe ten hours before something comes along with a giant rock to break my back.  Or if I was sitting in my living room one day and some mammoth space craft landed right on top of my home, crushing it and my family. The thing is, I love taxidermy.  And I am really, really, good at it.  I don't want to stop.  And I am okay with they fact that death is part of the circle of life.  I just have to figure out where to set my moral boundaries in terms of justifying killing.  I think as long as I face it head-on, and am honest with myself about the fact that this isn't a pretty craft, and as long as I remain thankful and appreciate the fact that what I do costs lives, I'll be on the right track.

When I got home I finished watching "This is it."  It was decent, as far s the dancing and how involved a production the whole thing was, but I found it creepy watching MJ dance suggestively with women.

"You're gettin' all NCIS forensics on me now."

I finished mounting my squirrel today, here is the skin stretched over the form, sewn shut, but not tucked and pinned in the face:


I think the blow-drying is one of my favorite parts.  I imagine clipping barrettes and bows on furry heads and tails.  Unfortunately my skin had some oily spots...possibly the grease had transferred from the inside to the outside via the many beebee holes in the pelt.  This will be remedied later after the mount has dried.

Finished mount, hanging in dead pose.  I took particular care when pinning the eyes to give it that "deathly downward gaze" appearance.

A guest taxidermist was in the shop today, skinning a porcupine.  Amazingly, he didn't prick himself once.  I had the bright idea of using a porcupine pelt as a bike helmet cover, and as usual was greeted with blank stares when I voiced this thought.

When Porcupine Guy learned about my penchant for wasting no part of the animal, he gave me a tooth from his specimen.  I was amazed to see how much marrow is stored inside those fangs.

I began skinning my fox, which had been shot by my classmate's husband and generously gifted to me. I spent about twenty minutes combing briars out of the fur with a metal comb before I could begin.

Briar pile:

For lunch, Mr. B treated us to lunch at the local diner.  He said we absolutely had to try the burger; it was an experience. When our meals arrived, I damn near crapped my pants.  The pattie was the diameter of the plate, with a regular sized bun sitting atop it, looking like some kind of joke.  Unfortunately I didn't have my camera at the diner, but I took a picture of my leftovers.   This is the half of the burger I didn't eat.

After lunch we got a brief tour of the area, and Mr. B showed us around his property.  There was a duck pond, a skating pond, barns, tractors, a horse corral, a chicken coup, and acres of woods and fields.  I was a little overwhelmed.  Country life is so different.  It seems just as busy and crowded as city life but in a more autonomous way.

Back at the shop, I finished skinning my fox. The stench of a fox is mind-blowing.  Their diet consists mostly of skunk,  and the odor they emit can best be described as a combination of halitosis and burnt rubber.  I think I lost a little of my tough chick street cred with everyone when I started gagging.

I've always marveled over the colors found inside a skin and assumed it was bruising.  Apparently this greenish hue is actually oxidization on the pelt, which is one of the reasons taxidermists must work quickly.  Taking too much time to skin a specimen allows bacteria to set in, and then once you get the rot, you've got a spook.

We tossed the carcasses outside because they were so stinky.  Because the cold, they will remain undetected by other creatures until they can be properly disposed of.  I took it upon myself to saw the heads off, which had Mr. B in fits.

I guess I gained my street cred back.  It may seem disturbing, but I have a plan for these heads:

On the way back to the cabin, I dropped off "Little Ashes" at the rental joint and picked up Michael Jackson's "This is it".  It was too cold to play on my hoop so I watched a bit of the movie and went to bed at 7:30pm.

"Beth Beverly, the diamond-toothed acrobatic taxidermist"

Today was my birthday and I was greeted by a thawed out dead squirrel holding a card for me at my work station.  Also, Mr. B gifted me some paint brushes.  Pretty neat. Unfortunately I forgot my camera so I have no images of today's activities.  My squirrel mount will be in a dead pose, kind of draped over a tree limb.

I skinned my squirrel, which was absolutely filled with beebees-I stopped counting at ten- and managed to get the skin stretched over the form but that's as far as I got.  I enjoy the process too much, I think, and tend to move very slowly.  The other student had her mount almost completely finished by the day's end.

I'm getting antsy to break out a little and incorporate some artistic flare into my mounts,; these conventional ones are really boring me.  I keep reminding myself that I'm here to build a solid foundation of skills which I can then apply to the most fantastic and unbelievable mounts the world has ever seen.  For now I just need to keep towing the line.

I got home to an empty cabin, and felt a little lonely.  I haven't spent a birthday all by myself since I turned 21.  I took a nap and then ate dinner while watching "Little Ashes".  It's the most touching movie I've seen in ages.  What really impressed me was the wardrobe.  Men dressed so well back then and the clothes were all tailored impeccably. So much attention to detail; a time when people didn't rush.  Time was taken to do things right.


My favorite ensembles are featured in this scene, which is too charming for words:

Country Music Picks ofthe Week

I have taken to listening to the country station even when I'm not in school.  There are a couple songs that I genuinely like, and occasionally they play the classics.  Some that I find quite shocking though, and worthy of review, are those following:

Randy Houser- "Boots On".  This one is another example of a song proving just how COUNTRY this guy is, but I guess the only reason it really sticks out to me is that it took me about two weeks to realise what he was talking about when he says "Copenhagen Ring" in his "dirty old jeans".  My husband has recently enlightened me to the plethora of dipping videos on Youtube, and honestly dipping is something I kind of forgot about after 11th grade when all the WT kids from Garden City would spend period after period with their faces attached to a soda can, nursing their habit.  My teeth ache just thinking about it.


Tim Mcgraw-"Down on the Farm": I like how at the end of the video a simple farm party has turned into an event larger in scale and production than any evening out at a bar in NYC.  And by "like" I mean, I think it's dumb.  Also, the beginning, where you see a bunch of tanned, strapping young folks joyfully tossing party supplies out of the back of a truck and riding together on a plow? I tensed up just watching it.  If there is a Hell for me, that would be it.


Jake Owen: "8 Second Ride": I actually like the sound of this song-but once the lyrics come it, it's all downhill.  A shame really, because Jake Owens has a pleasant voice, rich and deep, and is a good-looking guy to boot.   Then I watched the video just now while looking it up.  Christ, WHO is making these second-rate videos?  I mean, let me get this straight.  A teenager is wearing a child-sized pleather jacket in the middle of a humid summer day in some god forsaken swamp area and pants that scream yeast infection, yet she manages to strut into a bar like it's totally natural?  And the "ride" that they take doesn't, in fact, look the least bit wild to me.  In fact, aside from the seizure-inducing strobe light, it looks like a very tame love-making session.  If I were directing this video, they'd be riding that truck over mud piles and into ditches while she shotguns beer out of a PBR can. Topless.  Plus I would've recruited a model older than...twelve.  Just sayin'.  Also, my favorite part is where he tells her to climb on up but mind the cup where he'll be spittin' his dip tonight.


Miranda Lambert: "White Liar"-I actually really, really like this song.  I guess my favorite country is when a female vocalist is involved, judging by my love for Dolly, Dixie Chicks, and Holly Go Lightly.   I listen to this song on my school commute several times/day, and I adore her accent.  I imagine her lips and teeth forming all the words around a glass marble in her mouth.  A cursory search online tells me she's from Texas.  Too bad, AGAIN, the video is crap, but I really like the song.

"Sometimes it's nice to hunt for it."

I woke up to some heavy snowfall today; it took over an hour to get to school.  I drove like a granny behind a tractor-trailer who speeding along despite skidding twice.

This is the crossing guard I pass daily.  I have an obsession with school busses and crossing guards up here; it's such serious business.  Each day he gets out there, sets up his road flares, dons his reflective vest and LED light strands, and waves us on with his glow-stick.  It's like driving through a rave every morning.

We worked on our Buffleheads; here is mine with the inverted skull. I'm getting really good at cleaning them out.  The little bits of stuff you see is sawdust, from the tumbler.

Here's the completed mount; I put her in a grooming pose to add a little variety to my repertoire.

I look at this sticker on the fridge every day when I go to retrieve my lunch and only just realised that it's a joke.

I had a quiet evening of reading and was in bed by 8pm.

"Hard to be humble."

Today we finished airbrushing our fish, and it was probably the most challenging day for me.  What's really touching though, is how the instructor and the other student could sense how frustrated I was and made repeated attempts to cheer me up.  The were genuinely upset that I was upset.  I mean, these people really care about me, someone they've only known for four weeks.  I care about them as well; it occurred to em the other day that Mr. B and Ms. R are the only two people I interact with  mondays-thursdays.

Since we're blowing through the curriculum at such an accelerated pace, we decided to mount an extra water-fowl.  I used one of the Buffleheads gifted to me from a fellow taxidermist; a hen.  She was riddled with beebees, and I have to perform surgery on her broken leg and wing:

Delicately fusing bones beats airbrushing fish any day, if you ask me.

When I got home that afternoon I took a stroll back into the woods to see if the deer carcass was still there.  Nope.  Completely gone.  I decided to venture farther back though, and here's what I saw:

For my husband:

Although there wasn't a beaver in sight; clearly they've been active back here.

Behind the house is a hill that opens up into a large  expanse of land.

The view is glorious.

Farther up, there are more woods.  I walked down the trail a bit, but it started to get dark and the leaves were slippery so I headed back.

I went back to the cabin, took a bath and read "Good in Bed" (which I really didn't want to like but wound up loving.  Any female who has struggled with body image issues should read this book.) with a glass of wine.


I listen to the radio a great deal these days; I'm spending so much time in a car and I actually prefer the radio over CDs.

There seems to be a lot of classic rock, which happens to be my FAVORITE genre of music.  I think I was born about twenty-five years too late; as my heart is right at home with all things seventies.  A few songs I  hear almost once a day:

Midnight Rider: UGH this song is so good it makes me scream. (it could be that the Allman Brothers Band is SO FREAKING HOT)  I'm surprised Jay-Z hasn't has remixed the guitar hook in anything yet.  It's begging for it.

Hot Child in the City.  I had no idea a man sung this.

The first two weeks of school, the radio we listen to all day was tuned to a soft rock station.  I love soft rock, and had no problem humming along with Kelly Clarkson and Celine Dion and Mike McDonald.  No. Problem.

Then the weather changed and Magic 93 wouldn't come in clearly so now its Cat Country 96FM all day, every day.  And guess what?  I actually enjoy country music.  There was a brief period in my early twenties when I listened to contemporary (radio) country on the regular while recovering from a particularly nasty break-up.  One of my favorite songs at that time:

I still love it.

The thing that annoys me about so many country songs though is how many of them are solely about  "being country".  It's not unlike the old trend in hip-hop of devoting entire songs to how much shit they buy and how many bitches they have, etc.  The country songs about being country all seem to squeeze in at least one dig at "big cities" like New York and LA, and are almost pathetic in their thinly veiled attempt to convince you that they are more genuine than city folk  and are proud to be called white trash.  It's exhausting. Example:

Some of its good though, and my favorite song du jour is "I Need you Now".  Possibly the dumbest video ever made unfortunately:

"A pice of ass that'll make you cry."

More airbrushing today.

Groan.  Here I am, working my magic:

Side note- living a basically solitary life has rendered my wardrobe choices unchecked.  I wear whatever I want every day without considering who will see me, and I really feel that I'm tapping into my inner free fashion spirit that died a bit when I was a kid and realised people say things that make you want keep your true colors tucked away.  I'm having a wardrobe revolution!

Here is my Blue Gill, all finished.  Not terrible, but I was getting super frustrated with my airbrush and made several mistakes.  I really don't like airbrushing.

I do like fish teeth though.

Finished Perch.  This one turned out better than the rest.

And here is my finished Rainbow Trout:

There's some amusing graffiti about a mile from the cabin.  Oh, kids.  I wonder what they do out here?  Smoke weed and spray paint abandoned buildings I guess.

I'd like to think that if I ever had children, I would raise them out in the country...but judging from the ever-present meth problem out here, and lack of teen-oriented activities, I wonder if it's really any better than the city.  I take that back, actually.  I'll bet there are teen-oriented activities but I just don't know any teens.

I went home and worked out, then reconnected with an old friend on the phone.   Movie du jour was "Whatever Works" which was surprisingly delightful, and I have to admit that Evan Rachel Skank is actually great in it.  So good in fact, that I forgot it was her.

"You ain't never used a chainsaw before? Country virgin!"

Today we began airbrushing our fish.  I quickly realised that this is NOT my forte.  I actually prefer the way the fish look dried and pre-painted, no eyes.  Just shells of themselves.  Here's my Blue Gill:

Same fish, now with eyes and some coloring:

Her's my Perch, dried and pre-paint:

All fish have anal vents.  For a competition mount, omitting that feature would probably ruin any chances of placing.  Poop shoots are recreacted with sculpting epoxy.

Here is one of my Trouts with his artificial head and eyes:

Here is another Trout with original head and epoxy coating:

This Trout had a gimp fin; it was just a little nub.  Apparently this is a common defect in fish raised in hatcheries who are then released into lakes.  The hatcheries are cramped and they don't have room to properly mature.  Sometimes I think living in a city does that to people.

I replaced the offending part with a spare fin from another fish.

It was a bitter cold day, and windy to boot.  I took the scenic route home in an attempt to familiarize myself with the area.  I found a post office and a really intriguing property near the cabin where I'm staying called "tequila-ville".  I intend to walk by later and get a closer look, as well as photos.

"You're in like flynn."

Moooooooore fish.

Here is me carving a form for my Perch:

And here is my headless Trout:

Some taxidermists prefer to use artificial heads for fish like Trout and Salmon because the heads shrink significantly during the drying time.  There is also oil stored in the head cavity which must be removed, and then covered up aith sculpted epoxy.  It's more work, more time, and in commercial taxidermy not economical to fuss over something that can just be tossed out and replaced.

Sewing up my Perch:

I enjoy skinning fish as well as carving the forms.  Honestly though, I'm not excited by  fish wall mounts.  It does nothing for me.  Given my druthers, I'd be making a mermaid instead.

I drove home straight from school for an aerial gig that fell through.   Long story short, I'm learning that red tape, and how I choose to maneuver my way through it, will be a major theme in my life for the next year or so.

Here's me playing God with static in my room.


"Here's some fish eye for your coffee."

My instructor finds my never-ending stream of inquiries amusing.  Can you blame me?  I'm trying to squeeze out every ounce of knowledge I possibly can from this scholastic adventure.

Today I worked on my two Blue Gills, and began a large trout on which I will be using an artificial head.

Carving such small forms in the foam is delicate work.  Thankfully my little hands are extraordinarily nimble.

After the skin is cleaned of all flesh, it's good to soak it for a bit.

All sewn up and carded!

blub blub blub.

After school I went into the barn and played on my hoop:

then took a walk back into the woods to see if  the deer corpse I'd dragged out there had been enjoyed.  By the looks of it, yes.  SOrry for the low quality picture; the sun had set and light was fading.

I had a quiet evening consisting of a long bath, laundry, and the movie "Infamous", at which I wept during the end.  I think being immersed in death has made me even more sympathetic to the rest of the world.  As long as they keep their distance.

"You're about to get real stinky."

Today we began the fish course.  The other student was absent so I got a head start, which wound up being a good thing since she works about twice as fast as I do.  I learned how to measure the fish properly and carve a form for it out of a simple block of blue foam.  I used a trout (a Brook trout I think, but I could be wrong; they all start to look the same to me).  Then I skinned it and cleaned out all the flesh, which was rather odorous.

Next came stretching the skin over the form and sewing it shut.  Fins were carded to set in place and the specimen put aside out to dry for three days.

I can honestly say the stench didn't bother me that much.  After a few minutes you just get used to it.  And yes, I was drinking coffee the entire time, grabbing for my white mug with my gut covered hand and thinking nothing of it.  I was perplexed that no one had wanted to eat these fish, but Mr. B informed me that one of the students from a year ago had caught so many that they did in fact eat them, about 5o of them and  the rest were frozen.  I guess after a certain amount of time they're rendered inedible due to freezer burn.  Am I crazy for looking at the guts in my hands and being tempted to shove the in my mouth?  Especially the cheek meat!  I remember visiting friends in Basque, when my husband and I went to Saint Sebastian and tried the eat of a fish's cheek on bread.  It was unpararelled oral delight.   I am eager to buy an entire fish back home and get some of that for myself, as well as a beautiful mount.

I mounted another trout, this one I added some motion to the form to make the fish seem to be swimming:

Next I carved a form for a Blue Gill.

They're much smaller than Trout and have very large scales which made skinning a challenge.

I opened up to my instructor a bit about what my intentions with taxidermy are, and he showed me some old books featuring "novelty taxidermy" which has been around for longer than I'd imagined.  Perhaps I was a Victorian in a past life!

That afternoon I practiced my hoop and then sat in the side room by the wood burning stove with the guys and worked on a cross word puzzle.  I had to shower the fish smell off before I could eat dinner (I have limits!) and enjoyed chicken with steamed brocoli and risotto for dinner, with cranberry cosmos.

Between the deer and moose meat given to me by my instructor and the royal treatment I receive from my hosts, I am officially being spoiled rotten.

"never trust a man who wears a belt and suspenders at the same time"

Today we learned how to properly airbrush a fish to restore its natural coloring for posterity's sake.  It's really a shame that the colors fade in the scales, because no matter how talented the artist-nothing quite compares to nature.  I'm already scheming Trout skin wallets and rabbit mermaids in my not too distant future...

Here is the Trout, with color foundation added.  To show you the rest would give too much away, so there.

The demo took a big chunk of the morning and in the afternoon we added finishing touches on our pheasants, which we were then allowed to take home with us.  I will take professional shots shortly and post them here, as well as on my website.  I am still trying to come up with a name for my business once I get home and set up shop.  Something that appeals to a mass audience but lets my whimsical and humorous side leak through just a tad...

We got out of class a little early so I decided to work on my extracurricular activity-skinning a deer all by myself.

Here she is, laid out in her entirety.  A donation to me from a professional,  although she exhibits no real external wounds (aside from some blood around the mouth and ears), I soon discovered the internal was a completely new can of worms.

There was significant bruising and bleeding around the ribs and guts, the one leg bone was completely shattered from the second joint to the shoulder, and the skull was crushed as well.  Poor thing.  I know this picture is unsettling and graphic, but I also admire the pretty colors leaking out around the skin and flesh.

I wanted to use the legs on their own for either a wall-mounted thermometer or even a hat, who knows.  I tried sawing them off but the blade wouldn't cut through the bone.  Thankfully there were some bolt cutters in the shed next door and they snapped right through like  buttah. I couldn't help but cringe with each crackling cut as I imagined my own limbs being cut off in such a fashion.  This empathy I feel towards my specimen seems to be a constant thread running through my mind these days.  I feel sorry and thankful at once for these creatures, who have died by gun, gas or vehicle and wound up in my hands.  I am incessantly imagining every cut, tear and twist as though it were my own body lying there on the table.  I think of how surgeons open us up and swap parts on the regular, as though we as humans are nothing more than living rag dolls.

Does this make me sick?  I prefer to call it thoughtful.

Skinning out the head took a while; the hide didn't seem to want to stretch over the neck base of the skull so I had to make an extra cut and finesse it a bit.  Here are a couple shots of the nose and lips, pre-splitting.

I went inside to clean out the legs and was promptly informed  by Sarah that I absolutely STUNK.  So I showered, and came down to a lovely chicken dinner and martinis.  Sarah also built her first fire, which is somewhat of a triumph considering the trauma she's been recovering form since a fire claimed her home almost ten years ago.

After dinner we each had another cocktail and watched "Bringing down the House" to which I couldn't decide to be offended (more for the plot/script/fight scenes than the racial content) or amused.  We followed with some dessert cocktails and some Dr. Fart:


"I love trees, man. I'm a tree hugger."

Wednesday, 1/13/10:

Today I finished skinning my Merganser, and afterwards came the joy known as degreasing.  It's actually pretty cool; running the fatty skin along the wheel and watching it dissolve and fly away.  It gets tricky negotiating around any holes in the skin-they easily get caught on the wheel and the next thing you know there are feathers flying everywhere.  On the plus side, my hands feel luxuriously moisturized afterwards.

Cleaning up the machine reminds me of what liposuction must look like.

After degreasing comes the bath, comprised of a top-secret solution that only taxidermists are privy to.

The bird comes out of his bath, gets wrung out and tumbled in sawdust for a bit.  This fluffs the feathers back up.  I had to play doctor with mine before I stretched the skin over the mount, because he's broken his leg during his dying fall.  It was a delicate operation.

Now be a good boy and eat your medicine!!!

I am constantly reminded of plastic surgery...

Later on I went home, and did my usual hoop work-out routine.  We noticed that there were coyote tracks about twenty feet from the house and grew nervous about letting the cats out.  You know, after what happened to Daisy.  We even heard them howling later that night!

For dinner Sarah prepared the Venison with a cherry/apple chutney.  It was divine.  We also snacked on some deer and moose keilbasi that my instructor gave me.  It's great with a little mustard and cheese.

"I like that Sheryl Crow, man. She can sing. Madonna though, she's a pig."

Tuesday, 1/12/10:

Today we finished our Mallard mounts; I'm pleased with what a nice specimen I was able to work with but not entirely stoked about the mount itself. I found the skinning  a challenge and spent extra time sewing up my holes:

I think the eyes are a little wonky and I realised too late that I secured the tail into place a bit crooked.  Mistakes like this can be remedied by corrective positioning, but I'd prefer not to make the mistake in the first place.  Here is the rear-view; tail feathers are taped in place for drying.

We then began skinning our hooded Mergansers, which I was very much looking forward to.  My heart sunk just a tad though when I made my first cut and saw that this duck was even fattier than the last one!

Speaking of grease, water fowl such as these two species have built-in  glands from which they can extract oil with their beaks to distribute all over their feathers and aid in flotation.  I cut them out of my Merganser and discreetly packed them away in my bag, hoping to discover a use for what surely must be nutrient-rich oil.  It seems like such a waste to me to keep tossing body parts in a garbage can.

Once home, I did a little research and found this product in which one of the main ingredients is duck preening oil.  I've read mixed reviews of the cream online, but I figure using the oil straight from the source with no chemicals can't hurt.  Besides, I've put stranger things on my face.  I'll keep you posted.

For these specimen, the original skull is used which means it remains attached to the head.  It can be tricky to invert without ripping the skin, especially when the head is on the larger side.  Also, it takes some finesse to cut away from the delicate ear/eye area. Here is mine, worked down to the beak.  After this the skull gets cleaned, which just might be my least favorite part.  Sorry, no pictures for that one.

My fellow student gave me some Venison steaks from a deer her husband had bagged.  She can't stand gamey-type meat so it was a relief to get it out of her fridge.  I was quite thankful and promised to give her a full report on the resulting meal.

When I got home I felt unusually tired so I skipped my hoop workout and drew a long hot bath instead while Sarah made dinner (leftover pork chops and salad). 

The tub is enormous and displayed exquisitely, as is everything else in the house.  Just to be silly, I scattered some flower petals over the water before easing in with my People magazine.

And yes, I was so blissed out that I took a moment to document it by taking a picture of my feet.  The tub was almost too big; it was difficult for me to stay upright since I couldn't reach the end.  I eventually just gave into it and sank down until just my nose poked out of the water.  I think I must have zoned out because the next thing I knew if was completely dark.  I got my cozy clothes on and went downstairs, built a fire and ate dinner with Sarah while we watched more "Flight of the Conchords".  Afterward we enjoyed some White Russians while I painted my nails.

"Easy, Biscuit"

Monday, 1/11/10:

I managed to get my hands on a deer and an avian grab bag of sorts over the weekend which I was super excited about bringing into school today.  So excited, in fact, that I got on Rt 80 the wrong way and by the time I corrected my mistake and made it to school I was half an hour late.  I walked in on the middle of a fish demo.  We are in the midst of the bird course but a friend of Mr. B's is dying of cancer and called him over the weekend begging him to mount this trout that he's caught, ASAP as he only had however many days/weeks left.  I hear so much about cancer; it seems that everyone in B's family has survived/succumbed to at least one form of it, and the other student is all too familiar with it as well.  Is it a mountain thing?

Amway, he began by hand carving a form out of foam, and then gutting the fish.  The skin was stretched over the form and sewn shut in back .  I'm simplifying, obviously, because I can't be giving the entire process away...

Here is the trout face, with paper towels keeping the cheeks puffed out.   They will be removed later.  Look at that tongue!

Bottom view of head-Epoxy will be applied after drying to fill in gaps where form is exposed.

Bottom view of head; you can see the foam form peekng through a bit.  This will all be epoxied over after drying time.

Mounted Trout, with fins carded to keep them in an attractive and spread condition.

After the Trout was mounted and drying, we began skinning our Mallard ducks.  I found this to be more challenging than pheasants, since they are so fatty.  I managed to put several holes in my skin when degreasing it.  A slight reprise though came when I simply cut the entire head out of the duck, instead of inverting it and needing to clean the skull, which is SUCH a drag.  Apparently the beaks on Mallards simply have too much fleshy tissue on them so the method of choice is to airbrush artificial heads and stretch the skin over them.  Here is my removed duck neck and head.

I'm learning more and more about regulations on what I may and may not possess as a taxidermist.  The amount of permits I need to acquire to do just about anything is dizzying and somewhat disheartening, but I'm determined.   In class, I'm a frequent inquirer, constantly asking "do people eat that?", "How do you kill those?" and today my queries included but were not limited to making Trout-skin purses, the degree of edibility of fish eyes and applications for duck fat.  The answers I receive aren't always enthusiastic but I think he's accepting the fact that I won't stop pressing.

After school I went home and practiced on my hoop in the barn.  I'll take some video of that shortly; it's a fun structure to spin in.   My hosts stuck around and made dinner for Sarah and myself.  I brought her up to keep me from feeling too lonely and to give her an opportunity to work on some essays for school in a quiet environment.  Over dinner we learned the completely astounding circumstances which brought R & W to their dog, E.  A story book detailing this caper is in the works so I can't say much more but to say it's nothing short of mind-blowing would be the undeniable truth.

After our meal, the boys left to drive back to Philly and Sarah and I relaxed with Martinis (her first!) and "Flight of the Conchords".

Oh, and here's a taste of the local grocery experience:

Day Four

Today I skinned and stuffed my second pheasant, putting it in a closed (standing, wings shut) mount.  After skinning and removing all bits of fat and flesh, I gave it a bath.  Here it is drying.

After the bath the skin gets tumbled in sawdust for about five minutes and then dried and fluffed with a hair dryer.  I had a little more trouble working the wires through the legs of this guy, but again I am pleased with the result.  I am hoping that over time my speed improves, however; I feel like molasses every time I look over and see the other student about four or five steps ahead of me.  Thankfully she smokes so she can go outside and rest while I catch up.

The feathers are set with plastic wrap and my eye mistakes fixed with pins for now.  Later on I will create a proper environment for him to occupy, with reeds and moss, etc.

Later on we learned how to use our airbrush kits; I am not taking to it as easily as I'd like.  Once I master the control factor though, I should be golden.  After we had the basics down, we gave a bit of color to some duck feet and even painted some artificial Mallard heads!

I went home nad worked on my hoop, then ran errands and tidied up the cabin.  Afterwards I fixed myself a martini and watched "The Mother", which took two more martinis to undue the trauma inflicted upon me by the sheer unexpected and shocking content

Day Three

Today I finished my pheasant mount from yesterday; it is an open mount which means flying/wings spread.  I am quite pleased with the results, and take comfort in that the foundation of success in a craft such as this lies in taking the right steps in the right order.

The weather is the #1 topic of conversation around here; hunting being #2, and sometimes the two are mashed together.  Everyone talks about how cold it is but honestly I haven't found myself chilly at all.  Not like down in Philly, anyway.  Perhaps it's because I am in a house with adequate heating and the only time I'm really outside is to walk the ten steps to my heated car.  No biking in the harsh Philly winds for me!  I fear I'll get soft, but at least I've got my hoop to work out on and keep me somewhat conditioned.  It is cold out in the barn, but since I'm moving  I really don't feel it.  Plus I'm layered to the nines.  Every morning I usually put on at least two pairs of tights, thigh-hi socks, leg warmers, and steel-toed knee-hi combat boots.  I won't even go into the entire operation that is dressing the top half of me.

I am trying to wrap my head around the political views of the people I've met up here; I prefer to stay mum and keep an open ear before I form an opinion.  All I know is that I get confused when they talk about how much they miss Bush being in office, yet get really heated when the subject of global warming comes up: "these guys said there's no such thing, heh.  Look around!  The evidence is everywhere!  Idiots."  Correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't it the Bush administration that paid scientists to deny the existance of global warming?  Seriously, correct me if I'm wrong because I keep myself in a bubble and could be completely misinformed on this stuff.

I practiced on my hoop today and realised that leaving a metal ring in a below-freezing environment overmight not does not an ideal practice condition make.  I had to wear my gloves for the first twenty minutes which made gripping quite a challenge.  By the time I had warmed it up enough to be able to touch with bare hands, iI only had about 5 minutes of light left before it was pitch black.  The novelty of spinning upside down in the dark wore off quickly.  Tonight the hoop stays indoors with me.

Right now I am watching "Vanity Fair" and drinking a white russian.  I relate to this Becky Strong character; maybe it's the vodka talking but I feel I have the ability to adapt to any situation I'm thrown in and thrive .  I wouldn't call myself a social climber but I also wouldn't shy away form the term opportunist.

Day Two

We started the day off skinning deer heads; the two which belonged to the other student in fact.  We put the capes in the back room, salted them, and left them in a pile with the other skins to be sent to the tannery.

We then began working on our own pheasants.  Mr. B gasses the pheasants so the skin and feathers remain flawless, but it renders the meat inedible.  I'm dealing with the guilt of knowing this animal died just so I could make art out of it, and nothing more.  My morals are somewhat compromised but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for this education.  As I scrape meat off the bird skull with my fingernails, the smell of Dead permeates my nose and I force myself to like it.  I've never been too intimate with my meat, and in the past I've only used scalpels to cut specimen-never my bare hands.  I try to drink coffee while I work in a bizarre attempt to condition my stomach.  We learned today that when a skin isn't fleshed out and salted quickly enough the rot takes over and it really starts to stink.  These capes are called "spooks" and will taint the other skins.

Mr. B calls me "girl" when he comes by to check on my progress, always with a smile.  I think he has a soft spot for young women, particularly those who are easy on the eyes, so I embrace it.  I'll even be so bold as to say I might remind him just a bit of his granddaughter, whom is the apple of his eye.  He's also generous with the positive feedback which, in a scholastic setting, I am not accustomed to.

I rigged up my hoop in the barn when I got home, so I can practice aerials during the week.  Plus, I'm nowhere near a gym and the terrain isn't ideal for running outdoors, so this will basically be my sole source ofexcercise.  Unfortunately by the time I figured out what beam to use as a rigging point, and how to get up there, then actually hung it, it was too dark to use.  I went inside and did some yoga in front of a fire insteadwhile I watched "Donkey Skin" on DVD.  It's the only movie I brought up with me, and it has inspired me to only speak seulement en francais while I'm alone in the cabin with the cats.

The first half of my morning commute.


It's jazzy, right?

The Thaw

This is video footage of me going through the various treasures form my freezer; often I'll forget what I've stashed in there until I take it all out.

I also wished to acknowledge my appreciation of my place in the cycle of life.

First day of School

Day one:   I left the house a little after 6AM, the earliest I'd been out the door since my bagle-mongering days.  Mortified at the idea of being late on my first day,  I imagined the teacher- a sturdy and stoic army vet- towering over me and shaming me in front of the other students who would most likely all be guys.  I took a wrong turn and panick began to set in as I raced down the dark roads and finally pulled up to the school.  Oddly enough, there were no other cars in the parking lot.  I walked in to discover that not only was I early (class didn't begin until 7:30; I'd had 7am in my head) but there would only be one other student-a female!  Cripes.  I got my pathetic little frozen squirrel out of my bag and put it in the freezer just as the other student arrived with two enormous deer heads, a doe and a 7 point buck.  To say I felt inferior would be a slight understatement.

After a brief tour, Mr. B put us right to work fleshing out some deer capes and he taught us how to split lips and noses, and turn ears.  I took to it quickly, and was even told that I got an a+ for the day.  My insecurity faded.  Later he gave us a demo on skinning and mounting a pheasant, from A to Z.  I took notes furiously, and drove home to crawl into bed.  I dreamt that I ran a race and won.  Not just 1st place in my age category, or first female to cross, but WON.  The WHOLE DAMNED THING.
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