Baby kittens are right up there at the top of the list of the best things about living on a dairy farm.

While skunks, on the other hand, are right up there at the top of the list of the worst things about living on a dairy farm.

Last weekend, we had both.

We got a preview of what was to come on Friday night when the eau de skunk wafted into the barn during evening milking. I always hate knowing there's a skunk around, but not knowing exactly where it is. I'm sure I looked more than a little paranoid as I carried the bottles out to the bull calves in the hutches.

On Saturday night, the smell returned, and so did the critter.

I was in the house putting the kids to bed while Glen finished chores, so I missed all of the action. The only sign I had of anything happening outside came from Ozzy, our Australian Shepherd.

Anytime there's something amiss outside, Ozzy will slip through the front door the minute someone opens it. Ozzy is not a house dog by any means, so he is promptly escorted back outside. The kids would love to keep him inside, but his eau de barn is very strong and I'm afraid he'd quickly overheat in his ultra-shaggy coat.

On Saturday night, Ozzy zoomed into the house and I had to drag him back outside by his collar. Then, as soon as I closed the storm door, he rounded and was scratching on the door as if possessed. Ozzy is a 75-pound dog; I thought he might actually do some damage if he continued. So I let him back in the house. I grabbed the baby gate to quarantine him in the entryway. At least then the whole house wouldn't smell like hot barn dog.

When Glen got in, Ozzy's demand for refuge in the house finally made sense.

Glen said he was letting cows out when he had a feeling he should check the machine shed for the skunk. It's unreal how often this sixth sense of his is right. Glen calls it his Jedi force. I've never seen him exhibit any other supernatural powers, but he does have an uncanny way of knowing when something is happening on the farm.

Following his sense, Glen grabbed his .410 gun and went up to the machine shed, which, at this point, is housing very little machinery and lots of hay. The shed also houses our free-range chickens, which have nest boxes, roosts and a feeding area in one corner.

Sure enough, just inside the doorway, Glen found the biggest, fattest skunk we've ever seen. Pepe; Le Pew was quickly dispatched.

After Glen replayed the encounter, I was immediately glad that Ozzy was in the house and nowhere near the skunk, even if he did try to take our storm door off.

The proof of Pepe's demise could be smelled all across the farm on Sunday. By the time we finished morning chores, I was nauseous from the smell. The kids ran around with their noses pinched shut. Even our milk truck driver said he looked twice before stepping out of his truck after the stench assailed him.

The odor clearly bothers other animals, too.

Ozzy walked up to the dead critter, apparently intent on investigating. He quickly backed away, snorting and shaking his head.

The mama cat who was hiding her litter of kittens in the machine shed must have had enough of either the smell or the ruckus. During the night, she relocated all six kittens to our office in the barn.

That morning, Glen announced after first walking into the office, "Bad news: the office smells like skunk. Good news: we have new kittens."

The kittens only smelled faintly of skunk, but the mama cat got a big enough dose of spray to make the office reek.

Skunky or not, the kids were delighted to see the kittens. We knew the mama cat had delivered, but we hadn't found the litter yet. Six plump, gray, fluffy kittens kept the kids busy all day. The kitties are just big enough to withstand being handled by kids, but not so big that their bites and scratches do any real damage. In other words, they're the perfect size for taming.

Even us adults enjoy watching the little furballs scampering around. The mama cat brought her first litter of the year into the barn in June, so we watched kitten antics all summer. A couple times, I even caught Glen snuggling the little gray one with white boots. Those kittens are almost full-grown now and don't like cuddling as much.

It'll be nice to have a new litter of kittens to cuddle with and keep us entertained - especially after the skunk smell wears off.