Monday, December 08, 2008

Tumultuous Times with Winter Arriving


Two degrees - that's what the thermometer said this morning. Winter really has arrived with a cold blast. So far just a dusting of snow here but some nice snow promised later this week. The sheep are now getting used to eating hay instead of nice green grass. The first few days, they aren't too keen on it but then their appetite gets the better of them and they all look forward to feeding time. The photo below shows The Farmer's Brother's hay, lined up neatly along his view at the top of his world - just waiting to be fed to his dairy cows.


We’ve had a few tumultuous weeks here on the farm. Last week, it felt like the world was falling in on me and my little family. I don’t want to share all the dirty details of it all – let’s just say the low-lights have been eight sheep being eaten by the coyotes, six sheep attacked and almost killed (let’s hope they get better). Everyday, we wake up and wonder what will happen next – how many animals will be injured, or worse yet dead. You don’t know how bad The Farmer and his wife (that would be me) feel upon checking your animals in the morning and find bloody animals or worse yet, a freshly killed 200 lb pregnant ewe with their stomach ripped out.

In the winter, our sheep live around the mountain from our farmhouse. We have a large greenhouse barn that has worked out really great for almost 20 years. But our house isn’t there and that means that noone is available to go out in the middle of the night to check on the sheep and the predator situation.

Eeyore the Donkey seemed to be doing his job for the first few days he was living at our winter sheep barn with the entire flock of sheep. (Jeremy our guard llama doesn’t seem to scare anything away anymore – the coyotes must be on to him.) Regular readers of this blog may remember a few weeks ago I spoke of seeing a pack of five coyotes about a mile up the road from the sheep. I was speaking with a wild life biologist yesterday and he said those five romping coyotes were probably a mom and her now full grown pups. I knew we would be hearing from those coyotes after I saw them. My heart sank when I saw how healthy and lively they were even though I also thought it was quite cool to see wild animals like that in broad daylight.


Everyday The Farmer put a new plan into effect to protect the sheep from the coyotes but as one sheep farmer friend said to him once – “No matter what you do, the coyotes will get in. They will find a way.” You would think five strands of high tensile fence with a charge that has knocked me on my butt backed up by hot electronet fence would deter them but I guess not. He just keeps trying.

For all of you who might want to suggest a guard dog or two -- yes, we have thought about them for years. Since we don’t live where the sheep are, The Farmer is too fearful of what those dogs would do to passersby. He feels it is too risky. We’re hoping to have the situation more under control by lambing season which starts in about 3 weeks. But as everyone knows, there really is no controlling “Mother Nature.” We just have to co-exist.

Worst of all, we had to tell Julia that the coyotes had killed her pet lamb Cora. Cora was Julia’s bottle lamb from a couple of years ago. She was a soulful, kind ewe. She let Julia rest on her fluffy wool backside, even after she was full grown and had raised her lamb. It was so hard to listen to Julia cry in disbelief. The only thing we could tell her was that we were sure there would be another bottle lamb next year. But honestly, I know, the next bottle lamb won’t be Cora. There will never be another Cora.


In the midst of all this, The Farmer has got to get this load of wood ash spread. (If you look real hard, you can see him standing in front of his tractor.) Instead of commercial fertilizer and lime, this year he found an alternative source of soil amendments for his hayfields. It’s an experiment that he hopes will increase the yields. That’s one big pile, isn’t it? The big pile of brown stuff next to it is wood chips for composting. The electric company has been trimming the trees along the lines. They were looking for places to get rid of the wood chips so we told them to dump them on our land for composting. It should turn into some nice soil amendments in a couple of years. And it was delivered for free – such a deal.

Never a dull minute around here.

25 comments:

Jennifer and Steve said...

I'm so sorry for all your animal losses. :( I love wild animals and I love pets and livestock. Death is never easy. I hope you two can find a way to lessen the sheep slaughter.

Good luck on the commercial fertilizer alternatives! That sounds great!

Thistledew Farm said...

Oh, Farmer's Wife, I am so sorry about your sheep. My mother raises a small herd near her house and occasionally a pack of wild dogs does their evil work. I do not like coyotes and don't mind if Farmer takes them out. There are to many and they aren't feeding on what they should be - they are going for the easy dinner - your babies.

Deborah said...

Oh, I'm so sorry about the loss of the dear sheep, and Julia's ewe, Cora. That's really tough.
The photo of sheep happily eating is a delight to see. I hope they stay safe!

Anonymous said...

I remembered Cora from the wonderful "friend" pictures you posted of her with Julia and was saddened to learn of her violent death. Growing up on a farm is full of tough lessons like this one but I don't think it gets any easier. I guess your job will be to help her keep her heart open. Hope you find a solution soon.

Melissa said...

I am heart-broken to hear of Cora and the other sheep passing. Poor, poor Julia. :( I hope the coyotes move on soon...

punkin said...

Oh no!! Cora! I am sorry.

ElvaUndine said...

Yikes. My thoughts are with you, and poor Julia. How awful about the pregnant ewe, I somehow forget how vicious the animal kingdom truly is. Thank you for writing honestly.

Willow said...

I am so sorry for all of you but especially Julia.

As I was reading I initially thought that the predators might have been human which would have made the situation ever so much worse. 'At least' (which is no consolation at all I know) the predators are simply doing what they are wired to do- find food. But I really do wish they'd find other food, not your sheep.

Anonymous said...

Kristin,

So sorry to hear... again... about the coyote problems. I've found that raising sheep has demonstrated to me- no, rubbed my nose in- the fact that there are forces in this world that are so opposed.

Fortunately, the coyotes here in NOrthampton, only 40 minutes south of you, are far more polite. They always respect electricity!

Diane

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear of the loss of so many of your sheep - especially Cora. I love nature, including Coyotes, but I am also not a farmer and have no idea what the loss of animals really mean to your livelyhood (or your souls to see the devestation up close)but the coyotes mean no malace. I have no solution to your situation either but I hope that it does work out for the best on both sides and no that the blogging world is out there listening and caring.

Suzanne said...

Oh, I am so sorry to hear about the sheep, especially Cora. What a hard lesson for Julia. Farming is not easy, I had relatives that had a dairy farm in VT while I was growing up.

Debbies Doodle said...

I love your pictures. We are a farm family from Indiana. Check out my story about Bell the Pig. Maybe it will give your daughter a laugh. It is always interesting to read about farms in other places..
Deb

http://debbiedohair.blogspot.com/

and my friends.. Kathy
http://mirrorlakebb.blogspot.com/

Heather L. said...

I'm sorry about the loss of sheep. How sad. Hopefully the coyotes clear out soon!

Mama Urchin said...

Oh, poor Julia. I've been talking with my five year old about how lions aren't mean for killing a zebra, they have to eat too. Still, it's a hard lesson to learn when you're a child and the coyote killed your favorite sheep.

Jennifer said...

Oh no! How dreadful. I'm so sorry to hear about this dreadful attack and loss of life. I'm especially saddened to hear about Cora. *Hugs*

sarah said...

Please tell Julia that I am so sorry about her dear Cora.

You can also tell her that I look forward to hearing her on the radio!

Hilary said...

I'm so sorry! It's hard to loose an animal, especially a pet.

Is it legal to hunt coyotes where you are? In Michigan you can kill them any time of the year as long as you have a small game license. Actually, no one cares if you kill them without a license, they're such a problem to farmers. Sounds like this renegade pack needs to go to the happy hunting grounds...

Hilary

Wester said...

Sometimes farming just takes my breath away...and not always for good reasons. We haven't lost any animals to predators, yet, but the wildlife damage to our crops has been significant. Some farmers I know adopt the "Shoot, Shovel and Shut Up" policy which I don't personally adhere to but I also understand where they're coming from.

I'm so sorry to hear about your troubles. Your Farmer sounds like a gem of a fellow and a typical farmer. Never giving up, continually looking for a better way, and always thinking things will get better. Gotta love 'em. I sure love my own Farmer.

Poor Julia. Broken little hearts are so hard on mommies, aren't they?

Have a wonderful Christmas Kristin. You, your family, and your lovely critters.

Except those darn coyotes.

Turtle said...

that is so sad about the animals. The coyotes have been bad out our way as well, but with small pets and children not sheep. It is frustrating even when you know it's nature. Hopefully they will move on.

Anonymous said...

Oh Kristin, I'm so sorry.
Please tell Julia that I will miss Cora, too. She was just the cutest!
I loved hearing the stories about her, and Julia's careful, thoughtful caring of her when she was a baby lamb.
I hope you find some good solutions for keeping those predators at bay.
You need a mean old Llama with an attitude!

Hope the next mornings are better,
Amanda (gr8aunt / Ravelry)

Anonymous said...

My heart is with you for the loss of Cora & your sheep friends.
very sincerely,
shell

Penny said...

My heart goes out to you and Julia and the Farmer upon your losses. I have upped my local produce purchases and hope that my efforts help other farmers, and by that extension you.

{hugs}

j said...

So sorry to hear about Cora; sorry for Julia, sorry for you and The Farmer- having to give her the news.

ColorJoy LynnH said...

Oh, no! Not Cora. What big, heavy-hearted sad news that is.

I am not as strong as you, I live in the city without pets or houseplants (or children). I always learn when you talk about your life, thank you for sharing.

Kate G. said...

Thanks for the update, Kirstin. Living in San Francisco I often forget the down side of farming. Coyotes are very resourceful and I was saddened to hear that they got Cora. I wish you and the Farmer the advantage in this fight.

Also, I was fascinated with the Farmer's resourceful use of soil amendments. Way to go on recycling!