Saturday, December 27, 2014
Predators and Prey, Protectors and Observers
After the normal morning feeding chores and letting the captive sheep out to frolic in the field, and don't forget the ancient donkey, She was bellowing loudly to be let out this morning. During the warmer months we let her stay in or stay out as she pleases but now that it's so wet she likes to stay in at night but by morning feeding time she is ready to go back out. Anyway I ran the heaters all night in the cabin and sure enough the flooring laid down a bit better and needed to be trimmed up a bit more as I expected.
Then my Mother wanted to go look at quarter round trim. She actually surprised me and went to one of those surplus junk and bulk building material places and found some pretty decent trim for like 10 cents a foot. While we were there I came across a few things like a 10 pack of those 300 yard range large army targets for $2.00 and a caulk gun for 99cents that I couldn't pass up. On the way out I found a bucket of lead wheel weights for a $1.00 a pound too. That's a bit over spot price but with no shipping comes out to a pretty good deal so I snatched up all 20 pounds of them they had.
On the return trip it began snowing pretty heavily believe it or not so I finished trimming the flooring and then sat out under her covered porch and watched it snow. Until we pick up whatever she is going to use for wall covering I am at a stand still and it is too wet to do much around the place right now anyway. Besides I need a break my shoulders are still screaming at me.
As the snow kept falling and I was silently enjoying the crisp air under the overhead cover the barn yard and area around the buildings started coming to life with all the hundreds of life forms that are dependent on the Small-Hold.
After the sheep are finished with their grain the birds come to clean up and also hit the bird feeders themselves. Today I counted well over a dozen pairs of Redbirds along with small woodpeckers and other assorted flying critters. The rabbits cautiously creeped into the mating pen and began foraging around the sheep feeders for missed grain as well. One of the communal half feral cats came up from the field to see if there was any food left in the barn (there was I always put some out for the vagabonds). A little later the neighbor's dog came over and finished off what the cat left.
That is one smart dog too. He figured out how to jump on the seat of my garden tractor and jump over to the top of the stored feed bags to get to the shelf I put the cat food on. I have to constantly find a different spot for it to keep him from eating it all.
At one point the coyotes came out into the back of the field to see if the yearling lambs were maybe too far away from safety but the Donkey immediately went on point and stared em down and eventually the big lead mare trotted down that way and ran em off for good. A large Redtailed hawk cruised by hoping to catch a mouse or a rabbit out in the open but the dog spotted it and when it landed on a fence post he was in hot pursuit barking the whole way so the hawk went on looking for a less noisy spot. Not sure why that dog dislikes birds of prey so much but when they fly over he always runs after them barking until they leave.
I haven't seen any quail in months around the barn yard though. I think the stray cat population has finally chased them away along with my brush clearing. They have had to move further down to better protected areas. I still hear them all Summer long but they no longer venture up close like they were. Even though I don't have the small pond completely fixed yet I have done enough work on it that it is holding some water most of the year and I think the quail have moved down there these days.
Sometimes I just enjoy sitting out quietly and watching all the wildlife that hangs out around the Small-Hold. Creating areas that sustain other critters besides the sheep could prove useful in a long term grid down situation. Further down into the back area among the trees the squirrels are returning and a small herd of deer routinely use it for bedding down during the day. I have also seen some Turkey signs that way occasionally.
A small farm is more than just a place for producing human food though, it's an entire ecosystem all it's own and during the Winter months especially wild life seem to gather in close. Come the first real snowfall the barn will be full of birds sheltering there as well as the livestock.
As long as we don't start seeing any predators larger than the coyotes I am happy and not too worried. If I ever see a bear or cougar track though, and there have been sightings recently not but a few miles off, I might have to worry a bit. Also the eagles are another concern. They managed to kill four lambs at my neighbors down the road a couple of miles this Summer although I haven't seen any here in over a year. They mostly stay closer to the rivers and large creeks but two years ago I did have one that flew over fairly regularly. Gotta keep your eyes open.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!