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Posts Tagged ‘fox’

The Downside of a Submissive Dog

Poppy the puppy is a submissive dog.  She is so submissive that she tends to piddle on the floor if I yell too loud.

 

I am not used to having a submissive dog.  Fox the husky mutt is anything but submissive – if you give her a command like, say, “sit”, she’ll look at you for a bit while she decides if she’s going to do it or not.  Mostly she does, but she lets you know it’s her choice.   Cherry the bull mastiff is pretty dominant, too, though not as bright as Fox.  Cherry will sit…eventually.  After you get her attention, and maybe remind her a couple of times.  Poppy, however, will hit the floor instantly, tail wagging, hoping to get some praise or a treat.  In fact, she’ll sit before she’s told to, in the hopes of getting a little attention.

 

This tendency has made Poppy a treat to train – she tries really really hard to figure out what it is you want, and, once she’s got it, she is quick to respond to commands.  She is eager to please, whether you have a treat in your hand or not.  Just praise makes her ecstatic…unlike the other two, who need a bit more…tangible…motivation.

 

Last night, as I was going out to milk the goat, I could hear a fox yapping, fairly close to the house.  Poppy routinely wakes us up by growling and making little half-barks when the foxes start yipping at night, and last night was no exception.  I looked at Hubby and asked if he thought she’d come back when I called if I let her out to chase off the fox.  I know Fox the dog would be gone like a shot, and would spend the night trying to dig the foxes out of their den, and there’s no way she’d come back when called.  Even Cherry would probably take off chasing them, and be unlikely to come back until she had been thoroughly stymied.  Hubby wasn’t sure what Poppy would do, but we decided to try letting her loose.

 

So, as I went out to the barn, I let Poppy out.  Just as we were going down the back step, a fox yipped and rustled the bushes just north of the house.  Poppy gave a little bark, and then…looked at me.  Expectantly.  She looked at me as if to say ‘well, what are you going to do about this?‘.

 

It hit me then that Poppy is not protective of us, because to her, we are the tough guys.  She has been letting us know all along that we have a problem with foxes close to the house, but she seems to think it’s the humans’ job to do something about it.  Bleh.

 

Unfortunately, the dogs who will do something about it, won’t stay close to home like they’re supposed to…

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Trouble At The Henhouse.

Just after hitting “post” for my last blog entry, there was a terrible noise in my front yard.  it sounded like roosters fighting, except our two remaining roos have been physically separated so that they quit damaging each other.  I got up and looked out the front door, and there was a fox savaging one of my hens.  Oh, damn.

 

I ran out to chase the fox off, then ran back in to get gloves and shoes so I could dispose of the carcass.  However, the carcass started trying to run away from me when I went to pick it up – my hen was injured, but not dead, and able to run from me, which I took to be a good sign.  I scooped her up and took her to the back porch, where I installed her in a rubbermaid container to recover.
While I was doing that, the fox made off with four more hens.  Or maybe the fox made off with the other four first, I don’t know.  I do know that when I went out to round everyone up, there was a terrible racket in the bushes – the fox was doing its creepy fox-shriek, and I could see flashes of its fur through the underbrush.

 

I went to chase it off, as it was pretty close to the chicken coop, and there was Bobby the barn cat, standing over a hen, holding her ground against a creature three times her size, calmly swatting at the fox every time it tried to swoop in and make off with its meal.  I don’t know if Bobby was protecting “her” hen, or just wanted to eat it herself, but it was pretty incredible to see her face down the fox as it shrieked and charged her, over and over.  It took me a minute to get to her, as I am ungainly and the scrub was pretty thick, but I did eventually chase the fox off and scoop up cat and hen, one under each arm, to go back to the house and check for damage.

 

Bobby was fine, but the hen, though alive, was in rough shape, with deep puncture wounds under her one wing.  She did not seem to be suffering, so I set her up in her own sick bay next to the other live hen, but she died in the night.   We never found the other three hens.

 

So our flock has gone from 12 to 8 hens, in one fell swoop.  Very disappointing.  We could shoot the fox, I suppose, but I don’t know how much point there is to that, what with the skunks, coyotes, and wolves, not to mention the neighbour’s dogs.  We knew there had occasionally been a fox in the yard, but it hadn’t shown itself much, and we figured the dogs being loose was keeping it from hassling our critters.  Then, of course, the dogs ran off, and have been mostly tied up since, so I guess the fox got bold.  I guess we’ll be looking at building more and better fences…

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Last night, something was sitting under our bedroom window, making noises more suited to a late-’80’s alien-action-horror flick starring Arnold Swarchenegger or Sigourney Weaver than to a quiet northern acreage at 11:30 pm.  It was certainly loud enough to wake us up, and prompted yet another discussion that veered into imagination.  I’ll spare you the specifics, but it might have involved aliens scouting our turnabout as a landing pad for the mothership…Anyways, we could hear ‘it’ moving around the yard for several minutes, making those otherworldly sounds.  Creepy.

I went looking on youtube for some identification of the noise, as I have been suspecting foxes for the werewolf-harpy noises the other night, based mostly on the fact that they are the only small canines we’ve seen here, and we’re far enough from neighbors and civilization to effectively rule out a pack of rabid chihuahuas.  However, I had not found the specific sounds that we’d heard.

Until I was searching for the mini-Predator this morning, that is.  I never did find that one (no, it was not a crow, I know that one, and it was a different noise entirely).  Here are some of the werewolf and harpy noises:

At least now we know what woke us up on Thursday night…

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There is a concept in permaculture, in which you re-frame a pest or a nuisance into a resource to be used.  As in, here at the Acreage, we don’t have too many mosquitoes…we have not enough chickens.  Or, rather, chickens in the wrong places.  After thinking for awhile about the million billion trillion mosquitoes in the barn, we decided to try putting some chickens in with the goats.

 

After milking and feeding were done, Hubby guarded the chicken coop door, while I grabbed ten chickens at random, and heaved them over the Ladies’ stall door.  The goats immediately started following the chickens around, wanting to check out these new creatures, chasing them all over the stall.  We had ten very put out chickens for about five minutes, but once the goats were over their curiosity, the chickens got down to mosquito eating.  They were very efficient – so efficient that they cleared the stall of mosquitoes, including pecking several right off the goats!

 

We opened the Ladies’ door to the goat yard, admitting another flood of bugs, and retreated to the house to deal with the milk.  By evening chores, we had two goats and ten chickens, all bunched together in the yard, hanging out.  Milking was much less of an ordeal than it has been recently – I only got bit twice, and Saffron was hardly bothered at all.  Now, we are trying to figure out how to give the chickens access to the rest of the barn without letting them up on the hay stack – goats are extremely picky eaters, and I don’t want to run the risk of the chickens pooping on the goat hay and ruining it.  What I would really like to do is free-range the lot of them, but we’ve seen a red fox in the yard, within twenty feet of the house, twice in the last three days, so I somehow doubt the chickens would last long outside of the fence.  Oh, well, at least the bug problem is somewhat solved…

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Saskatchewan is apparently having a record year for bugs, particularly mosquitoes.  That is pretty impressive in a province where mosquitoes are jokingly referred to as the provincial bird.   It contributes to a high level of general misery here on the Acreage, as every mammal on the place is being mobbed constantly.  The barn cats go, quite literally, crazy, rolling around on the hay pile, trying to scratch the bugs off.  The dogs do their business, and make a beeline back to the house, where they retreat to the living room to scratch at their poor bug-bitten snouts with their front paws.

 

The mosquitoes bother poor Saffron the goat so much that milk production goes substantially down on calm-ish, damp-ish mild days like we have had lately – she is so busy trying to get the mosquitoes off that she hardly touches her grain, and there is the additional challenge of trying to keep her from putting a foot in the milk bucket when I am trying to milk, and she is trying to kick the mosquitoes off her udder.

 

The only critters not bothered by the mosquito invasion are the chickens.  They eat them.  Hubby does not mind the chicken part of the barn chores at all right now…the coop is one of the only respites on this whole place, right at the moment.  He hangs out and watches the birds eat the bugs, while poor Saffron and I get eaten alive at the milking stand.  We need to get those chickens free-ranging, but the fox that keeps trotting across our back lawn has really been discouraging us from letting the birds out without a good, strong fence.

 

Hubby, who is not overly fond of the heat, has been wishing for 30+ degree days, just so that he can get into the garden to do some weeding.  Even dripping with the highest-percentage DEET formulations we can find, we are just moving meals for the plague of bugs around here.  On hot days, they go to ground for awhile, and we can at least move somewhat freely around the mowed parts of the Acreage.

 

Mosquitoes love the bush and tall grass, so even though I can see ripe Saskatoon berries in the forest, we cannot reasonably pick any of them.  I braved the forest for about four minutes a couple of days ago, and despite being mid-day and 30 degrees, and me being quite literally dripping with bug spray, I was chased out before I even got to the berry bush I was trying to pick.  The problem is the thick undergrowth and chest-high grass where the bugs find shelter.   There are so many stray branches and lumps and bumps and occasional rocks on the ground that it is impossible to mow anywhere near the forest, so the grass has really gotten out of hand.

 

After brainstorming for awhile, we decided to buy a scythe.

 

I know, I know, most normal people would get a weed whacker.  Electric is not an option, though, and gas powered anything is a real pain in the butt out here, as we are half an hour from a gas station, and always seem to forget to fill the jerry can when we are in town.  These delicate machines seem to break on me with alarming regularity, and they are expensive!  I reasoned that a scythe, while not exactly cheap, should require only minimal repair over its lifetime, like, say, tightening a bolt on one of the handles, or sharpening the blade.  The input, muscle power, is plentiful around here, unlike gasoline at $1.20 per litre.  I hate the noise of the mower (I can’t stand the vacuum, either), so a weed whacker would just be one more annoyance, whereas the swish-swish of a scythe is actually kind of pleasant.  Once my back heals up, there is a fair chance I will even do some of the grass cutting, a duty that  generally falls to Hubby just because I hate the noise of the lawnmower so much.

 

The other bonus is that the scythe goes through chest high grass quite nicely, and leaves nice, neat piles of greenery that are easy to scoop up and dump in the goat troughs.  The goats love it.  We may even try cutting the back pasture and leaving it to dry for hay…why not, if it’s free?  After just a few minutes’ practice, I can see that Hubby will be able to really motor with that thing – it might even be faster than a lawnmower, at least in the really tall grass.  The big trick will be keeping Molly the barn cat out of swinging range…

 

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