Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’


We knew it was going to be a busy summer, and it has lived up to expectations.  A toddler and a new baby, on top of the goats, chickens, garden, and regular maintenance work has us feeling like we’re going 100 miles an hour, all the time!  Hubby has even wished out loud that winter would just hurry up already, so we can rest a bit.  I completely disagree, and want summer to go on and on, but then again, I haven’t been doing any of the heavy work.


Our garden has exceeded expectations.  The squash is taking over the lawn, and we have so many beans and zucchini that I’ve been selling them to colleagues.  For a garden that is less than a quarter of the size of the original, it is really producing!  We do need more space – we did not grow potatoes or corn this year, and the garden bed is packed so tight that we have to do quite a bit of watering, but the yield so far is still more than I expected.


2014 garden


A shot of the other side of the garden, where the squash is really going nuts:


squash in the lawn


We also have raspberries coming out our ears.  I love raspberries – they are one of my favorite fruits, but they are always expensive, and often hard to find, outside of the little $5 clamshell packets from California.  So, our first year here, I planted lots of raspberry canes.  I probably overdid it.  No, I definitely overdid it.  We ended up with two 80 foot rows of berry plants, that have since grown together into one massive raspberry patch:


raspberry patch

I don’t really mind, though.  We have more berries than we can pick or use right now, but what we don’t use, the birds and other wildlife will appreciate.  In fact, I hadn’t really thought about it, but that huge raspberry patch is excellent habitat for a whole lot of critters, ranging from the fairly enormous “ohmygod what on earth is THAT” bugs that I’ve never seen before, but which were out in abundance this year, to spiders and even finches.  While I was picking, I came across a bird’s nest with a baby bird and all!   I saw it just in time to avoid knocking it off its perch, so I carefully marked the spot so that I could come back with the camera, then avoid that bit of the patch until the little bird had grown up:


goldfinch nest

I am pretty sure this is a goldfinch nest, mostly because they are the only common bird around here that I know of that nests in the fall.


Looking around at all of the bounty we have here to use and share, I truly feel rich.



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I grew up in a city.  Not a huge city, but a city, nonetheless.  My father is a talented hobbyist wildlife photographer, and I grew up thinking of deer, foxes, moose, and the like as an opportunity to take photos.


red fox on the driveway

It’s a little different, now.   While the foxes and coyotes are still cute, they’re also a threat to my chickens.  We tolerate them, for now, on the principle that anything we managed to eliminate would probably be replaced within days, by some other predator that isn’t bright enough to stay out of the chicken coop.  Our last major chicken incident was almost two years age, despite the fact that there’s always a few chickens loose; apparently the coyote, raccoon, skunks, foxes, and other critters we don’t already know about are well-fed enough to leave the birds alone.  Probably because they’re all foraging in the compost pile, but I digress…


The other thing about the predators is that they do contribute to keeping down the bunny population.  I know, it’s Easter and all, but those blasted bunnies have managed to strip the bark off literally half of our orchard…


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They’re cute and all, but I still wish I were faster with the gun.



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Last Saturday, Hubby went out to do chores, and found our buck laying dead in the barn.  Just…dead.  There was no sign of illness or injury; no blood, pus, mucous, cud, diarrhea, lumps, bumps, bruises…nothing.  He was found laying on his side in the straw, but there was no sign that he’d had convulsions or anything.  No indication at all of what might have happened.  The buck was a little on the skinny side, but had been eating and drinking normally as of the night before, perky and being a nuisance when the boys were being fed.


I immediately called our breeder to ask if he had any ideas.  He asked us about our worming program.  I had postponed worming, because I picked up the dewormer after the does had been bred; the directions on the package indicated it wasn’t to be used in pregnant cattle (there are never instructions for goats, alas), and I couldn’t find any information about whether or not it might be safe in goats.  He also asked about supplementation.  We give a bit of fortified goat ration, and a blue cobalt salt block, but the breeder informed me that this probably isn’t sufficient – our area is deficient in selenium, and the goats probably also need more copper and maybe calcium than the ration would contain.  Between those things and the extreme cold (it was -35 that night), the breeder indicated he might have just died due to poor condition.  Of course, he could be fine on all counts and just have dropped dead of a heart attack or aneurysm, too, and there’s no way to know for sure, short of a post-mortem, which I’m not willing to pay for at this point – we’ll need that money to buy a new buck.


I have this nagging feeling like we might have killed our awesome boy through ignorance and neglect, though, and we’re both pretty cut up about it.   He was such a docile and friendly buck, and we’re breeding for attitude, so he was perfect in that regard.  He’d really become a pet, as we knew we planned to keep him more or less forever.   We’d gotten completely attached.


On Saturday, I finally sucked it up and tried eating goat cheese.  With Baby M having such a violent and extended allergic reaction when I eat any cow products, I had been too chicken to try any alternatives.  I have been working up my courage since before Christmas.  So I made up a pizza on a gluten-free crust with home-made goat ricotta, mushrooms, onions, pineapple, and peppers.  It was absolutely divine, after six months without a bite of cheese.


Baby M did not react at all.  I would have been dancing a happy dance if not for the black cloud hanging over our heads with the loss of the buck.


I’ve been finding a way to work cheese into pretty much every meal since…


Tuesday, while I was out doing chores in the girls’ yard, I got this creepy feeling like I was being watched.  I glanced around at the girls, who should have all had their heads in their grain buckets; the three older does were all looking to the north, ignoring their grain entirely.  I looked around, too, and didn’t see anything…until it moved.  A huge coyote, slinking out of a derelict building that is not at all far from the girls’ pen.   I’m certain it was a coyote and not a wolf, but it was a seriously large coyote.  And bold!  It sat down in front of the building and just watched us.  I charged that general direction, yelling and flapping my arms; the coyote moved a few steps and sat down again.  I grabbed a chunk of snow and threw it…if my aim had been better, I might have had better effect – but the coyote just moved a few more steps before sitting down again.   Eventually, it wandered off, but the girls and I were all spooked.


After chores, I got the dogs, and went exploring around the area.  The coyote had been into the compost pile; Hubby knew something had been digging in there, but had blamed Poppy, or thought maybe it was a skunk.  There were pretty well-established trails in and out of the bush, suggesting this critter has been hanging around for a while.  I am not sure what our next course of action should be.  We could try to trap or shoot the coyote, but I don’t know if it’s worth the hassle.  There are still all the foxes, plus plenty of other coyotes, waiting to take this one’s place.  I am not so worried about the goats, especially since they go in the barn at night, but the cats are at risk, and the chickens are pretty vulnerable.  The snow has effectively reduced my five foot fences to about three feet – even the non-drifted areas are up well past my knees, and the snow around the goat and chicken yards is packed fairly solidly from us and the critters walking on it.  My biggest worry is when the goat kids come.  The goat yard is easily approached from the bush, and a kid would be pretty tempting for a hungry coyote.  I haven’t seen the coyote since that day, but we know it’s still hanging around.


There has been so much piling up that it’s almost hard to tackle writing a blog post about it.  However, in short, it’s been a rollercoaster of a week – we’ve been down (way down) about the loss of our buck, up about the possibility of me being able to eat cheese again, and worried about that stupid coyote.  Bleh.  I’d rather things were boring…


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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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Hubby was checking out the not-quite-fenced-yet buck yard this afternoon, and found a hole.  Apparently quite a large hole, running straight down alongside one of the fenceposts we recently installed.  He beat a quick retreat, and came into the house to ask me what I thought might have dug such a hole.


“A badger, probably” I replied.


“So, what am I supposed to do about that?” Hubby asked.


“I don’t know.  Try filling the hole in.  If whatever’s in there digs it out again overnight, we’ll figure out some more drastic measures.”


“But what if it really IS a badger?”




“I mean, it might leap out of the hole and savage my leg…”


“Then hit it with the shovel,” I replied.


Hubby does not seem to understand that badgers are not much bigger than a large cat, or maybe a Jack Russel Terrier.  He seems to think that they are carnivorous creatures that are large enough to tear your leg off.  Hubby is currently reading me internet an internet article about how to get rid of badgers, and apparently placing lion dung around the mouth of their burrow will chase them off.


“See,” Hubby says, “They ARE dangerous.  That’s what they’re scared of…lions.  Lions!


He just doesn’t want to admit that he’s afraid.  Perhaps I will have to shame him by going out and filling in the hole myself…

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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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I woke up in the middle of the night again last night (this has been an on and off running theme for months), as my back was sore enough that I could not sleep.  I got up, went to the bathroom, looked out the window (clear, lots of stars, sliver of a moon rising over the northeast shelter belt), and took an ibuprofen.  I farted around on the computer for an hour, waiting for the painkillers to kick in, then headed back to bed.


Unfortunately, I bumped Hubby’s feet on the way, as they were hanging off the end of the bed and into the narrow corridor between bed and dresser, that I had to navigate in the dark to get to my own side.  “Huh?  What time is it?”  He grunted as he woke.


“About 4:30”.


I crawled into bed and tried to get comfortable.   I don’t think I had been laying there for more than a few minutes when there was this piercing shriek-y howl off in the distance.  Not coyote – we hear coyote most nights, and it sounds nothing like that.  Then, more shrieking, cackling voices joined the howl, getting closer and closer to the house.  Some sounded like they might be in the forest behind the house, even.  It was one of the creepiest noises I have ever heard, only slightly less hair-raising than a cougar cry.


“Can you hear that?” I asked Hubby, “Sure is freaky…”


“Werewolves.” He replied.


“Can’t be, the moon’s not full.  Sounds like harpies to me”.


“Too low – harpies fly”.


We debated for a minute about where we might have left the silver bullets, but the cacophony dropped off, back to one freaky voice in the distance, then died altogether.


I had some weird dreams after that.


Sure wish I knew what creatures had really made that noise…

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This was less than a mile from the house.  We decided that another couple gallons of chokecherries was not worth a bear encounter, particularly since there was at least one set of little tracks to go with the big ones – I have no interest in disturbing a momma bear in the berry patch.  Might explain why the alpacas were going nuts the other night, too.  I think we’ll be picking up a bear banger or two…

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Hubby and I have been going for a lot of nature walks lately, as walking seems to help my back, and I have been particularly sore.  I have been taking an identification book for edible wild plants, just for fun, and always keep a few ziploc baggies with me, in case we see anything interesting to pick.  My mother and father were both interested in edible wild foods, as was an auntie who I spent a lot of time with as a child.  There are numerous plants around here that I can identify with a glance, and know what it is good for, be it food, seasoning, or herbal medicine.  I had forgotten about that, after so many years of living in town, and mostly visiting parks and ‘tame forests’, or going high up in the mountains, where the plants are less familiar.  It is fun to be able to walk down by the river and point out to Hubby: “Hey, look, that one is a wild hazelnut!  We will have to come back here in a couple of months.  Oh, and here are some Saskatoons that are almost ripe!”


I have been picking things that I think are particularly tasty or useful, like rose petals and yarrow.  There is an important element of conservation to wildcrafting, though – you have to leave enough plants to regenerate for next year.  This is not such a big deal with the roses, as all we’ve been taking are the petals, which still  leaves the fruit (rose hips) to form, as long as you are gentle and don’t pull the whole flower off.  Later, though, we will be careful not to take all of the rose hips, as not only are they the seeds for new roses next year and on into the future, but they are also an important food for deer and wild birds over the winter.  There are lots, and we will remember to share.  With the yarrow, though, we have been taking the whole plant, so I am careful not to take more than one out of three or four, so that the patches can regenerate.


Just because of the time of year, most of the focus is on flowers right now.  There is white clover everywhere, and although I have not tried it (yet), I understand it makes a nice tea.  We have some drying in the pantry right now, to try out later.  I have also had an eye out for wild chamomile here at the Acreage; there is lots and lots of it on the driveway, but I don’t want to be drinking something that has been driven over a hundred times.  I am finally seeing some flowering along an old lane that used to lead to all of the granaries, and managed to pick a few flowers today, though that involves a lot of bending, which does not work so well with a sore back.  Maybe another day when I am feeling better, I will go back and collect more.  Chamomile makes a lovely tea, and smells sweet and soothing.


Later, we will take buckets with us as we walk, and pick the Saskatoons (probably in a couple of weeks, as they are starting to turn colours already), and hazelnuts, the rose hips after the first frost in the autumn, and maybe even wild highbush cranberries, if I feel I can identify them reliably enough.   For now, the house smells of roses and chamomile while the flowers are drying, and we’re eagerly anticipating the wild strawberries, which I see should be coming ripe soon…

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Hubby met these two in the front yard this morning…

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