Mo Bloggin'

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Archive for the tag “Black bear”

Autumn excitement

20161018_084137I can’t believe it’s almost the end of October already. The falling leaves and bare branches, cold temperatures and fall rains all seem premature somehow. Every year I am virtually dragged into fall kicking and screaming, not ready to give up summer. But alas, it is here.  The autumn months are beautiful, no question, with the leaves turning and all the fall harvests and ripenings, but after just a few weeks of rain I’m already dreading the three or four months of rain yet to come. I need to make peace with this.

Earlier this month we had a visitor to the farm. I’d run out on Saturday to do my usual weekend errands. I came back home and pulled up the driveway to the gate. I saw one of the sheep run across my field of vision as I got out of the car to open the gate. They normally get excited when I come home and run up to the upper pasture gate as I drive up the hill. But intuition told me something was up and I immediately worried about loose dogs (not my own, which were inside the house). 20161005_172937

I opened the gate and walked over toward the pasture quickly. The sheep were all bunched together, moving, except for that black one up by the…  OMG. That’s not a sheep! A black bear had come to visit! I clapped my hands loudly and walked toward the bear (in the pasture with the sheep, but not really after the sheep, as far as I could tell). “Go on, bear!” I hollered at it. He moved down the hill away from me, toward the NE corner of the pasture, then sat down to chew on his foot (maybe he stepped on a thistle?). He knew I was there, but wasn’t nearly as concerned about my presence as I would have liked.  He went over the pasture fence and headed up the hill toward the chicken coop – and the beehive. I got in the car and drove up the hill quickly. The car driving up scared him a little, and he moved to the edge of the yard to where the grass meets the woods. I got out and walked towards him, clapping my hands again, and telling him to go on (the dogs heard me from inside the house and started barking). He looked at me for a long moment then moved off into the woods, loping to the fence and off the property. Then I went inside and let the dogs out to reinforce the message.

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Sorry for the blurry exposure – I was a wee bit excited.  The sheep in the foreground (Minnie, I think) is looking at me to fix this situation.

It was pretty exciting to see a bear like that. I’ve had them come through before (though it’s been a few years) and generally at this same time of year August/September, but in those other instances I just heard them (moving through the brush) or, my first year here, seeing the aftermath (tipped over the empty garbage bin, got into my bird feeder, got into my chicken feed – I no longer feed the birds and keep the chicken feed locked in the garage). This was the real deal, and in broad daylight on a Saturday afternoon. Wow!

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A few feathers is all that was left of a good sized rooster.  A stealthy bobcat strike. 

The next day I was out working in the yard and the chickens were out. When I went to check on their feed and water later in the afternoon I saw we were down by one. The rooster obviously got got – a few feathers and a little blood and evidently the work of a bobcat. I found a feather or two by the back fence line, but it was clean and quiet, just like a cat. Dang.

On Monday night I was sitting in my living room, up late and working on an editing job, and heard the chickens squawking. I heard a thump and went to look out the window at the coop. I didn’t see anything in the porch light, but figured maybe it was the bobcat again so I let the dogs out. The barking excitement told me they were doing their job. After a bit Farley and Daisy came in at my call. Pal didn’t. He sometimes will stay out running around for 30 minutes, but considering the activity recently, I started to worry. I called him and got nothing. So I got a flashlight and went out, Daisy and Farley happy to come out for more 2 a.m. fun. I saw a white streak run by in the dark but when I called him he didn’t come, which is unusual for Pal, as he has a pretty good recall. At least he was okay.  The chickens seemed to be fine – a little shaken up and a couple off the roosts, and I shut the coop door and propped it with the fence post (it doesn’t close all the way).  Meanwhile Daisy had taken up barking maniacally at the foot of a maple tree near coop, like a coonhound with a treed coon. I went over and shined the flashlight up the trunk, but I already knew what I’d find, judging by the noise. The bear was back. He looked down on us from a rather flimsy looking branch about 30 feet up, clacking his teeth and bawling every once in a while (the best way to describe the noise – not a growl and not a roar, more like a moaned complaint). I had to physically haul Daisy off to the house. Farley came with us, and Pal now, too. I watched/listened from the bathroom window and after about 20 minutes I could hear branches cracking as the bear lowered himself to the ground and ran off over the fence. I felt bad for the bruin, as he was obviously scared, but hoped that the hazing by the dogs would convince him to move on and that human dwellings weren’t good places to hang out.

There were a couple of hens loose in the morning, so I herded them back into the coop. A quick head count told me we were down one.  I don’t think it was the bear, but more likely the bobcat, come to take advantage of the birds being loose. I left for work. And that afternoon I pulled up the driveway see this.

He was back. He was about 15 yards away and stood watching me. I got out of the car and took few steps in his direction, clapping my hands loudly. (Cue chorus of barking from inside the house.) He thought about it for a few seconds, then turned and left. I kept clapping and yelling. Then, when I was sure he was over the fence, I let the hounds out.  Wee!  So much fun!

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Muddy paw marks on top of the gate.  Smelly fly trap to the upper right, and a tipped over water trough just on the other side of the fence. 

Then I went around the property to see what he’d been up to. I’d left the sheep in their pen that day, and from what I can tell, he was maybe IN the pen with them. Or maybe just climbing the gate (I could see muddy paws had been up on the top of the 5 foot gate) and also the other side of the pen. As near as I could tell he was after the smelly fly trap still hanging out there (smells like a dead thing rotting) from the summer. He’d bitten at it but didn’t take it all the way down. The sheep seemed fine – weren’t even breathing hard by the time I got home. And of course there’s this.

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Nice.  But there was no honey in this hive, and no stinging bees either. 

It’s the dead hive, with the live hive full of (angry) bees…and honey, right next to it, still intact. I wondered if I maybe interrupted him when I pulled up. Other than that it was just the fence that was taking a beating with all these visits.

I decided to stay home the next day to keep an eye on the place. I was able to work remotely from home, and keep watch while I did so. The bear came back around noon, from what I could tell by the chickens and sheep behavior, but I don’t think he came on the property then. (I let the dogs out to reinforce things.) Then, about 2:30 he was back.  I saw the chickens go quiet and bunch up again. I got up to look out the front window to see the sheep in the pasture all looking intently towards the north/east property line. I went out (without the dogs at first) and clapped my hands.  I heard him move off, and went to let the dogs out again.  So. Much. Excitement. And I fixed the crunched fence sections for the fourth time.

Again, I hoped this hazing (especially the two tries without any reward) would make him decide to move on. He didn’t seem to want apples. And thankfully he didn’t seem to want the chickens or sheep. I think he was young and inexperienced at being on his own, but hopefully heading towards the foothills and a safe place to den for the winter. We haven’t seen him since that day, three weeks ago now, and I hope he’s safe.

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Gratuitous cuteness: Pal on his 7th birthday last Friday.  He was worried that this unusual attention (me trying to get a nice photo of him on his birthday) might mean something like a nail trim or a bath. Love this little guy!  (Excuse the fugly tape on the chair – it’s a lost cause, but I try to deter the cats from shredding it more by putting double-sided tape on it.)

 

 

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Catching up

I haven’t been here in a while, and my last few posts were sporadic.  But no posts doesn’t mean nothing going on – far from it.  I’ve been busy, and distracted both consciously and unconsciously.  A lot has been going on here at the farm, and a lot in life in general.  Let’s start with the farm…

August turned out to be a nice month, with beautiful weather that included blistering heat (a local fund raising dog walk in town had me dripping sweat, literally) and a preview of fall at the same time.  I had the excitement of a new visitor to the property, too.  While I didn’t see or meet the visitor, it was obvious by the trail of destruction that I had a black bear come through one evening.  There was enough damage to the fence, and raids on the chicken feed, bird feeder and a check of the garbage bin (empty – I don’t fill it until pickup day), then the “calling card” down by the driveway gate (at first I thought “when did Cutter come down here…and what has he been eating?”) before I put it all together.  I’d heard the branches cracking as s/he tramped through the underbrush – for some reason I thought it was deer (which can be surprisingly noisy). The late night potty run had Farley out back barking furiously, but it was 18 hours before I realized he probably scared the beast off, mid-snack.  Good boy.

So, no more bird feeder, which is a huge attractant for bears.  I’m seriously bummed, as I’ve had a bird feeder up in every house I’ve lived since I was 10 years old.  But I don’t want to habituate a bear by providing and irresistible snack, either.  The birds will be fine – there’s plenty of food around for them; a feeder just brings them close so I can watch them.  I was getting Black-headed Grosbeaks regularly, and plenty of chickadees and Steller’s Jays too. 

In mid-August I added another canine to my pack.  Maybe not the smartest move, and initially I tried to find him another home, but he’s here to stay.  He’s another English Setter that I found on my regular Craigslist perusals.  He was in a home that kept him outside on a tether 24/7 and they realized it wasn’t the best for him.  I picked him up on a Saturday and had him neutered the following Friday.  The Rottweilers pretty much ignored him.  Farley didn’t like him.  The cats hated him.  But his effervescent personality fizzed through all of us and he’s here for good.  He just turned one year old in October and he and Farley run the property like nobody’s business.  I love watching them run, and love that they patrol things.  His name was Pal on his papers, but the people who had him were calling him Rascal.  I knew I wouldn’t be calling him Rascal as I’m a great believer in the meaning of names (the people who had him believed him a rascal, and he was…for them).  While I contemplated several names (Hadley being one), the one that rose to the surface was Pal (part of his FDSB registered name).  He’s Farley’s pal, and he’s a happy little sprite.  He’s all puppy sometimes, but a very good boy considering I’m his third home in less than six months (four if you count the breeder’s home, too).  We need to get into obedience training, but for now we’re just having fun. 

So I added little Pal to the canine gang; and he’s a great little guy, but I already have three dogs.  I’m moving rapidly into hoarder territory, it seems.  You do NOT want to see the chaos inside my house, but I’m nowhere near the feces on the floor, newspapers stacked to the ceiling, decomposed dead cat in the closet stage yet.  And no sign of that any time soon, either.  I jest, of course, but living with four large dogs and three cats in a small home really does test your tolerance levels.  The floors are almost never clean (especially when one geriatric dog has urinary incontinence, and the other sometimes forgets to finish pooping when he’s outside, and the two youngsters revel in dirt and mud, and running in the door with unadulterated joy fresh from a dip in the “pond” (swampy human-made version).  The cats add their two cents with grass puke and the occasional litter box “miss.”  Which all makes it sound as if things are worse than they are…or not.  I could vacuum and mop every day, but that’s too Sisyphean for me to deal with.  I keep up, but just barely.  And what’s a little dirt and hair between friends, right?

September brought five new mouths to feed.  Planned of course…sort of.  And by eating, they’re working to keep things in check.  I’m talking sheep, of course.  I had the pasture fenced off, with two gates put in – a local fellow, Rob, did a great job on the fence – and the sheep moved in at the end of September.  Three of the sheep were wethers from a gal just over the hill who just wanted to place them in a new home.  The guy who mowed my pasture in June told me about them and put me in contact with her.  They are Black Welsh Mountain Sheep and spent the summer at my friend Susan’s farm, mowing her steep pastures (too steep for the horses), and the pasture over her septic drain field (horses will compact and essentially wipe out a drain field).  They did a great job, but it was time to move to my home.  I knew I wanted Shetland sheep, and found a couple of ewes on Craigslist (Must. Stay. Off. Craigslist.).  I picked them up the same day we moved the boys from Susan’s, so I went from zero to five overnight.  And I love it! 

I can’t believe how “right” it feels to have them here, munching the pasture and blackberry brambles 24/7 (they eat ALL the time).  The three boys are fairly friendly, with Bo (yes, in my unimaginative naming I called him Rambo, because he’s most likely to butt the dogs) the leader.  Conan, the hornless one (scurs only, probably because he was castrated as a lamb), was named by the previous owner’s child.  I kept the name but I call him Coco – which fits him, as he’s the color of dark chocolate.  And the third is Curley, as his horns kind of flare out.  He’s the shyest of the three boys, but in that is tons friendlier than the older of the two Shetland ewes, Cinnamon (I’m telling you, no imagination – Cinnamon Latte, for her color, which is called moorit by the Shetland people).  She’s super skittish and keeps a good, safe distance away from me at all times.  The little one is Pebbles – named by the previous owners kids – and seems to be stunted.  She’s almost 8 months old and still only about as big as a Springer Spaniel.  She’s adorable, and makes more noise than the other four put together.  She’s pretty friendly, but has become more wary of me since I grabbed her one day to pull some blackberry vines out of her wool.  It was a bit of a wrestle and now she won’t let me pet her much.  Oh well. 

At any rate, they’re doing a great job on the pasture, and now I’m working on (well, I’ve hired Rob again) building a sacrifice or confinement area, to pull them off the pasture (in order to rest it and give the forage a chance to recover) and give them shelter from the weather, too.  Updates soon – promise!

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