Changes: Down Here on the Farm

 

About a week ago, I made an executive decision:  Come this next Sunday, I’m sending almost all of my sheep to the auction.

All that is, except:

  • Dizzabel, the tiny lamb who entered my life last January when I discovered her, down the bottom of the field, in the snow, crying, at about 10PM when I did my “last check” on the flock.  She couldn’t stand up for weeks, and she apparently had some sort of neurological, muscle control issue with her neck, head, and legs.  Her mother had dumped her, recognizing–as sheep mothers’ do–that her baby was flawed and probably wouldn’t survive.  Still not sure what was wrong with her, but the vet suggested vitamin B shots, so that–in addition to ‘physical therapy’ (don’t ask)–is what I did for several months.  She’s still a bit wifty, and every once in a while she–for no reason at all that I can see–suddenly comes to attention and runs around like a lunatic who’s been stung by a flight of bees, but in most respects she’s bonded with my little flock of misfits and she’s fine.
  • Notchou, the lamb who came into the house very early in the Spring of 2020, was raised inside, and became a favorite of Mr. She during his last days.  In fact, one of his last real pleasures was when I’d open the door and let her into the house (where she still believes she actually belongs), so that she could race around in his bedroom and nuzzle him.  Her name derives from the days when I’d call in Xena and Levi, and–just after they’d raced through the door–I’d thrust out an arm, say, “Notchou” and prevent her from coming inside too.  Not sure I’m forgiven for that, even yet.
  • Adventure–the oldest of my pet sheep.  She had a horrific lambing experience last year (after several successful years of same).  Something broke in her, and in me, at about 2 a.m., when it was nine degrees below zero Fahrenheit.  Last year was just awful on the lambing front (I later discovered it wasn’t just me), and it took months until she could walk again (more veterinary attention, physical therapy, and fiddling around in the meanwhile.)  I always go the extra mile with veterinary care and attention for a sheep who’s alert and interested enough to look like she wants to live; very often, at the first sign of debility, they roll over and insist (not too strong a word) on dying, no matter what strenuous efforts you make.  My standard mantra is “I don’t give up till you give up.  When you give up, I’m done.” (This may apply to people in my life too.  ‘Nuff said.)
  • Olly and Tilly, lambs from two years ago.
  • Two ram lambs who’re being raised for meat, and whom I’ll give to a friend who’ll butcher them.  I trust him to do so humanely and get it over with quickly.  He’s offered to give me some of the proceeds.  I don’t eat lamb anymore.  If you’d dealt with some of the raw and unpleasant situations I have over the past four decades, you wouldn’t either.
  • A ewe lamb who’s going to someone else who wants to breed her.
  • Perhaps the mothers of the remaining three lambs above.  I still see them bonded and wandering around together, and because I’m a soft touch, I might keep the moms.

But, much as I hate it, the rest must go.

Why?

Coyotes.

My woods down the bottom of the field are filthy with coyotes.  I lie in bed and listen to their howls of victory when they’ve scored a turkey or a deer.  Or one of my lambs.  I go out and press the button on the marine horn (which usually scares them off–too late) or perhaps I fire at them (with, occasionally, success, although again, too late).  It brings back memories of lying in bed as a child in Northern Nigeria and the Cameroons and listening to the “laughing hyena” packs in the bush.

But this is worse.

And since I’m not inclined to spend the winter months in my declining years (I’ll be 68 on September 20) chasing my flock, looking for them all, bringing them in at night, locking them up, and worrying about them day after day, night after freezing night, while I lose them, one at a time to horrible, slow, agonizing death at the hands of the coyotes, I’ll get it over with in one fell swoop.

And then I’ll move on.

I have a plan.  It starts with a couple of guardian donkeys.  I haven’t had much truck with the equine family since that self-same Nigerian childhood, but I figure if I’m about to re-engage, it would be wise to do so when I have an excellent farm/large animal veterinarian (increasingly rara avis themselves) living only about a half-mile from me.  So, come October, I expect my first (gelded male) donkey.  And, perhaps around the same time, or a bit later, a Jenny to keep him company.

Then, early next Spring, when lambing time comes around, I’ll acquire a dozen or so hair sheep (Dorpers or Katahdin, most likely).  Sheep that don’t need to be shorn–another weight off my mind–but which will do just as good a job chomping off the fields, and will look just as picturesque while doing it.  All ewes and wethers.  I’m done with the annual lambing for a while.

Alongside my own, I have a friend who’s decided to come down with a couple of his sons, put up in the woods and shoot some coyotes.  In general, I have difficulty with such thoughts, killing living things being hard for me.  But not in this case. Bring it on.  And let me know where you’d like me to line up, because I’m not hopeless with a shotgun myself.

And another friend who’s offered to set me up with a couple of “beef” to be raised down here while I take care of them, and then he’ll remove them, do the nasty and package the result, and then provide me with a representative sampling of the product.

I’m totally up for that!

It looks like the farming algorithm at Chez She is about to enter a new dimension.

I’ll keep you posted.

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I can tell you’ve given your plan a lot of thought and as a complete ignoramus, it makes a lot of sense to me. Especially with the coyotes that are congregating on your land. I wish you lots of good outcomes–for you and the lambs. It will be quite an adjustment, even if you’ve planned well.

    • #1
  2. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    • #2
  3. KCVolunteer Lincoln
    KCVolunteer
    @KCVolunteer

    Up Pittsburgh way there is finally consideration of culling the deer herd. Currently the only controls on the population are car deer collisions and starvation. 

    Signs have sprung up in postage stamp size front lawns proclaiming, “Killing deer, not happening here!” Doh, your yard is too small for a proper hunt.

    With coyote just to the south for now, I wonder how long before they show up in the suburbs. And how will these same people feel about having a pack kill and consume a deer in their yard?

    • #3
  4. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    That goat knows who to pick on, doesn’t he?

    t

    • #4
  5. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    KCVolunteer (View Comment):

    Up Pittsburgh way there is finally consideration of culling the deer herd. Currently the only controls on the population are car deer collisions and starvation.

    Signs have sprung up in postage stamp size front lawns proclaiming, “Killing deer, not happening here!” Doh, your yard is too small for a proper hunt.

    With coyote just to the south for now, I wonder how long before they show up in the suburbs. And how will these same people feel about having a pack kill and consume a deer in their yard?

    I live in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh). Bow hunting is encouraged in many areas. The county parks (like North Park) have a controlled hunt,  with qualified and select archers allowed to keep every other deer they harvest. ( the others get donated to food banks).  This is also expanded to private properties that sign up. I live on 19 acres and hunt my back yard with bow (and could also use shotgun).

    • #5
  6. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    ’bout nine years ago there was a serious problem here with coyote.  I watched three of ’em chase a deer across the front field: Think he got away by jumping the fence.

    Got trail cam photos of several more.  Could hear the packs howling at night.  The closest neighbor and two relatives stayed in their old barn a couple of times to kill them.  Then the folks round about posted a bounty on coyote, and had a sponsored hunt.  That pretty much ended the problem, although for a while I would hear a couple howling from their den.  Somebody got ’em I think, because I don’t see or hear the critters any more.

    No foxes either.

    • #6
  7. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I sympathize. I live next to a golf course that is next to a marsh. There are woods all around me, and coyotes. 

    The other night I heard a bunch of them, and it was so scary. They sounded nearby. It is so still at night around here that it was really dramatic. 

    They are really awful animals. 

    • #7
  8. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She, maybe the 4-H is in your future.

    (taken at the Will County Fair this evening)

    • #8
  9. KCVolunteer Lincoln
    KCVolunteer
    @KCVolunteer

    Nohaaj (View Comment):

    KCVolunteer (View Comment):

    Up Pittsburgh way there is finally consideration of culling the deer herd. Currently the only controls on the population are car deer collisions and starvation.

    Signs have sprung up in postage stamp size front lawns proclaiming, “Killing deer, not happening here!” Doh, your yard is too small for a proper hunt.

    With coyote just to the south for now, I wonder how long before they show up in the suburbs. And how will these same people feel about having a pack kill and consume a deer in their yard?

    I live in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh). Bow hunting is encouraged in many areas. The county parks (like North Park) have a controlled hunt, with qualified and select archers allowed to keep every other deer they harvest. ( the others get donated to food banks). This is also expanded to private properties that sign up. I live on 19 acres and hunt my back yard with bow (and could also use shotgun).

    Needs to happen in the South Hills. It’s almost impossible to have a decent garden. They consume almost everything, including the deer resistant plants. Whenever I spot a deer in my MIL’s backyard, I suggest venison for dinner. She lives in a townhouse development, so she thinks I’m not serious. But if it could be done without disturbing the neighbors, I’d give it shot.

    • #9
  10. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    KCVolunteer (View Comment):

    Up Pittsburgh way there is finally consideration of culling the deer herd. Currently the only controls on the population are car deer collisions and starvation.

    Signs have sprung up in postage stamp size front lawns proclaiming, “Killing deer, not happening here!” Doh, your yard is too small for a proper hunt.

    With coyote just to the south for now, I wonder how long before they show up in the suburbs. And how will these same people feel about having a pack kill and consume a deer in their yard?

    Coyotes don’t kill nearly enough of them.  They can’t handle most of them, anyway. 

    • #10
  11. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Nohaaj (View Comment):

    KCVolunteer (View Comment):

    Up Pittsburgh way there is finally consideration of culling the deer herd. Currently the only controls on the population are car deer collisions and starvation.

    Signs have sprung up in postage stamp size front lawns proclaiming, “Killing deer, not happening here!” Doh, your yard is too small for a proper hunt.

    With coyote just to the south for now, I wonder how long before they show up in the suburbs. And how will these same people feel about having a pack kill and consume a deer in their yard?

    I live in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh). Bow hunting is encouraged in many areas. The county parks (like North Park) have a controlled hunt, with qualified and select archers allowed to keep every other deer they harvest. ( the others get donated to food banks). This is also expanded to private properties that sign up. I live on 19 acres and hunt my back yard with bow (and could also use shotgun).

    The problem is the states have set up agencies to protect the deer herds, and like any government bureaucracies they don’t want to put themselves out of work.  So they will approve your controlled hunts, with an eye to shutting up the loudest citizen complainers and maximizing deer herd health, which means more deer that will need harvesting. 

    My workplace used to have controlled hunts on its thousands of acres, but they were a lot of work to organize and there were not enough hunters who wanted to put up with all the hassles and restrictions.

    Back in the 80s a local farmer wrote a letter to the editor suggesting that the local Air National Guard base use its helicopter gunships to thin out the deer populations.  Nobody took him up on the idea, but it may have been the only suggestion that would have been effective, although it would have to have been done continuously and not as a one-off event. 

    • #11
  12. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Deer hunting is very popular here.  I know some families where that is their primary meat source.

    And if I find one of them eating my crop I can write myself a license and shoot the deer. (Or a few years ago you could – guess that hasn’t changed.) There are advantages to living in the country, you know?

    That helps keep down the coyote numbers as well.

    • #12
  13. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Here in Allegheny County, we are limited to rim fire rifle, shotgun, or bow.  When we first moved in, we frequently had coyotes on our trail cams, and heard them many a night.  I purchased a .17HMR varmint gun and ammo, sighted it in, and waited for my opportunity.  In the meantime adopted a couple of dogs. One a purebred German Shepard, the other a pound puppy, unknown lineage, but very cute. (he is stocky, maybe some pit and beagle? and 57 other varieties.)  Anyway, last fall, I borrowed an electronic lure, set it 100′ from my stand climbed up and got ready to hunt venison, and maybe coyote if one showed up.  Turns out the coyote lure, which worked great when tested with the remote actuator 5 feet away, failed when placed 100′ away.  It was a pleasant fall day spent in a tree stand. But no coyote or deer for the effort. At least not that day…  Venison season opens again Sept 17th.  I will do my best to cull the herd and fill the freezer. 

    • #13
  14. Mad Gerald Coolidge
    Mad Gerald
    @Jose

    She, I sympathize with your situation. As a youngster my family had a good sized herd of goats in the Ozarks.  The coyotes were very bad.

    We would bring them into the corral near the house every night.  Being goats they would climb out and the coyotes would tear into them.  The coyotes never came into the corral but it wasn’t unusual to find a torn open dying goat in the morning laying against the outside of the corral boards.

    We had a neighbor who had been raising angora goats for many years and never brought them in at night.  He probably had about 100 nanny goats.  About half of the nannies will have 2 kids each spring.  I remember one year when he lost every single kid.

    I tried to hunt or trap some coyotes but they were too smart for me.

    I hope the donkeys are effective. And good luck to the hunters.

    • #14
  15. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I sympathize. I live next to a golf course that is next to a marsh. There are woods all around me, and coyotes.

    The other night I heard a bunch of them, and it was so scary. They sounded nearby. It is so still at night around here that it was really dramatic.

    They are really awful animals.

    Golfers?

    • #15
  16. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Nohaaj (View Comment):
    Here in Allegheny County, we are limited to rim fire rifle, shotgun, or bow.  When we first moved in, we frequently had coyotes on our trail cams, and heard them many a night.  I purchased a .17HMR varmint gun and ammo, sighted it in, and waited for my opportunity. 

    Good Lord.  That’s just cruelty to coyotes, forced by the state.

    • #16
  17. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Good stuff she.  You should send the videos to Ace of Spades for its animal cafe thread. Will do a whole session on your sheep. Need to go check it out now. Funny stuff and not just dogs and cats. 

    • #17
  18. KCVolunteer Lincoln
    KCVolunteer
    @KCVolunteer

    Chuck (View Comment):

    Deer hunting is very popular here. I know some families where that is their primary meat source.

    And if I find one of them eating my crop I can write myself a license and shoot the deer. (Or a few years ago you could – guess that hasn’t changed.) There are advantages to living in the country, you know?

    That helps keep down the coyote numbers as well.

    Yes, studies show in environments without human interference it is the amount of available prey that controls the number of predators.

    • #18
  19. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Nohaaj (View Comment):

    KCVolunteer (View Comment):

    Up Pittsburgh way there is finally consideration of culling the deer herd. Currently the only controls on the population are car deer collisions and starvation.

    Signs have sprung up in postage stamp size front lawns proclaiming, “Killing deer, not happening here!” Doh, your yard is too small for a proper hunt.

    With coyote just to the south for now, I wonder how long before they show up in the suburbs. And how will these same people feel about having a pack kill and consume a deer in their yard?

    I live in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh). Bow hunting is encouraged in many areas. The county parks (like North Park) have a controlled hunt, with qualified and select archers allowed to keep every other deer they harvest. ( the others get donated to food banks). This is also expanded to private properties that sign up. I live on 19 acres and hunt my back yard with bow (and could also use shotgun).

    Wow! There’s too many Pittsburghers in this room!  My old stomping grounds..I went to North Park as a kid and South Park….She – what an amazing post.  You are one strong woman and any critter, even a mouse, would be privileged to bunk at your residence!

    • #19
  20. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    BDB (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I sympathize. I live next to a golf course that is next to a marsh. There are woods all around me, and coyotes.

    The other night I heard a bunch of them, and it was so scary. They sounded nearby. It is so still at night around here that it was really dramatic.

    They are really awful animals.

    Golfers?

    golfers by day, coyotes by night . . .  :-) :-)

    • #20
  21. She Member
    She
    @She

    MarciN (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I sympathize. I live next to a golf course that is next to a marsh. There are woods all around me, and coyotes.

    The other night I heard a bunch of them, and it was so scary. They sounded nearby. It is so still at night around here that it was really dramatic.

    They are really awful animals.

    Golfers?

    golfers by day, coyotes by night . . . :-) :-)

    Well, according to today’s Telegraph, the University of St. Andrews (where the golf course is located) has an exhibition linking golf to “imperial exploitation,” and saying that the game of golf was “imposed” on the rest of the world by the Evil Empire.

    At the cent(r)e(r) of the beef is that golf balls were made from gutta percha, a natural rubber material found in Malaysia, with the result that:

    Natural resources from colonised countries were exploited to make sporting equipment.

    Oh, the horror.*

    The University of St Andrews holds antique examples of these “gutta” balls in its collection, which is now being redisplayed and re-examined in order to highlight any potential connections to British colonialism.

    File:Magnifying glass icon mgx1.svg

    To see how far they have to go in order to “highlight” these connections, consider this statement on a slightly different theme (emphasis added):

    The Re-collecting Empire exhibition, running at St Andrews affiliated Wardlaw Museum until October, also includes displays arguing that European textile mills created wares inspired by styles “that originated overseas” in the colonies – and therefore “exploited the originating culture”.

    They are completely insane.

    I have no idea where Dad’s papers (thousands of pages) are.  He donated them to the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum whose director was fired in a wide-ranging scandal in 2011 in which it was alleged that he’d been quietly selling off the Museum’s holdings for personal gain.  Unsurprisingly, the Museum is now closed, and all the priceless treasures of hundreds of years (which may have shed both positive and negative light on Britain’s imperial history) have been obliterated from the record.

    But who cares about any of that, when we can focus on how unconscionable it was for the British to export the game of golf to all corners of the world.  (Now, if they said the same of cricket, they and I might find some common ground…)

    *I grew up in an age when one of almost every British child’s first learned jokes was, “Do musicians in Malaya play in rubber bands?”  Cue hysterical four-year old laughter.  Even absent the clear and systemic racism of the question(!), I don’t expect it would play well today, as I can’t imagine that children have either the imagination or the knowledge to make the implied connections.

    • #21
  22. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    She (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I sympathize. I live next to a golf course that is next to a marsh. There are woods all around me, and coyotes.

    The other night I heard a bunch of them, and it was so scary. They sounded nearby. It is so still at night around here that it was really dramatic.

    They are really awful animals.

    Golfers?

    golfers by day, coyotes by night . . . :-) :-)

    Well, according to today’s Telegraph, the University of St. Andrews (where the golf course is located) has an exhibition linking golf to “imperial exploitation,” and saying that the game of golf was “imposed” on the rest of the world by the Evil Empire.

    At the cent(r)e(r) of the beef is that golf balls were made from gutta percha, a natural rubber material found in Malaysia, with the result that:

    Natural resources from colonised countries were exploited to make sporting equipment.

    Oh, the horror.*

    The University of St Andrews holds antique examples of these “gutta” balls in its collection, which is now being redisplayed and re-examined in order to highlight any potential connections to British colonialism.

    File:Magnifying glass icon mgx1.svg

    To see how far they have to go in order to “highlight” these connections, consider this statement on a slightly different theme (emphasis added):

    The Re-collecting Empire exhibition, running at St Andrews affiliated Wardlaw Museum until October, also includes displays arguing that European textile mills created wares inspired by styles “that originated overseas” in the colonies – and therefore “exploited the originating culture”.

    Yes, and Elon Musk is exploiting rich people by selling them Teslas.  And hog farmers are exploiting my taste for BLTs by selling the ingredients.  

    And we exploit doctors and surgeons by taking advantage of their training to get medical treatments. 

    Exploitation is all around us. In fact, the world economy runs on exploitation.  

    • #22
  23. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Percival (View Comment):

    She, maybe the 4-H is in your future.

    (taken at the Will County Fair this evening)

    Or the FFA!  (Cibola Chapter here!)

    • #23
  24. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    That last one must be BAMBI! You are an amazing woman, Mrs.She.

    • #24
  25. She Member
    She
    @She

    cdor (View Comment):

    That last one must be BAMBI! You are an amazing woman, Mrs.She.

    Thanks.  Not so much, I don’t think.  I count myself very fortunate and very blessed that I’ve been able to live out substantial portions of my dream–small-scale farming and rural living–mental images of an ideal life conceived in childhood and with James Herriot, Kenneth Grahame, Gerald Durrell, and Beatrix Potter largely to blame.

    I’m so grateful to be here, far enough from Pittsburgh that I’m (still) surrounded by farmland and a world that I love, and with neighbors who don’t laugh at my attempts to at least break even on mini-farm pursuits.  (Something I’ve managed to do for quite a few years.  My theory is that if–when all’s said and done, I’m one dollar to the good, then all is well.)  Those same neighbors and friends don’t mock me, neither for my tractoring fears (steep downhill grades are terrifying to me, ever since the gears let go one year), nor for my tendency to melt down and cry buckets of tears every time I send lambs or adult sheep to the auction.  (Happening tomorrow.  I’m a total mess.)

    My respect is reserved for those who make an actual living on small family farms.  Those are the folks who deserve such.  And–at the moment–they’re in the crosshairs.  Please support them.

     

    • #25
  26. She Member
    She
    @She

    BDB (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    She, maybe the 4-H is in your future.

    (taken at the Will County Fair this evening)

    Or the FFA! (Cibola Chapter here!)

    Yes.  I support the local FFA, and several of its members with livestock, contributions, and purchases of their stock.

    • #26
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