Bluemoon

Blue Moon

I’m either getting smarter, braver, or completely hopeless.

The local coyotes have been partying in the full moon, in the back pasture. We’re on about day 4 of the yipping and howling, and most of the animals are ignoring them now. Then, last night, everybody went nuts!

The alpacas were alerting, the dogs started barking, the ducks and chickens were rioting. Learning from past experience, I put my shoes on and grabbed Charlie’s big Maglite before heading out to check on things. Peanut took off toward the howling while I investigated the animal yard. With the arrival of backup (me and Peanut) the animals had calmed down, and there was nothing there that didn’t belong.

I could hear Peanut, in the distance, chasing off the coyotes, and it sounded like they were running off. Then I realized I was hearing Peanut off in the distance, but I was hearing rustling to the right, in the pasture. I scanned with the flashlight, but didn’t see anything, so I had to trek around the fence to get closer to the pasture. Oh, great! Eyes.

I call to Peanut, and the eyes don’t move. She’s still off chasing the coyotes. As I move the flashlight, it picks up several sets of eyes. I make some loud noises, but the eyes stay put.

Coyotes here are pretty skittish. If you get close, they run off. I’ve had midnight run-ins with deer, but these eyes were much closer to the ground. There have been local reports of bears and mountain lions, so I can’t just go back inside and hope for the best.

My only choice is to head down the back path. During the day, this is a nice shady path, winding through trees and fern. In the middle of the night it turns into something from Sleepy Hollow. Especially knowing there are going to be eyes at the end of the path. Lots of eyes.

I debate heading back to the house and getting Charlie and his gun, but I have the big flashlight. I’m good. No headless horsemen jump out at me. Now I just have to find out what these eyes belong to.

I scan over the fence with the flashlight and pick up the eyes again. I also pick up a large black shape. Uh oh. Maybe I should have gotten Charlie. The grass is rustling, and I can hear Peanut’s tags clinking in the distance. Now I’m worried that she’s going to head back and take on this big bear. I continue to scan the pasture to make sure Peanut is safe and I come across another set of eyes. These eyes are attached to a large brown shape.

OK, this doesn’t make sense. I’ve never head of brown bears and black bears hanging out together. I move in a little closer and realize there are a dozen sets of eyes looking back at me.

Really? The neighbor’s cows have been moved into the back pasture! This happens for about 2 weeks each summer, as their main pastures regrow grass. The noises I’ve been hearing are these darn cows, laying around under the tree, chewing their cud.

I know the coyotes are no real threat to Peanut, and the cows are no threat to anybody.  I can pack it in and go back to bed. We have just a few more nights of the full moon. Then we can all sleep through the night again.

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Neighbors Came A-callin’

Such a gorgeous day! It’s 80 and sunny, just a little breeze, the mountains are out. These days are the payoff for making it through the wet winter.

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We’ve been working on the kids’ tree fort. My goal is to see awe and glee when the kids come to play. I headed to town and hit up the dollar store for more goodies. We now have a full on pinwheel garden. It’s so cool when they’re all spinning!

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After I finished playing, and took a nap, I had to be outside. I gathered up my crocheting and headed to one of my favorite spots – out with the animals. So peaceful. The ducks were quacking, the chickens were clucking, the alpacas were humming, everybody was relaxed and happy.0420150946a (500x281)

While I was enjoying the peace and quiet, a big woodpecker, with its bright red head, flew right over me. A little while later a flock of finches flew by, tweeting away. The dogs were hanging out with me, lounging in the sun. Who needs to travel somewhere for vacation, when this is my backyard?

I was thinking about heading inside to get some things done. Just thinking about it. Really, what’s the hurry? All of a sudden, my security detail goes nuts! Tajo starts alerting, in a total panic. Spike runs to the fence to see what’s happening. The chickens and ducks run over to join the surveillance. Cookie starts barking. Peanut comes charging out of the woods, hackles raised. Daisy runs and hides under the tree. What the heck! I haven’t heard anybody come up the driveway. I don’t see anything. Maybe a coyote. Or a bunny. I never know what will set them off, but this is weird. They’re all freaking out. Guess I better check it out.

Oh. Hmm.

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Yep, that’s 4 cows in the front yard. I don’t know a lot about cows, but these guys look young. At the same time, I don’t really care that they look young, because they also look big. And that one is looking at me. We do live on a cattle ranch, but there are fences, and the cows usually stay on their own side. I was right next to the pasture gate earlier, so that’s not where they came from. Think about this. What would you do if you suddenly had cows hanging out in your yard?

I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about it because now the dogs were trying to chase the cows off. That wouldn’t be so bad, but the cows wanted to check out the dogs. While I totally appreciate Cookie’s bravery, I didn’t want her to get stepped on. I called for the dogs to go into the house, while calling Tori to come out and help. Tori came running because I sounded urgent, and she doesn’t know what’s happening.

The cows weren’t sure who to follow, but I really don’t want them following the dogs into the house. While getting the dogs inside, my crochet bag topples, and all my hooks fly all over the place. Dogs, cows, crochet hooks, GAH!! The cows decide to move on, but that’s the wrong way! I’m not sure exactly what we’re going to do, but we have to get them heading back down the driveway, the direction they came from.0427151526 (640x360)

I’ve said before that cows make me a little nervous. They’re big. If I stomp my foot and yell, will they go the direction I want, or will they decide to chase me. I’ve been around some animals now, so I decide I’m going to take charge. “Go home, cows!” I take one side of the driveway, and Tori comes in from the other side. Flapping our arms and yelling, “Go home” we get them moving in what we hope is the right direction. Tori’s an excellent cow wrangler. She was even wearing her boots!

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They’re getting a little far ahead, and we’re coming to the fork in the driveway. The barn is to the right, so we’re hoping they go that way. Tori suggests hustling to catch up to them, but I don’t want to get them running. The road isn’t too far up ahead, and we won’t be able to stop them if they get going.

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They seemed to know which direction to go, so we just followed, looking for holes in fencing or open gates. As we come around the bend, we see some people up ahead, looking concerned and uncertain. We figure these are probably their cows, and we’re right. Someone had called to let them know their cows were out. They drove right over and had closed the main gate to the road, but didn’t know where to go from there. There were a few different directions the cows could have gone. They were very relieved to see us coming up the drive.

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After quick introductions – Sara and Tori – the four of us got the cows headed in the right direction. These are Sara’s show cows, and they’ve recently been separated from their mothers. Someone left the gate open, and with no parental supervision, the “kids” decided to go exploring. Now we know where they belong, and have Sara’s number in case the little delinquents get out again.0427151533 (568x640)

Out here on the farm, you just never know who is going to stop by.

Mendin’ the Fence

This weekend we were hit hard with storms. Thunder and lightning hitting at the same time, pounding rain, hail, howling winds, power outages. We had a real live “dark and stormy night.” There was a new little river running down the hill, and the alpaca yard looked a bit like a swamp. The chickens were super-happy because rain brings worms!

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On the way to town this morning, I noticed a branch had blown off a tree in the front of the property and had broken the fence.  When we got home, we noticed the cows were in the front pasture, and the broken part of the fence was between them and the main road. We called the landlord to let him know, and found out he was out of town. He has a caretaker that he would call, but that person wasn’t going to make it out for at least a few hours. Charlie told him we’d go out and see if we could do anything to make it a little more secure.

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I’ve never been particularly afraid of cows, but then again, I don’t think I’ve ever been on the same side of the fence as they are. Fortunately, they ignored us at first.

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The very absolute first thing you need to be aware of is that mud puddles in an alpaca yard are probably mud puddles. Mud puddles in a cow pasture are most certainly NOT mud.

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Watch my step. Check!

The branch across the fence was really long, and hit the fence about halfway. Charlie brought down his saw so we could cut it close to the fence and let each half fall to either side. Soggy, green wood isn’t easy to cut. I could tell while I watched Charlie fight with it. Finally, the branch broke through and the fence popped back into place. Sort of. It’s a hot fence, and it was live – I know because I accidentally touched it and it zapped me. It would be enough to deter the cows until the caretaker could arrive.

 

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We also noticed another fence post had snapped off at the ground, and completely flipped around, twisting the fence on either side. Once Charlie had the post flipped back around the right way, there was nothing really to hold it up. He was able to prop it at an angle and the tension from the fence somewhat held it up. Again, good enough until real repairs could be made.

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We had been in the pasture long enough, the cows were ready for us to be gone. I was much happier when they weren’t looking at me. These are livestock, not pets, and they aren’t particularly people-friendly. As we were heading out the gate, one of the young bulls looked straight at us and snorted.  I guess he just wanted to show us who was boss, from his side of the gate.

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We got the gate closed and back to the house just in time for the rain to start pouring down again. And now we can add “Mendin’ the Fence” to our list of homestead accomplishments.