Saturday, November 13, 2010

fox, beer, and lessons

I woke up to a screaming rooster. Not a crow, mind you, but a scream. I raced downstairs to the glass doors that face the side yard and hen house. On the small deck, Fancy the rooster, was heaving and puffed up. About five feet away from him was a small red fox. None of us moved. I cursed myself for not getting the rifle first. I slid open the glass doors, just a little, and screamed at the fox. He just stared at me. Now I was worried. My neighbor, a large animal vet, told me about the problems with the fox population in Washington County exploding with rabies. Now I was screaming at a fox not ten feet away from me and all he did was stare back. I ran to the front of the house to get my rifle and popped in the magazine. By the time I was outside all I could hear was rustling in the brush. I shot twice into the ground to make a big noise. The fox ran off at this, or so I assume. I haven't seen him since or heard any distress from the flock.

It seems like foxes come around twice a year. They haunt me a few days to a week and then are gone entirely. I suspect this little one will be around the next few days and might take a hen or two, but I'll do everything I can to deter him. I already have an idea involving chicken wire, blinking Christmas lights, and a new twice-a-day automatic timer. If I'm lucky, I'll shoot him. I have no qualms putting a fox pelt on my living room wall. None at all.

It's been quite an exciting weekend so far on the farm, huh? Besides the 4:30 fox alarm there was all that business with the smelly wood stove. I called a professional chimney sweep in first thing yesterday morning. The inspection discovered an inch (to two inch!) thick ring of creosote around the small 6 inch piping. What I had smelled was the paint burning off the section of stovepipe that caught on fire internally. Thank goodness I put that fire out last night when I did, and thank you for your suggestions and advice. I certainly took it! Now the wood stove and chimney have been professionally swept out and I should be good for this season. In the spring I'll be looking into my own chimney equipment, too. Seems like something I can do myself.

Gibson has herding lessons this morning: thanks to the mild weather we're experiencing. They want it in the mid fifties and we'll be standing in a pen with some quiet sheep within a few hours. Hopefully we'll both do a little better than the last lesson. With such a young dog (and such a new handler) there's not a lot of impressive stuff happening in our lessons. But you got to start somewhere, right?

I bottled a full case of red ale last night, it's all capped and carbonating right now in "the brewery," which is to say the cabinet next to the stove in the kitchen. That little cabinet—once used to store pots and pans—has now been the fermenting and carbonating storage of ten gallons of home-brewed beer! I still have another 190 gallons to batch before I hit the limit President Carter allowed in the late seventies when home brewing was once again deemed legal. Right now I am revving up my Black Dog Stout production for the winter holidays and trying a few lighter beers as well because it is so inexpensive and fun. Making a case of beer literally cost 9.95 for the malts and yeast, and another 3.75 for the 144 bottle caps I bought online. The bottles are all recycled from co-workers and right now this farm boasts over 36 bottles of various beers thanks to my little operation.

Time for coffee and loading up the truck for the cross-state drive to Tanstaafl Farm. I hope the fox remains at bay, the sun is warm, and the drive calm as frost. Wish us luck out there.


Blogger Bex said...

I'd love to catch a pest that was after my chickens. Hopefully the fox gets the point and stays away. But there's no telling sometimes. Glad your homebrewing is going so well. It's inspiring. Good luck with your lessons.

November 13, 2010 at 6:50 AM  
Blogger daisy g said...

Enjoy every moment, Jenna. Times are as good as we make them. daisy

November 13, 2010 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger Amy McPherson Sirk said...

Yet one more of the joys of country life. I have many memories of running around the yard in my nightgown, flashlight in one hand and weapon in the other while the chickens were sounding the alarm. Hanging on to the flashlight while aiming is a skill I never mastered. Invariable the critter I shot would manage to get under the house before giving up the ghost. The smell is memorable. "No officer I don't have bodies in the crawl space, you see there was this fox...."

November 13, 2010 at 8:13 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Jenna, I have the same prob with coyote here in Depew Oklahoma. I've never owned a gun before, but after loosing 4 lambs in 2 weeks I was gonna get this guy or gal. so now I'm packing a 22 thats all I can handle :)I've spent a lot of time investigating their habits and what time they come around. I havent shot one but havent had a loss in over three weeks. I think they know I am on to them. good luck jenna! The buffet is closed!the pub is open :)

November 13, 2010 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Not necessarily a case of rabies... In my experience foxes are just highly resolute creatures. I had nearly the same experience as you: ran down a hill "chasing" a fox while shouting and clapping, until I realized I wasn't chasing it at all, but simply running toward it. The thing just stood there observing me, until it decided to trot away casually. They also hang out with the farm cat on occasion.

November 13, 2010 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

Jenna can you tell me again where you purchase your beer making stuff? I'm going to buy my hubby a kit for Christmas!

November 13, 2010 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger Sense of Home Kitchen said...

There is always something exciting happening when living a country life. Have a great day!


November 13, 2010 at 9:10 AM  
Blogger kringsrud said...

What a good good rooster, doing his job so well!

November 13, 2010 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger kringsrud said...

What a good good rooster, doing his job so well!

November 13, 2010 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Regarding your woodstove... A few years ago our furnace broke down and we didn't have the money to replace so we spent a year with only our woodstove. It worked out quite well but we too had the problem with creosote build up. During the day when we were at work the fire we keep going but at a slow burn. Apparently it is the slow low heat that builds up the creosote and the high heat that burns it off. But when in doubt there are creosote logs you can buy and burn periodically that will keep the creosote down to a minimum. Ask at a woodstove supply store.

November 13, 2010 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger k said...

good luck with your fox. when my parents had chickens while i was growing up, there was always raccoons taking a hen once in a while, but much worse were the minks which could kill a whole flock (we don't have foxes here).

sounds like your homebrewing is going well - you have me seriously thinking about doing some of my own!

November 13, 2010 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Good to know about creosote build up- I thought that was something that only regular old fireplaces get.

Maybe you ought to keep your rifle loaded and propped up by the door, and make a habit of grabbing it on the way out. I guess at this point you should assume that whenever you hear strange noises coming from the farmyard, your rifle would be handy to have in your hands. I wish I could keep a loaded rifle by my back door for shooting raccoons, but I live in town and the authorities kind of frown on discharging firearms in the neighborhood. Maybe I should pick up archery.

Beer making is kind of an insidious hobby, huh? I think it's because it involves beer drinking. Plus, the gadgets are fun. I'm glad you're having a good time with your brewing!

November 13, 2010 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

do you lock your flock in a coop/barn/shed at night?

i can't imagine you dont, but if thats the case i would certainly start. if not you're offering free dinner and sending the invite to a population of predators you now know are currently experiencing a high incidence of rabies, i assume your dogs are safe from a rabid creature, but you arent.

keep in mind fox help control the vermin population which i personally think is a great reason to keep them around, granted my area isn't experiencing an elevated level of rabies. i protect my chickens from the fox and the fox hunt my property and keep the mouse population down. win win.

November 13, 2010 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

When my father was a teenager, he shot a fox that was INSIDE the chicken pen, sleeping off its'
lunch! Hope your nemesis got the point that you are armed and dangerous (to foxes, anyway).

November 13, 2010 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger antvee said...

Well, I was going to say the same thing that Meredith said, but she said it well.

I remember reading that when you went out in the morning the chickens were milling around already. Why kill the fox when you're leaving the 'barndoor' open in invitation?

Having a predator proof pen will save the chickens and allow the natural balance to continue on your land.

I've been raising chickens for 20 years and I've only lost one to a predator. We have fox, coons and bobcats, but they can't get to my chickens unless they come around during the day when the chickens are free-ranging.

I'm not judging you. I'm just suggesting that we don't need to displace the wildlife when we move into their habitats. We can all live together, unless you get a very brave critter who is willing to come in the daylight, then you may need to shoot it.
Although, it is probably feeding babies if it's that desperate.

That said, it is obviously your land and your decision. I'm just sayin'... :)

November 13, 2010 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

So glad you got the chimney checked. Yes, it's something you can do yourself next year, assuming you have no fear of heights. Daddy was still cleaning ours at 60. I remember coming home & seeing him standing on the top of the chimney (!), heaving a rope/weight/brush assembly down the chimney & hauling it back up. The man was in incredible shape.

November 13, 2010 at 5:34 PM  
Blogger InventingLiz said...

Tanstaafl farm? Did the owners by any chance once live in Pierce Tower at the University of Chicago?

November 13, 2010 at 5:52 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

lisa, a .22 will get a coyote! Good for you!

Katie - I bought the Mr. Beer Kit and have been using it for these 10 gallons. I'll move up sometime later to a bigger kit that does 6 gallons from Northern Brewer.

Paula, I do!

Meredith, they are locked up at night, but a few roost in the trees because a racoon got in this may or june and ate all the turkey poults. I think they decided outside the coop was safer... now that a fox got at them they are all in the coop again tonight!

V - the birds that were milling about where the "tree gang" mentioned above. About five hens and a bantam roo who refuse to go in the coop and go up 20 feet into a tree where I can't get them down. I have no interest in a fox rampage, but since CAF is on a mountain road (on a mountain, actually) and surrounded by endless forest there are more predators than the average corn or meadow area. So security, and defensive measures, are in order.

November 13, 2010 at 7:13 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Aren't you securing your chickens at nightfall? We have coyotes and bear cruising our neighborhood and not only are my chickens "secured" as much as possible, I've move my rabbits inside for the winter.

November 13, 2010 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I agree with Meredith A and Antvee. I have the same predators here as Antvee has with the addition of possums, redtail hawks and once, a neighborhood mtn. lion. A coop (inside our garage) and a roofed, chain link run with 1/4" hardware cloth 3' high and another 3' apron of hardware cloth on the outside of the run (to discourage digging under) has kept our chickens safe. They free-range when we or our dog are outside.

By killing and removing the fox (or raccoon or coyote or ...), you just open up that niche for the next predator and on and on, ad infinitum. Better to outsmart them than to shoot them. It will be more effective in the long run for you, your livestock, the predators and the habitat. At least your birds have decided the coop is better than roosting in the trees, so as long as it really is predator proof, they're safe.

Predators are important to the health of ecosystems. Read why in Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators or The Wolf's Tooth: Keystone Predators, Trophic Cascades and Biodiversity. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver is fiction but one of the central parts of the book is about coyotes repopulating the Appalachians. Kingsolver obviously did a lot of research about these issues.

I hesitate to suggest this since you seem to be full up with dogs at your place, but a properly bred, reared and trained livestock guard dog (LGD) such as a Maremma, Kuvasz, Anatolian, etc. would keep your critters safe when you can't be around. And when you ARE around, they'll keep you safe, too.


November 13, 2010 at 9:25 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Foxes easily habituate to humans especially since they've not experienced a lot of violence from humans in recent generations. At the fee booth and Sand Beach in Acadia National Park there was a family of foxes panhandling as the cars stopped to pay the entrance fee or unload to go to the beach. They had learned that cars meant coolers which meant food. Eventually they had to be relocated because nothing scared them.

November 14, 2010 at 6:22 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I personally dislike beer, but hubby looks forward to the day we are putting up our own beer. Cheers!

Mama Kelly aka Jia

November 14, 2010 at 7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like Fancy is a keeper! Well, as long as the fox doesn't get him...

November 15, 2010 at 8:50 AM  

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