Tuesday, March 27, 2012

bears out there, son

It's Tuesday night and I do not get home from riding Merlin until nearly 8PM. I have seen to the dogs and their supper (fed the cats too) before I left to ride but the majority of regular farm chores were pushed off until I returned. The ride was chilly, around thirty degrees in the arena, but okay. It was just me and one other woman tonight, a coworker at Orvis named Kathy. I can't help but compare riders to their horses and Kathy and her Warmblood Divine were an elegant pair. Divine is over 16 hands, long, and trots like a Russian ballerina if she had four legs. Merlin and I are, well, Merlin and I. But we share the arena well. I am feeling more and more comfortable with this horse, more comfortable in the saddle in general. Patty, Steele, Merlin, and I might take our first field trip this weekend for a trail ride in Washington County. I'm nervous and excited. To ride across farm fields on the back of my own horse will be a treat. I have a western saddle here, an impulse buy at the annual Poultry Swap last May that was too big for Jasper. It is perfect for Merlin and I might use it. I'm more comfortable in my English irons and simpler saddles though. I can't ever really lose my focus in it. I am a woman who needs focus.

Anyway, I got home and dove into chores. I kick off my paddock boots and half chaps and side muck boots over my breeches. I throw a beat Carhartt vest over my riding clothes. I feel like Clark Kent, swooshing into my farmhouse phone booth to turn from mild-mannered English Pony Rider into Feral Farm Girl. I want to bring my ipod to listen to my recent audiobook (on the second Huger Games book) but resist the urge. My neighbor told me about the large black bear that toppled their feeders and trash the night before. They live less than a half mile up the mountain. And if bird feed smells good to that bear, imagine what molasses soaked sweet grains and chicken grower mash must smell like? Not to mention bee hives, eggs, and compost piles. So I leave the entertainment inside. I want my wits about me. I grab a lantern and head to the barn.

I dump and refill Jasper's water bucket and hand him a flake of hay. I refill the rabbit's waterers and feeders too, and see my chunky Isbar rooster on top of the highest haybale, a few feet above me. It amazes me that the scrappy half Americuana/half Pumpkin roo that is all snow white is the man in charge now. He was born here on the farm, raised from a chick, and now he rules the whole farm. His crow is classic, could be a ringtone if the Corn Flake's box had a cell phone. But the Isbar rooster is up and quiet, like a gray wolf in wait. He stares at me like I burned his passport and he can never return to the Old Country. I wonder if the bear would be half as intimidating in lantern light as he?

I collect six eggs and set them where I can grab them, and then finish up the rest of the chores. The sheep get 160 pounds of water (4 buckets), and their grain bins filled. The fat Freedom Rangers are ready to be slaughtered and I plan on calling up the farmer who takes them this week to set up a drop off time. The 20 new Rangers are in the brooder, and will remain so for a while until the 45 laying hens arrive in a few days for the Breakfast in Your Backyard Workshop. People come from all over to learn all they need to know about a backyard flock, brooder to brunch. It's a big time and they leave with three chicks! This year it is Rhode Island Reds, Dark Brahmas, and Golden Laced Wyandottes. Not a bad trio, those.

I wrap up chores and carry the half dozen eggs into the house in lantern light. For the rest of the evening every animal in my care has dinner and (hopefully quiet and bear free) sleep ahead of them. Inside the tea kettle is hot, and I crave my evening cup of Lyons. Ever since I started running and eating healthier, I don't crave alcohol at night. I don't want a big dinner. I ate hours ago and I just want tea, a blanket, and to hear about the 75th annual Hunger Games disaster on the speakers inside the farmhouse. Soon there will be warm tea, warm dogs, and a good story.

Not bad for a Tuesday night. I even remembered to bring in the trash bins from the curb. So take that, Hungry Bear.

P.S. Book giveaway tomorrow! Homegrown and Homemade!

P.S.S. The wool worked as a seedling protector!


Blogger E said...

Keeping all those bear temptations out there means you are responsible for keeping the bear out. A habituated bear is a dead bear.

Get good electric fences, let your dogs work.

March 27, 2012 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Aargh, I have a love-hate relationship with that trilogy! But I won't say more, so you can make up your own mind. I do plan on seeing the movie, though, so I guess it's more love than hate. :)

Here's hoping for a bear-free night for all!

March 27, 2012 at 9:38 PM  
Blogger Patti said...

Reading about your evening is almost like being there. I think knowing that the wild ones share our space makes life exciting and full of mystery. I really enjoyed this post.

March 27, 2012 at 9:44 PM  
Blogger sco_oter said...

Hope you have a safe night. I am with Flartus. I also have a love-hate relationship with the Hunger Games. But it is very well written and sucks you in. Thank you for a wonderful blog. I came here through Chick Days (fabulous book!) to help with our baby chicks coming in May. Then I read Barnheart so now I am hooked :).

March 27, 2012 at 9:59 PM  
Blogger Cindy said...

Oh how I would love to attend your workshop, but east Tennessee is just too far away!

March 27, 2012 at 10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luckily, our bear problems the last few years have been contained to the neighbor's pig pen (he who insists on feeding his pigs once every 24 hours, after dark, so they don't eat the feed but the bears crawl over into the pen and enjoy it). I am curled up on my bed with the two dogs, sheep are fed, chickens are tucked away and locked up, and I'm ready for a good book and some relaxation.

March 27, 2012 at 10:24 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for the wool over seedlings tip!

Hope the bear stays in the woods! Oh my, now I'm worried for your animals. This farming stuff is stressful!

March 27, 2012 at 10:51 PM  
Blogger sheila said...

Electric fence and/or some livestock guardian dogs are about the only thing that will deter bear. Great Pyrs will bark at anything that is not where it's supposed to be and they are always on duty. Bears will not mess with a pair of these dogs. I have 2 and nothing gets past them.

March 28, 2012 at 1:12 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

March 28, 2012 at 3:24 AM  
Blogger PansWife said...

Bears eat rabbit, old sheep and chickens (everything luuuves chicken). They will break into hutches, pens and coops to get them. It's heartbreaking to see how quickly they can rip things apart. An electric fence set on a fairly high voltage is the only thing I know that really keeps them out. Prevention is better than regret.

Happy Trails to you and Merlin!

March 28, 2012 at 7:27 AM  
Blogger Dancing shepherdess said...

Again, I say... get a hose. When you need shoulder surgery, you will not be able to lift anything. Get a spigot installed at the back of the house. It's rather like having a working bathroom in the house- you won't know how you lived without it.

March 28, 2012 at 8:13 AM  
Blogger Pit Stop Farm said...

Do you not slaughter the freedom rangers yourself? How much does the farmer charge for his process?

March 28, 2012 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I would vote for the western saddle for your trail ride. My riding instructor swears by them for us beginning students (I can walk and trot and hopefully intentionally canter soon!) on the trails (rocky NH woods) as the horn gives you something to steady yourself if need be. I find the horses spook a little easier on the trails so heels down! Enjoy!!!!

March 28, 2012 at 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if you're not hungry in the evenings, you need to eat something, not just a drink, to stay strong and healthy. Eat something light. Eating too much and not enough are both unhealthy.

Love Maw lol

March 28, 2012 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Elaine said...

did you finish "Outlander" ?

March 28, 2012 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

finished the first book! on the second!!!

March 28, 2012 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

I have SO MUCH time with headphones folks, hours and hours day either driving, walking dogs, doing chores or in the house. I fly through them!

March 28, 2012 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Saw these awesome headphone for cycling. Maybe they'd be good for farm chores too:


March 28, 2012 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger kimberlesk said...

I'm with those who have a love/hate relationship with the HG series. I'll be interested in what you think when you're finished. Saw the movie last night and thought it was a great adaptation.

Thank you for the great blog and for sharing your daily experiences. I love reading about it. And thanks also to Jon Katz for linking to your blog from his! I look forward every day to reading both!

I'm looking forward to your progression with Merlin. He's a beautiful boy!

March 28, 2012 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger seagrrlz said...

I have to say that I really REAllY don't like bears. Hope the bear that's in your area moves on.
Otherwise you might be aquiring a nice new rug,lol.

March 28, 2012 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Bailey said...

I second Sheila's comment about Great Pyrenees. I've had three-- still have one and they do, in fact, bark at anything out of place: cats, laundry, the wind, you name it.

That said, they tend to be super friendly and companionable.

March 28, 2012 at 2:21 PM  
Blogger KiwiGirl said...

I've go with an english saddle for your first trail ride - I always feel much more in connected and in control with one of those on board. Westerns make me feel like I'm sitting in an armchair (which isn't a bad thing sometimes!).

I've given audiobooks a go once, when I was ill at home and not allowed to read any print books (due to eye trouble). I still prefer the printed page - must be that new book smell, I guess. After the noisiness of our office, I enjoy the peace and quiet when doing chores.

March 28, 2012 at 3:27 PM  
Blogger janette said...

Hi Jenna, I live in an area of canada that has the highest pop. density of cougars, lots of wolves, and a ton of black bears (a few grizzly's here are there, too). Anyways, a good barky dog can take care of em pretty good. My (very unassuming) forty pound heeler mix has treed black bears before. Also, warning shots. I don't know anyone who would bother with an electric fence. spreading human pee around entry points is another thing we do sometimes... we've also spread entrails/fur of other bears (works well with coons, too) in the area. We've never seen it not work.

March 29, 2012 at 11:46 AM  
Blogger Kelly A said...

When I was backpacking in Glacier National Park in Montana a black bear was wondering up by the big lodge/busy campsite area way too close with all those people around. The rangers came and yelled to try to scare it off. When that didn't work they shot him with a paint ball gun. They explained that this scares the bear off without hurting it and serves to tag the bear so they know if it returns. If a bear keeps coming back to the highly populated area they have to then tranquilize it and move it to a remote area of the park. Obviously you wouldn't be tranquilizing and moving the bear but if it's getting close, a paintball or beanbag gun may work to humanely scare it away.

I also have a friend with a great Pyrenees and she is so sweet and gentle with her cats and other small animals in the neighborhood. They are wonderful giant dogs if you wanted to expand your pack :)

March 29, 2012 at 9:32 PM  

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