Over the long holiday weekend, I gave two orchard walk/ farm tours. The second ended with four of us men standing around a pickup truck talking about all sorts of stuff: if we could grow good reishi mushrooms here, the fact that women can hand-milk cows better than men, how much more expensive organic feed grain is than conventional, and how fun it is to grow orchards and perinnial food crops without having a business plan to get rid of any abundance that might arise in the future. It seems I was in the company of others, like me, that have so little trust in the world that even 50 apple trees are doubted. We’ll figure out to do with the fruit when we start getting it.
As we were standing there talking, I think we were at that point in the conversation about Icelandic chickens and how they’re all-around great birds, especially foragers and keeping their heads on a swivel and not getting killed. So that led to talk about livestock losses to predators, coyotes, foxes and weasels and whatnot. And that leds me to talking about our 3 big dogs and to calling Honey (the Anatolian Shepard) out from the barn to show her off. And of course, while I’m saying “we’ve had almost no losses to predators” I know I’m tempting fate and the immortal gods so I append my sentence with a “knock on wood” and happens I’m leaning next to a board fence, so I give it a knock.
Now, it is not two days later that the wife hears a commotion in the chicken yard and brushes it off, then hears another commotion directly after and goes to investigate and sees a red fox in with the chickens, feathers flying and rooster doing his daring do. So thankfully, that most meek of roosters we chose has enough bravery in his chest and natural instinct to do his job and go out there swinging his boot knives at the invader. And my wife got much mad at Honey, who was asleep in the barn – it is hot, God bless her – and she tied the dog up out there a while. So we’ll have to keep an eye on one hen that lost a mouthful of feathers, make sure she’s okay. And keep a better eye out, in general, for foxes. And shut them chickens up at night a little tighter.
The main problem isn’t really the fox. Its the rain. This is the time of year that I’d bush-hog the field to prevent senescence of the grass but it hasn’t been raining. I hesitate to bush-hog right at the beginning of a big drought. So I’ve put it off until we get caught up on rain a bit. That’s left the fields tall and perfect for a fox. I’m surprised we haven’t lost a goose.
After my wife told me the story yesterday evening, I was out there in the area of attack to let the cows out after milking and to put the geese away. Usually, we let the geese put themselves away but I wanted to make sure they were in the right spot now, the safest spot. And as I was out there, with my eyes to the north, the tops of the grass tall and going toward light brown, I could feel something out there. Yeah, it definitely felt like that fox was out there. Watching. And thinking about it now, could be ox-eyed Hera that has taken a grudge. Over the weekend we toasted Athene and the next night to her father Zeus. Perhaps I have amends to make.
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