Saturday, June 30, 2012

Coyote Handbook - Chapter Three

All self respecting coyotes prefer to enter a chicken field restaurant through a ground level doorway.  If that  form of entrance becomes difficult or impossible, it is suggested that the coyotes hold a meeting to determine a successful entry into the chicken field local eatery.  Some of the older members suggested that it is possible to go over the top of the fence.  It is ideal to have heavy cover, ie brush or tall grass, to camouflage  the coyote as it creeps to the fence restaurant wall.  Time must taken to make sure that the coast is clear before attempting to enter.  Stealth is of the upmost  importance.  Cover on the landing side of the wall is also important.  That allows the coyote to hide until the ideal opportunity presents itself to grab the chicken cordon bleu and make a run for it.  Any self respecting coyote refuses to pay for it's meal, and does not hang around to be made to wash dishes in lieu of payment.

Yep, the coyotes held their meeting.  They all agreed that there was chicken just waiting to be had.  And yes, that fence was there to be climbed. ( I can hear all those commenters saying 'told ya so!') Yesterday I was making jam.  I was more or less done, and noticed that there was a hen cackling away in the south field.  Kind of a 'I've laid an egg and I want you all to know about it' cackle, but not quite.  I thought was a bit late in the day to be yelling about laying an egg, and the hen was stood in one spot with her head held up high.  So I walked out, across the driveway, and stood at the fence looking down the field.  There were other chickens stood still with their heads up.  The crows were squawking away, so I wondered if a hawk or eagle had flown over.  Couldn't see anything, so scanned along the fence line where we had put up the new wire to see if I could see anything suspicious. Nothing.  The hens were still worried about  something though. I was just about to give up and head back inside, and suddenly out of the long grass in the ditch along the fence at the bottom of the field, there shot a coyote.  It ran in an arc, in order to cut the closest hen off from making a dash for the coop.  The hen was grabbed, and I screamed and yelled and banged on the wire fence with one hand, and low and behold the coyote dropped the hen, and a whole bunch of feathers, and the hen ran for her life back to the coop.  The coyote ran the other way, and disappeared back into the grass.  I ran back to the house and yelled for Larry, who came out with the dogs.  It was raining at this point, and he put raingear on and followed the track through the tall wet grass, and all we can figure is that the coyote came in and got out over the 5+ ft. fence in the corner where the fence between the chicken field and our hayfield  tees with the fence line between our property and the neighbour's hayfield.  There was no other way out, and there was a chicken feather stuck to the fence right near the top.  So now we figure we need to attach some wire that leans out, away from the chicken field, to stop the coyotes climbing over.  And that long grass needs to be cut down, and... and... and.....  This could be endless.  So as a temporary measure, the hens have been confined to an area about 50' x 80'.  The field has been cut off just below the coop.  There is a roll of wire there on a permanent basis.  When we get new hens we roll that out to keep them close to the coop so they don't get lost further down the field and round the corner, until they figure where the food and water is, and where they are supposed to sleep at night.  There is a lot of open space between the bottom of the field and that temporary fence.  A coyote will be less willing to expose themselves in the open.

Do you hear that,  coyotes?  It could be very dangerous to get yourself trapped in the open between those two fences. It would be quite close to the house, we might have a gun, pellet gun,  airsoft pistol. In fact so dangerous that I think you should wander off and find someone else's chickens that are easier pickings.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Coyote Fence

After finding the hole under the fence to the south chicken field, we both spent about 3 hours on Thursday fixing things up.  The hole was dug under the fence under that hazelnut tree that straddles the fence in the center of the picture.  The coyotes prefer to dig in a hidden spot.  We cut some short lengths of that fencing you can see in the photo, attached it to the bottom of the fence, laid it horizontal along the ground, and fastened it down. 

 The fence from the tree to the gate where the picture was taken from was in pretty bad shape.  Over the 25 years we have been here, horses had put a lot of pressure on the fence and it was low and sagging.  Not that we'd been aware of a coyote ever jumping over it, although Luna uses that as an exit if she doesn't want to wait for the gate to be opened.  In actual fact, the coyotes aren't even supposed to have access to that fence.  It means they've got through the fence on the other side of the hayfield as well.  That will be a fencing job for the Fall probably, when the jungle has died back and we can actually see what is going on out there.
The original fencing was what is called farm fencing around here. 47" tall, with vertical wires 6" apart, and the horizontal wires creating spaces about 3" tall at the bottom and increasing to 6" at the top.

  Good enough to keep all but the most determined hens in, but unfortunately, there are always a few determined ones in the flock.  So then I took a 4' tall roll of stucco wire, (stronger than chicken wire) which has 2" square holes, cut it in half, and added that to the bottom 2' of the fence. Even the most determined hen can't force it's body through a 2" hole.  It's all good until you add a horse into the mix.  Without a good tight top wire or two, or an electric wire, the urge to lean over the fence where the grass is always greener on the other side, it just too much for any self respecting horse to pass up.  

We did have an electric wire for a while, but eventually over the years the fence was pushed down, the bottom stepped on, and the ground has claimed the bottom part of the fence.  Therefore we left the old fence up, since in this stretch we had a built in barrier to stop any digging under, and just added the 'new' fence on the other side of the post.
Larry mowed a strip with the tractor as close as he could get to the fence, and then I went along with the weadeater and finished off the job so that we could get the wire right down to the ground, and snug against the posts.  It is 4' tall with 2x4" openings.  I stuck those two white markers at the top corner, where Luna would jump over, to make it more obvious to her that things had changed.

Things will probably go quiet on the coyote front for a little while, but that's just because they are calling a few meetings and planning a different strategy.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Calm After The Storm

Although we do get a lot of rain here, we don't generally get any major weather 'events'. 
Saturday afternoon we did get one of those rare events, or at least what counts as an event for us, and it doesn't take much for it to be classified as such:)

Being a Saturday, it was a market day. This market only takes one person, so I went and then Larry came an hour before the end. A chance for me to have a bit of a look around the market, and it's always nice to have someone there to help you pack up, especially if it's hot.  We are still waiting for the 'hot'. 
 He took over for me, and I wandered off with my bucket and pruners down the nearby railway sidings, to see what wild stuff I could round up.  So a bucket of foxgloves, daisies, and branches of some shrub thing that looked a bit like a droopy astilbe flower before the buds have popped, plus a few other bits of 'stuff', was carried back to add to whatever few flowers I had yet to round up at home.  I only take flowers to the Sunday market.

After we had packed up at the market, Larry headed home with the truck and trailer, and I headed to the fabric store and then my favourite thrift store.  We had lucked out with the weather, and it had been dry and decent at the market, with the sun eventually coming out. 

At one point I glanced out of the windows, and 'Holy Sh*t', I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The weather had been fine when I walked into the store.  It now looked like one of those news shots from a hurricane zone in Florida.  The rain was blowing in sheets at a 45 degree angle, the trees were bending at the same angle, and there was thunder and lightening, although they weren't really obvious because the clouds and rain were just about drowning them out.  Eventually I had to leave, and my car was parked on the other side of the street.  I even checked to see if the thrift store had a cheap umbrella I could buy to get me there, but there was nothing that I wanted to pay money for. 

 On the way home I stayed off the freeway, and tried to pick routes that didn't have a lot of tall trees next to the road.   There were lots of small branches on the pavement, and some areas were starting to flood.  When I arrived here, the power had just gone out, and Jake was a shaking, panting little dog. He does not like wind, and thunder even less.  I fashioned a sort of 'thundershirt' for him out of some stretchy ribbing fabric, put a tight dog coat on him to hold it all in place, and made a den for him in the smallest crate covered over to make it dark.  He stayed in there and came out later after the storm passed looking much happier.

By that point I wished I'd been home earlier and picked what flowers we had before the rain hit.  I was a pleasant surprise though to see that they had all survived, and after it dried up a bit, I went out and cut what there was.  Even the tall delphiniums and the monkshood were still standing.
And while I was outside, the power came back on, and all was well with my world:)


They did end up being rather big bouquets, and but sometimes you just have to keep adding flowers to make it look right.  With those big tall spikes in the middle, there had to be enough at the bottom to balance them out, as I didn't have enough of the right flowers to just make it just a tall bouquet.
Very 'countryish', that's for sure!

We ended up bring one home with us yesterday afternoon.  A lady paid for it, and said she was coming back for it later, but never did. 
Here it is in one of my dad's pieces of pottery, being hit by this morning's early sunlight.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Cost of Doing Business

I'd agonized for quite a while about raising the price of the eggs that we sell at the farmers market.  One minute I'd think that we should just leave them as they are, and then next minute I could easily justify raising the price. Of course it didn't help that the vendor next to us at the market is easily selling her eggs for a dollar more a dozen.  Ideally the price hike would have been made at the beginning of the season.  Unfortunately the timing of getting the new hens wasn't good, so that meant we had lots of smaller eggs when the markets started, so it didn't seem right to be charging more for those eggs.  So I rehashed it all again, and finally decided to put the price up to $4.50 from $4.00 on July 1st.  The new eggs are up to size now, and that gave me two or three weeks to give our customers fair warning.  After all, minimum wage has gone up a couple of dollars in the last little while, and that would easily account for us putting the price up 50 cents.

After Monday, I felt like charging $10 a dozen.  We had a bunch of panicky hens in the south field, but couldn't figure out what was bothering them.  We let Jake and Luna in there, and they were concentrating on the fence between the chicken field and the hay field.  Both very obviously air scenting, so I was wondering if a coyote had been in there on the other side of the fence.  Let the dogs into the hay field, and Jake especially raced around and ended up at the other side, and by his actions seemed to indicate there was something down in the 'Hole'.  The grass is so long in the hay field that it was hard to even figure out where Jake was at one point.  Anyway, we didn't let the dogs into the Hole to check things out, I was too worried about them getting hurt by whatever it was they could smell.

Later in the afternoon there were panicky sounds coming from the north field.  Sounded like something had got a chicken.  So out the door we raced again, and into that field.  This time there was a big patch of feathers, and then when we searched around, we found a big hole dug right under the fence, and feathers on the other side as well.  Damn coyotes.  Larry got to work hacking all the blackberry vines that were growing over the fence and concealing the area where the hole was dug.  I looked along the fence by the road on the west side.  The ground is very uneven along there, and in the 25 years that fence has been there, the pressure of the stretched fence wire has gradually pulled the fence posts up out of the ground a little bit.    I asked David to help me.  I took out the top two fence staples holding the fence to the post.  That way we were able to slip the post pounder over each  post, and bang it back down so that the bottom wire of the fence was right down to the ground.  The ground on the other side of the fence is all weadeated short, so it's not the spot a coyote would pick to dig, as it's too open and exposed.  In the meantime Larry had cleared all the over hanging blackberries and found something to plug up the hole under the fence.  Then we struggled to force the pile of blackberry cuttings over the fence and down to the bottom so that the clearer spot in the ditch, under the vines and right on the other side of the fence, is now plugged up with a whole bunch of cut off blackberry vines.

  Hopefully that is enough to discourage the coyotes from attempting another hole.  They might not right away, but I can guarantee you that they'll have another try eventually.

When we started the job, there was a coyote, in the field to the north, laying on top of one of those big marshmallow round bales of hay, watching us.  I ran up the field and it left in a hurry.
And after that unplanned hour and a half of physical labour, I thought those eggs were a steal at twice the price.

Wednesday's update -  Jake continued to bark throughout the day today, looking into the south chicken field, but we could never see anything.  I came home this evening to Larry telling me that there was a hole under the fence from the hay field, where the dogs had been air scenting the other day.  There was a small patch of feathers in the field, so we are not quite sure if the coyote was interrupted by Jake, and the chicken escaped, or if the coyote carried it off.  More fence work to do.  So tonight after all the hens were in the coop, I went out and counted them.  We've already lost three of the new hens from the north field. We've only had them about seven weeks.  The hens in the south field are down by three as well, which is actually pretty good, since we've  had them for more than a year now.  Don't know when those losses occurred.  I'll look tomorrow and see if I notice a hen that looks to be missing a bunch of feathers. Hopefully the coyote dropped his order as he rushed out of the restaurant.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dinner and Delivery

Poked my fingers into the soft loamy soil around the oldest potato plants tonight, and stole these beauties for dinner.  I thought by now that it would be easy to sneak some spuds from the plants, without having to dig them up, but I seemed to find a lot of empty spaces (voles?).  I thought I would be able to take some to the market tomorrow, but I think I'll wait another week.  We've had such cold wet weather, the plants are tall and leggy and don't seem to have put much effort into making potatoes.

On another note, congrats to my niece Kathleen and her husband Ryan on the birth of their little boy, Riley James, at 4:30 this morning.  Kathleen is a labour and delivery nurse at a Vancouver hospital.   She was having minor contractions yesterday, and wasn't sure she was in labour.  Things changed fast overnight, and on their way to the hospital this morning, they had to pull over so Kathleen could deliver her son herself in the front seat of the van:)  Mother and baby are doing fine, not so sure about the van seat though!

And if you want to know more about Nanaimo Bars, here's a link with the official Nanaimo bar recipe, and more links to give you some history and directions to walk around Nanaimo sampling Nanaimo bars in a multitude of weird forms.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


So the BC/Yukon Agility Regionals weekend arrived, and we went.....and we volunteered.
 Got there Thursday afternoon, got the trailer parked and set up, familiarized ourselves with the site, took the dogs for a walk, and stopped at the off-leash area in the park and let them play fetch.
The next morning I took the dogs out first thing for their morning constitutional, and went back to the trailer for breakfast.  A bit later,  Larry was sat in the trailer on the steps leading up to the bed.  He was sat sort of funny, his head in his hands, and I asked him what was wrong.  He told me that Luna had just limped. What?!!  She had just walked from the other end of the trailer towards him and was obviously favouring her right front leg.  It seemed to be the foot/ankle area that was bothering her. Probably did something while she was chasing the ball the night before.  She seemed to walk most of it off, after she got moving.  I did run her in a Steeplechase class that afternoon, which was nothing brilliant but went okay.  A friend gave me a herbal anti-inflammatory to give her.  I was hoping in Luna fashion that she would sleep it off, but no, when she got up on Saturday morning, she was obviously still sore on that leg.  With movement, she worked much of it off, but once she laid down for a while, she was sore on it again.  I wavered back and forth and finally decided to err on the side of caution and pull her from the competition.  No point in making things worse.  The concussion and twisting put on that leg running Luna style could easily make a bad thing much worse.  Off course it was a decision that I rehashed many times that weekend.  Times when she was leaning into the leash like a damn sled dog, trying to get me going faster to where ever it was she thought we were going.  I'd look at her then and think that she sure didn't look like she was hurting.  Trying to keep her quiet was next to impossible.  I think it's mostly sorted itself out now, it's just bad luck that it happened when it did.
That's just the way it goes sometimes.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Monday morning we sat down and started writing lists.  Lists of things to be done, things to be packed, things to be bought.  This morning we are heading out for a week.  First to Nanaimo (ever heard of Nanaimo bars?) for the BC/Yukon Agility Regionals.  Since my 'best' dog was injured at the time the entries were due, it's only Luna that's running this year.   To get on the podium is one lofty goal, and I'm not reaching that high.  There are some pretty amazing dogs in her division, and judging by her last practice at the Field of Dreams, she's suddenly forgotten most of what she knew about agility.  I'm just hoping for some decent runs.  I'm not a defeatist, I'm just realistic.  So I'm going in with no expectations, but sometimes amazing things happen, and then sometimes they don't:)

Back to the lists.  I had some pretty lofty goals when I made my list.  For some reason it was about five times longer than Larry's.  Larry didn't even have anything written down for Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Wednesday I was still working on things I had written down to be done on Monday.  Things to be done for the market that will only be a couple of days after we get back.  Gardening done that should have been done a few weeks ago.  Seeds sown, bedding plants bedded, weeds weeded.  Anyway, what's done is done, and what isn't, isn't, and unless I can get it done between about 6am and 9am this morning, it ain't happening.
Then we'll be on our way, and a few miles down the road, I'll go 'oh sh#t, I forgot to ......' or 'oh sh#t, I didn't bring the....'.  Well you know how it goes.  And then we'll be far enough from home that I just shut it out of my mind, and get on with enjoying the break from all that stuff that is still on the list, and that will be that much weedier when we get back home.

Home is being left in some capable hands, and sometimes we come back and are scared to look to see what has been moved, chopped down, mowed off, cleaned up and put somewhere that we can't find it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Not My Fault This Time

This afternoon I looked out of the kitchen window, and there was a horse on the lawn.  
Larry was cleaning out the chicken coops, and had left a gate open so he could push the wheelbarrow straight to the manure pile.  Of course Pride wasn't around when he did that, but eventually he wandered down, and went through the first gate which let him into the area behind the barn.  Since the gate on the other side of the barn was also open, he figured he might as well check out that grass that is always greener on the other side of the gate, which meant he ended up on the back lawn.  
Luna was right on it.  Not that Pride gives a hoot about what Luna thinks anyway.  Thankfully he didn't trample or eat anything he shouldn't

And all it took to get his attention was Larry arriving with an apple to lead him back to the side of the gate he should be on.

Is that an apple for me?

Pride turned 30 years old this Spring.  We think he looks pretty good.  
Despite not having much in the way of teeth to chew his food properly, he actually gained weight over the winter.  Must have been all that pelleted feed he got.
Soak the pellets in warm water until it's like a stiff porridge, and all a horse has to do is swallow it.
Don't need any teeth for that.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I Just Wanted to Cry

When I got home yesterday suppertime, after a long day at the market and the shopping and other things that needed to be done afterwards (gone from home 10 1/2 hours), the first thing I noticed as I pulled up the driveway was a chicken or two, or three, or ten, or forty, in the vegetable garden.  
Larry and David were gone for the day.  Meredith would have passed by there a couple of times, but.....well obviously she didn't notice.  There are a row of hedging cedars between the driveway and the garden, and not many places to see into it from the driveway other than where the gate is.

I rushed over there and realized the whole flock was in the vegetable garden, and I could tell they were out of food.  They 'talk' differently when they are out of food.  So they found what food they could in the vegetable garden.

The broccoli which was looking nice and healthy and well on it's way to producing heads now looks like this.  The cabbage next to it looks the same.  Some of the smaller plants were yanked right out of the ground.

The row of bok choi which was a bit leggy, but would have produced a few bags for today's market, is decimated.

Kale, which was coming along gangbusters, now looks like this.  Some of it was yanked out too.

I honestly felt like crying.  
I charged into the garden like a mad woman, screamed and yelled and herded them as fast as I could back through the gate.  The gate which I had gone through in the morning to let them out.  The gate it seems I neglected to fasten.  It must have blown open a bit later.  There was a bit of scratching done in a newly seeded bed.  
The spinach had some damage, but 75% of it is still OK.  The arugula is mostly unscathed.
On the bright side, it could have been worse, but on the dark side, it really shouldn't have happened at all.  Now I'm heading out there to see what I can salvage for today's market.