Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The messenger

 
photo courtesy Wikipedia 

Last night on the way home from town, about 5:30, we were driving along the road like usual. I was thinking of my evening chores, and what I should make for dinner, and Kevin was just watching the road.

Then it happened. A Barred owl landed on a fence post to my right. I couldn't believe it. I looked right at it and as I told Kevin, "look at the owl" excitedly, the owl turned it's head and looked me straight in the eye.

Straight in the eye.

Both of us gasped. We couldn't help it.

Owl's are messengers. In many Native American beliefs owls are a bad omen and speak of death. Many believe when you hear the owl call your name, your time is up. Now, I've seen owls before and they are beautiful creatures. I do not always believe owls have a bad message to deliver, but I do believe they always have a message. It's also quite different to see an owl flying by, or listen to him calling in the night, than it is to see one land in broad daylight in front of you and look you directly in the eye. It's unusual. And my gut told me right away, somethings in the air. Later winter is always strange, it's an in between time and the balance is different, just like with the full moons.

I got up to the barn later than usual for this time of year, after 6 PM. There was still light but it was fading fast. Usually the animals go inside this time of year by 5:30. I've mentioned before whenever I do something out of the norm - like put the animals in the barn later than usual, the coyotes move in. Last night was no different. I got up to the barn and everyone was by the door waiting for me to put them in. My Pyrs were barking towards the house - the coyotes across our pond had started barking and calling. A couple of minutes later another pack, behind the barn by our cedar swamp, started barking and yipping and they had young ones with them.

I got all the critters put inside in their pens and tucked away. I had fed Max and was walking across the barnyard with Flavious towards the gate with my horse hay and grain, when out of the corner of my eye I saw rapid movement behind my larger horse pasture. Just as I stopped to look, Max came flying across the yard at a hundred miles an hour, barking. He almost ran straight into the fence because he put the brakes on a little late.

I saw a few deer go flying through the forest behind the pasture, and I mean flying, one almost tripped it was running so fast. There is a big difference between running away from a possible threat, and running for your life.

I knew something was up. The wild turkeys were already long ago in their roosts behind the horse pasture so they offered no advice on what might be happening.

I made a mental note to tell Kevin something strange was happening in the forest when I got home. 
When I got home, the little dogs and I went outside and I brought Flavious his dinner (he eats near the house) and we fooled around for a bit before heading back inside. I forgot to tell Kevin about the deer running because I got caught up in making soup and tending to the animals inside the house.

I didn't think much about the deer or the owl for the rest of the night.  But I did have an odd feeling. I knew The owl told me a secret, I just couldn't understand what it was. Yet.
Early this morning, we heard a turkey gobble in the yard. I thought to myself, how great of him to be an alarm clock and wake me up, since we were planning on going out today.

A pause. In that wonderful morning state between dreaming and waking, I resisted waking trying to hold onto my dreams one last time as the morning chased them away.

Then, the turkey gobbled again.

It's unusual for them to gobble randomly like that. It's not mating time yet. It's morning- they've never done it before... I know why my turkeys gobble and one reason is out of annoyance, also fear, to show someone else they are bigger than them... because I gobbled at them first...

Finally Kevin got up and went into the living room to put the fire on. We retired to bed a little earlier than usual last night and the fire had gone out so the house was cooler than it normally is in the morning.

I was getting up when he came into the bedroom and told me the news. The yard was full of Ravens and hawks, there was a dead deer in the marsh, on the edge of the pond and the edge of our yard. His first impression from a far was that it was old and maybe the snow just melted there.

Further investigation proved, it was brand new. Within minutes a Bald Eagle showed up.

Kevin went out and looked. It was a big doe, probably killed early morning or late last night. She came from the other side of the pond, the coyotes made the kill on the ice which is where it is easiest. To give you an idea, the pond in front of our house is large, about 15 acres. Most people think it's a lake. It's a large area. Ice in the winter is an obvious advantage for predators while chasing their prey. Also the amount of open space lakes and large ponds offer. Within minutes of Kevin coming back inside the house, the coyotes started coming out of the trees on the other side of our pond and they were in the yard within minutes.

I only managed to get pictures of one of them from inside the house...
 




They came in broad daylight, with us having been up and making noise. I'd been out with the little dogs - Kevin had walked all the way down to the pond and even to where the deer lie... We knew they would come back and canceled our morning plans for leaving the farm. But we never expected within minutes of us getting up and banging around they would come out and come right into the yard.

That's more bold than we expected and it's not normal. They showed no fear of us and did not care.

I love living in nature and accept the role of predators and prey. Nature is a complex, often cruel, but always beautiful.

However, I'd rather not have coyotes in my front yard with my animals feet away from them, and the coyotes not even remotely caring about my presence or seeing any reason to feel threatened. The balance is off. We have in the past seen mange in the local coyote population but the ones our trail cameras picked up this winter and also the one we saw twice on our pond and the ones we've seen today - had no sign of it. They were just starting to shed their winter coats and were quite healthy.



I'm not going to share any graphic pictures, but to give you an idea, it was closer than this to the house. I was standing on the ice when I took this picture and where the coyotes were is just on the edge of where the marsh grass ends and the yard begins, near where our garden fence is.
Put simply, if this happened in the forest it would be part of nature and fine. But happening in our yard, feet away from my chicken coop - we cannot allow coyotes to be in the yard, for any reason, especially in broad daylight and showing no fear of us. It puts my animal family at way too great a risk. An unacceptable risk as anyone with dogs and livestock knows. Put short, we reminded them we'll respect them if they remember to respect us. We reminded them with the 270.


 It was quite a morning. Thankfully everything was fine up at the barn, my light bulb that keeps my water pump from freezing went out last night, so I needed to replace it and then give it a few minutes to thaw, but it was fine on the time I finished my other chores. When I was out yesterday I bought a bunch of treats for the rabbits so they were thrilled to get a full salad bar this morning. You can see the edge of the pond from my craft table, so while I worked this afternoon I could see what was going on. The Eagle came and went, but no more coyotes ventured near the house.



Douglas spent the afternoon relaxing after the chaos of the morning, not that he really knew what was going on, but he knew something was up. Everyone did - everyone always knows. 

This evening after I got dinner in the oven and sat down, Kevin was looking out on the pond with his binoculars and he spotted an owl. It was a Horned owl, absolutely beautiful. You see everyone when there is food to be had.

And speaking of Owls, if you haven't read Margaret Cravens book "I heard the owl call my name" it's worth it... it's a great book... 

“Here every bird and fish knew its course. Every tree had its own place upon this earth. Only man had lost his way.” ~ Margaret Craven, I heard the Owl call my name
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