Not an owl. Not a hawk. Something long and low and sandy-colored, something glimpsed in the barnyard at six a.m., after the night guard with their 22.’s have retired to bed. Something that killed five birds and left them uneaten in a circle roughly twenty feet in diameter. Something that is hitting the chickens early in the morning as they are coming off their roosts. We guess it is a fox.
For four nights we have come out very early in the morning, like three o’clock, to lie in wait and catch the fox, or whatever it is, in the act of slaying chicken; and for four nights running, nothing has happened. No sounds, no deaths. Seems like our fox can see us, or smell us, or maybe hear us. Seems like he’s as crafty as a fox. Last night he managed to get away with a turkey, our last turkey, who was a ground sleeper; while we were looking east, the predator, whatever it is, was coming out of the west.
We are quite fed up. At this rate, we will soon have no birds whatsoever. This animal has got to go. We have set out a caged chicken as bait, and are taking turns staying awake to hear her cackle when the fox comes close. Then, we hope, we will look out the window in the bright moonlight, and make short work of this animal which seems to have appointed us its private poulterers.
Isabel has been needing to be turned out of her paddock after lunch, and allowed to do what she likes until milking time at six o’clock. Not all of her paddocks can be laid out to provide shade in the hot part of the day, and she needs to get out of the sun and its accompanying threat of sunstroke. This is a variation on the rotational grazing of our books and magazine articles, which have said little about shade requirements. We imagine this will become part of our regular routine, and hope it won’t have too adverse an impact on our pasture impovements.
The four new steers seem bright enough, but three of them have developed lumps on their faces. Another question. Are these just abcesses, with which we are fairly familiar, or something else? One calf has a lump the size of half a baseball on the side of his head. We have lanced smaller abcesses, but this looks like lancing it would require something on the order of Madame Guillotine. Or is there something else wrong with our calves, something serious? The sick-in-the-gut feeling we get when our animals are not thriving twists in our stomachs. Fortunately, while we are still waiting for a return call from our friendly dairyman, the lumps subside on their own.
Keeping animals requires flexibility as well as iron discipline. And writing about it keeps us up too late, so we are on our way to bad.
God grant we may find the danged fox and let it know what we think of its activities before we run out of chickens for it to practice upon.