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  • Writer's pictureJane Wheeler

February Farm News

Last week we were woken up early with growling followed by 2 big barking dogs hopping from window to window.

Much like the guy in the Christmas story we hopped out of bed to see what was the matter and out in the yard causing such a flutter we spied 2 very large moose grazing on the new tree shoots. They were probably only 20 feet from the house, munching away, not caring if the dogs barked or not. It was momma and her last years baby, who is very large, but momma is huge! Therefore, the dogs had to stay in and we had to try to quiet them down. We were all very awake at this point!

Before I hike down to the chicken’s in the morning I search the driveway, the bush and all around for signs of Momma Moose and baby. They have been hanging around for a couple weeks. Yesterday they were down on the road coming into the house. It is pretty awesome to see such large animals up close – I mean while safely tucked in the house or car.

The week before 3 deer were prancing around all over the driveway for a few days.

The chickens have not had a bad winter, we have been able to let them outside quite a bit this winter because it has been fairly mild. They love to come outside and snoop around, we do not let them free range at this point but there is a covered part attached to their coop where they can be safe but outside. There have been a few times where I have gone down in the mornings to shrieks coming from the outside cage. I found blue jays stuck inside the cage. I let them out rather quickly to get rid of the screeching but sometimes I think to myself, you got in, you should be able to get yourselves out.

I try to let the chickens out as much as I can because they get very bored locked up inside the main coop. We cleaned out the coop a couple weeks ago, it might have seemed early, except in my 5 year journal, we had cleaned it out last January as well. Last January we had ducks and chickens, now it is 15 chickens and 1 rooster.

Today when I went into the coop, there was an egg laying right there in the middle of the floor. That tells me something and if I do a little 1 + 1 = 2 math, the chickens are bored and some have started to try to eat some of the eggs. I have caught one chicken up on the top shelf of the laying box using her chest to try to push the egg over to the floor below to the waiting chickens, egging her on (pun intended). Then there are the times I reach in to grab an egg only to find it and my hand covered with egg yolk. 1 + 1 = 2, they are eating some of the eggs.

Bored chickens means less eggs, which is why I love getting them outside.

I have a little ball with a bell and we stuff it with lettuce, they like to push it around and get lettuce, but it only lasts so long. I NEVER thought I would be trying to keep chickens entertained! We have learned that meal worms are actually "chicken crack" as they go nuts for them! Even the crackling of the bag sparks a lot of excitement.

The rooster has lasted as long time, I thought he would meet the soup pot long ago, but he has proven himself to be very valuable. He is a “guard” rooster and is very protective of his “girls”.  Brian and Isaac, that is his name according to Brian have a love/hate relationship. Brian loves to try to catch him as much as possible and Isaac tries to avoid Brian at all costs.

I noticed last year that if I heard a loud clucking noise outside, I mean there are loud clucking noises inside when one of the girls is trying to lay an egg, but if it is really loud outside, I need to turn and pay attention. If I notice that Isaac is making that clucking noise and all the “girls” are behind him, it means there is a predator close. I had no idea roosters made a clucking noise or what it meant, but Isaac knows how to get my attention rather quickly.

When I hear it, I let the dogs out and tell them to check out the chickens or sometimes I grab my gun and run down never knowing exactly what it might be. Not sure if you remember the time the dogs barked at the bush and the bush barked back as coyotes were in there.

Most of the time I have no idea what is around, but I fire off a couple shots off to let the predators know to keep away.

Other farm news: Dug outs are dangerously low on water, we have no snow and we are all praying for moisture! After the disastrous hay crops of last year and people having to sell a lot of cattle because feed was nonexistent or way too expensive, we are in need of water. (prayer point) Down on the road below us, there are some beavers that have been so busy gnawing on the trees. Once I had to stop because they had one down right across the road. Honestly if you drive down there you will see at least 10 big trees right beside the road missing huge hunks of tree and looking dangerous. Brian said that when he grew up it was said if the beavers were busy chomping the trees like that it meant that they were getting ready for water. I am praying those beavers are good weather readers!

We checked and cleaned the fence line after that windstorm that sounded like a freight train coming through the house a couple weeks ago, it shook the house and woke us up at 6:00am as thing rolled through. When I woke up I was unsure what was happening, it was so loud!

Brian was not here and I got up to find a deafening wind storm, causing the dogs to be hunkered down on their beds afraid, as the rain literally pelleted the house and the house was shaking. I have no idea how fast the wind was blowing but it hit our outside door so hard there was a lake of water on the inside. When I stood at the window looking out, I saw the wind lift our water tank probably 100 lbs or more like nothing as it started rolling around in the yard. I was praying “Don’t break! Don’t break! And do not roll down the driveway!”

The worst of it lasted only 20 minutes (not enough rain) and then gone, I decided I had better go out and check on things. The first thing I noticed was the wood bin I had sitting on the porch, full of wood so over 50 lbs, was gone. Water barrels were rolling around the yard. The ladder which had been against the house was now on the ground, I am thinking that is what did the dogs in, as it was on their side of the house and I am sure caused quite a horrible noise as it fell.

I proceeded to go to the chicken pen, but they were all still asleep and seemed unperturbed by the wind.

With the rain, I was not sure how navigating the driveway would be as it has a bed of ice over it and ice and water make, well, new ice! But I needed to get out.

By the time I went down the driveway it was glossy but I got down safely to the road below and that is where the trouble started! The sheet of black, glossy ice in front of me caused me a great deal of concern. I knew there was no going back up the driveway at this point, so out to the highway was the only way to go. I noticed at the corner after I skidded to a stop, that there were power lines down all over the road and all over the intersection I was at. I headed away from that and called it in. A tree had fallen on the lines somewhere higher up. I made it to the highway and saw the sand truck in the ditch because it was so slippery. Glad that day is over.

A couple days later and I had another encounter with our moose.

I had taken the quad out for a run and had Mila our 1 year old dog tagging along. To say that she loves the quad is an understatement – her goal in life is to go for a run. She runs and jumps and barks along side and for her it is the best thing ever!

We had gone up to the other end of the property where Brian was working. I had already made 2 trips back and for was doing the return to the house to start on supper.

Mila was running through the bush and was up ahead, as I was coming up the last hill. That was when I noticed the moose to my right. I could not see Mila and I thought to myself, “don’t let Mila see it, don’t let Mila see it!”

I rounded the corner where moose gal was kind of right beside me. I did not want to yell for Mila as I wanted to get by the moose first. The moose simply stood there and watched me, totally unaffected by me. I was 20 feet away, with a few trees between us. I kept thinking: “that’s baby, where is Momma?” while glancing all over the bush.

Too late I saw Mila come a running and barking and leaping because she saw the moose. She went racing towards it as I am sure she thought it had come to play and then Miss Moose started stamping her feet! Not a great sign to see an agitated moose!

I hit the gas and yelled for Mila to “come” and we took off for the house, Praise God that Mila listened and followed me and Miss Moose let us go without further incident and Momma did not arrive. That one was a little too close for comfort!

The joys of everyday in the bush with a few of our neighbors!

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