Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hay, Predator Problems, Big Cat Sighting?

Sam says Grover makes a pretty good "Second Banana" 
It's June!  I guess that makes it officially summer.  In my book anyway.   As I was writing last week's post, Sam was home mowing hay.  The plan was to bale it on Saturday and put it in the barn, but the weather forecast changed and that along with equipment issues (always when you are using old equipment) required a change in plans.  So I went to the office on Friday and Sam repaired equipment and raked and baled hay and at dark, we were returning to the barn with our second load of hay from the top field.  We had had to put the first load up in the loft so that we could pick up the rest.  Fortunately, we can just put the tractor and trailer still loaded with hay into the poly-shelter, which is what we did so that we did not have to unload the second 120 bales or so that night.  It did sprinkle a little Friday night, but we did not get the storms and rain as forecast.

Saturday morning it was time to put the rest of the hay up into the loft.  As you can see, Grover was quite the helper.  He loves to be with us whatever we are doing, whereas once normal morning chores are finished, Rowdy prefers to go in the house and sleep until his next regularly scheduled activity, which is usually our daily hike.

One of the pieces of equipment that the neighbors bought and that we all share is a hay elevator.  We used to park the trailer right up next to the barn and toss each bale into the loft, which got harder and harder to do as the hay level on the trailer went down.  Now, I can load the bales onto the elevator and they ride on up and Sam collects and stacks.

 We did not get an exact count, but have somewhere between 250 and 300 bales.  This first cutting is not what the alpacas prefer to eat and we no longer have a horse, so we will sell this hay.

On Sunday morning, I went out to let the chickens out of the coop only to find that 2 chickens were dead and one of those was about half eaten.  The chickens go in to their coop every night at dusk and sit on their roosts and I shut them in to keep them safe from predators.  There is a little chicken door on the coop that is open all day for the chickens to come and go and there is a human sized door on the other end of the coop that allows me to get in and clean and feed and put water in in the winter.  At first, I was unable to determine where the killer, who we assumed was a raccoon, had gotten in.  But on closer look, he had obviously perched on the peak of the roof and peeled back the top of the human door and loosened it enough so that he could get in and back out which was not evident at first to me.

So the war began.  Once a raccoon finds a captive source of food he will just keep returning.  We knew we had to get rid of this coon.  I also wondered if my chickens would return to the coop on Sunday evening, or if they were smart enough to realize that their safe home had basically been a death trap as they had been unable to flee once the killer was inside.  It had to be traumatic.  A true horror movie.  The answer is, yes, they were very reluctant to go back in.  Sam and I collected chickens off the footbridge at 10 pm and put them into the coop.  The big brave rooster has been hiding in the hayloft at night.  The last 2 nights I have gone out and caught him after dark and carried him to the coop.  Last night was the first night all the hens went in on their own.

Sunday night, I set our live trap, which is rather old and rickety.  At 1 am Sam went out with is rifle and got off a shot at the raccoon, who had already tripped the trap and eaten the bait without getting caught.  This also continued Monday and Tuesday night, with me trying to place the trap in such a way the the coon would have to go into the trap to get the bait.  Sam did not see the coon either night.  He would go out at 11 pm and all would be as we left it and 2 hours later, the trap would be tripped, but no coon. Last night, Sam used stakes to stake down the trap and worked on the plate that actually sets it off and got it so that it would not trip as easily.  

At around 10:30 I was reading upstairs and had the windows open.  A storm was coming in from the west with some wind and far off lightning.  I heard an alpaca alarm call from the pasture closest to the house, where we had also had issues with a raccoon or possum getting into our feed bin. I went down and told Sam and he immediately got his gun and headed outside thinking that maybe the critters were on the move earlier than usual due to the weather.  Long story short, he shot one raccoon over where the feed had been raided and a possum over near the chicken coop and a raccoon that was in the trap we had been setting every night for 4 nights!  Let's hope this alleviates the problem.  My chickens are silly, defenseless birds and they deserve to feel safe in their own coop.

Monday, I spent a bit of time on the tractor doing what I call "weed control".  This basically means I was mowing the alpaca pastures to keep the weeds they won't eat from going to seed and reproducing.  It also needs to be done to cut the grass shorter as the alpacas prefer the tender new growth of the grass and will not eat it once it gets tall and stemmy.  Picky.  As I mowed the very back pasture, my neighbor, who shares the fenceline, waved me over and told me she and husband had been riding down the road the previous evening around dusk to go look at the well/pipeline sites.   Shortly past our alpaca field, she said, a very large reddish brown cat with a long tail ran across the road in front of them.  This was no bobcat, she said.  Definitely not.  There have been rumors for years about a "panther" down here in our hollow and the more people I talk to, the more stories I hear of sightings.  I just hope it stays away from the alpacas!  A mountain lion would make a predatory raccoon seem like, well a raccoon, I guess.

 Fibery stuff:  Last week I mentioned my turkish drop spindle.  Well here it is.  After I started spinning on it I watched some youtube videos and realized I had put it together wrong.  The curved arms should curve downward, not upward.  Honestly, I don't think it matters because it spins just fine as I have it.  Once I remove this ball of yarn, I will do it the correct way.  When I fill up the spindle, I can pull the center rod out and each arm of the spindle and I will have a nifty little center-pull ball of yarn!

I finished up the top I was working on and am pleased.  I need to photograph the finished project.

I also finished a sock I had started in January and even started on the second sock.  This is a commercial washable wool sock yarn.

I am in the process of warping my small loom at home for a sampler to practice for the blanket I plan to weave once I get all the yarn spun up.  More on that in another post.  This is long enough!

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