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Bobcat, Cooper’s Hawk, Burn Out–Check!

Last week on Wednesday night we drove home late from Santa Cruz and found a bobcat in our coop. Spencer went to shut the hens in, and found one on the grass by the edge of the fence. Not thinking much of it he tossed her into the dark coop and was about to shut the door when said hen barreled out past him into the yard. He caught her again, put her back in the coop, and she promptly made a bat-out-of-hell worthy exit, followed by something else. Spencer wasn’t quite quick enough to catch the hen, but he reflexively caught the thing that hurtled out after her. It was a bobcat. Pinching it between his knees he made the assessment in about 2 seconds time that it was 1) not a chicken 2) muscular 3) furry 4)a lot bigger than Mittens, and let it go with a sort of amazing holler that caught my attention and gave me a chance to see our visitor run into the chicken fencing before bolting off behind the barn. No photos forthcoming. You definitely don’t want to see the 14 hens and Pooster Rooster that our visitor had just finished disposing of.

We went from this many eggs a day:

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to 9. But, life moves on. As always.
Puff Head is now our Last Rooster Standing. We went from 5 to 1 that fast. The dogs killed one, we killed two on purpose (mean bastards they were), and now the bobcat got poor handsome Pooster. He really was a looker. Silver and Snow too.
Long Live King Puff Head!
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A few days ago we had a broiler that suddenly couldn’t walk. Not sure why–things like that tend to happen to broilers. They grow too fast and once in a while one will not be able to hold its own weight. I am pretty fed up with broilers. Next time I am just going to order the rooster special. Less meat. Less depressing. Anyway, we put the broiler in our wire dog crate Chicken Hospital, and had been taking great care of her for the last few days waiting to see if she would get her act together or what. She was healthy otherwise, but by this morning, as I hauled the crate out of our mudroom (can’t leave it outside at night due to the bobcat, who ate a chicken in the crate last week) I was getting ready to say the chicken wasn’t improving and needed to be humanely dispatched. She obviously was not enjoying being unable to walk, and we couldn’t find anything wrong to treat besides weak looking legs. Went on about my morning not looking forward to killing a broiler later. We probably wouldn’t eat her, because we have had bad experiences eating chickens that were not 100% healthy (sometimes they taste nasty!). So I was dreading killing her and wasting the meat. . .

Sat down to do school with the girls, and noticed this out the kitchen window. Two birds killed with one stone! I didn’t have to kill the chicken and the meat was not wasted!

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This is a young male Cooper’s Hawk. He is much too small to hurt our healthy chickens, but he has been hanging around lately eyeing them and even tried stooping on the big hens, which was pretty dumb since they are about 3 times as big as him and maybe 10 times as mean when they want to be. He almost looked embarrassed as he flew away, and I thought nothing of it at the time. I guess I underestimated his tenacity. Our lame broiler was probably resting with her head near the bars, and she was very dead by the time we noticed little Cooper trying to fly away with her. He finally gave up and ate her head off. We skipped normal school today and had a hawk study time instead. Later, I opened the crate door, and he came back and tried to fly the carcass away again. He got about 4 feet away and then ate some more. Eventually I tossed it over the fence and he ate some more before abandoning it. Doubtless it will be all cleaned up by morning–either by the bobcat, who comes every night to ascertain the strength of our coop doors and windows, or by the kit foxes who scavenge off the compost pile and also fall prey to the bobcat occasionally.

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The desert is wearing on us lately. We were pretty happy in the East Coast climate, and even after a year here, and after having left MD on pretty much the worst note possible, we still miss it. But the sunsets are the most beautiful we have ever seen, and the stars are amazing. As a kid I would always lie when adults asked me if I could see the milky way when we were out camping somewhere. “Oh, yeah, there it is,” and I would pretend to be excited. Never could figure out whether I was really seeing it or not. Here, it literally looks like someone left a spray of milk all the way across the middle of the night sky. Some nights I walk out and look up and see a falling star. Some nights I sit for a moment under the porch light, gnats and miscellaneous night life bumping into my shoulders and face, and watch the bats sweeping the air for dinner. Some nights I am too tired to care. A lot of nights. Or I am hunched over the computer trying to relax (by reading depressing news articles, alas very ineffectual), but still catching myself straining my ears to listen for the bobcat or coyotes getting into the poultry and livestock. Spencer is worked to the bone. Once again we find ourselves wishing we had some way to own our own place, to run our own farm–to do things our own way. We wouldn’t mind being poor as dirt, if we could just work together. That was the goal. And if we had a decent amount of start up cash, we know we could not only make a living, but make a good one. Which is somehow worse than still wondering if it’s possible. It is. We’ve seen it done. But in CA you get land after you inherit a farm, or after retiring from your Silicon Valley job. Or you start up a farm as a hobby on the side while continuing your career as a brain surgeon or CEO. But sometimes it’s good to still dream.

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Then again, maybe it’s better to just square your shoulders, carry on, and throw the bird to everyone who said you couldn’t do it at all–that you were naive (a little, but made up for it with guts and hard work) and that making a living farming is impossible unless you are born into it (maybe buying land in CA is impossible unless you are born into it, but farming sure isn’t. Mujer Loca!)
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Naw. We’ll get there. We’ll be like the weasel*, like the Cooper’s Hawk. Watching and waiting and hungry, and ready to catch whatever the Lord sends us.

Even if it’s a bobcat. . .

 

See, Max knows how to dream. You dream while you rest, and if you can’t rest, you dream in spare moments while milking under the band of the milky way. And all that good, rich milk fills your dreams, and hope is there.

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*Annie Dillard, Teaching A Stone To Talk. Read it!

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3 thoughts on “Bobcat, Cooper’s Hawk, Burn Out–Check!

  1. that’s all beautiful Melissa. I don’t doubt that you’ll have your own farm one day. It’s been wonderful to see you guys move through life to where you are now and I’m sure your not done moving. I love you!

  2. Praying for you guys. But your blog posting is so interesting- what will you write about if you moved: ) kidding of course, I believe you are following a worthwhile and important dream-it just needs to be greener.

  3. Dear Range Warrior family, I see that you are being continually tested as you faithfully try to pursue your dreams. I pray for rain to bring the green grass that is so sorely needed and that all vermin stay away from your homeland. It is always great when we can see your family and marvel at how the girls are growing. Thank you for your blog it is awesome to read. Hugs all around….

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