January 13th, 2019 has dawned icy, sleety, cold, and dark. It’s darker than normal at this time of morning because I think the sun just can’t beam in through all that ice. It’s wonderfully warm in this old farmhouse, but not due to any modern-day heating methods. We’ve got the wood stove going in the front room of the house, which is blocked off with a curtain because if the heat escapes the room, it disappears through the tiny cracks around the windows and in the bead-board walls. In the middle room/office, we’ve got a kerosene heater that puts out the most wonderful heat imaginable. All the cats are sprawled out on a blanket right next to it. In the bathroom and bedroom are new space heaters that do great at knocking the chill off in those small spaces. They run the electric bill sky high, but who can work in the freezing cold?
I expect the electricity to go out any minute. It’s already been flickering. The ice hangs heavy on the trees, but it seems to have a lot of rain mixed in with it too, so I’m hopeful a great deal of it is melting. Of course I forgot to get the generator out of the garage…but it doesn’t matter, I would probably not even remember how to use the big, noisy, smelly beast anyway. We can do with a loss of electricity. We will remain warm, and there is always fruit to eat.
The critters outside are all inside shelters and hopefully staying somewhat warm. The horses have their waterproof, high-neck blankets on and a big round bale under cover…all except one horse, Caritas, he is outside the main pasture with only trees for cover, and plenty of hay and two blankets of course. This is a frustration of mine. The ground around the two large shelters has deep mud from the record-breaking rainfall we’ve got the past month or two, which is now solidly frozen mud holes that he cannot walk on due to him developing an abscess in his right front hoof a few days ago. He could not even get to the water trough and I was having to carry water to him in the middle of the pasture. I moved him…very slowly, to an area outside the normal fence. It’s covered with hay, and very soft, and I put his water bucket within easy reach. He will survive…but GRAVEL for the paddocks is an absolute MUST have for this year. Caritas will get sand over the gravel in his personal paddock and shelter which should drain well and not be affected by freezing weather and rain.
The goats are locked inside their barn and have been every night since the bear attacks in the fall. I didn’t write about it here, but we had a very hungry bear get into the pasture and kill two of my favorite goats about 2 months ago. The first occasion he got in and grabbed a small goat and got back out before I could see what happened. The dogs alerted me to a problem but by the time I got outside, and not having a spot light to see into the woods, I had no idea a bear had just taken off with a goat. I didn’t even know I was missing a goat until the next morning, and really I thought it was a dog or something. I started locking the goats in a small paddock near the house under a yard lamp after that, until one night a couple weeks later I opened the gate so they could get into the barn because the wind had picked up and the shelter in the paddock wasn’t the best. The dogs were barking when I went outside to open the gate, and the neighbors dog was there. I thought she was barking at the goats so chased her across the road and down her driveway…and that is when a bear jumped out of the shadows and ran across the road right in front of me. He had been sitting at the fence line watching the goats and I didn’t see him when I opened the gate. At that point I had already opened the paddock gate and the goats, the pony, and the dogs were all going berzerk. I didn’t have a gun and had no idea what to do. I went back in the house to start calling neighbors or friends who might have guns, and by the time I walked back outside, the bear had come back and was standing on the patio looking at me. At that point I lost it, and called 911 because no one would answer their phone at 3am. I got the police on the line and while I was talking and screaming at the bear, he went around the garage and went over the fence and got my biggest and best doe, Celina. I was helpless, the guardian dogs were helpless, the pony couldn’t do anything. He drug Celina down to the bottom of the pasture, and tried to get her over the fence, but ended up pushing the wire down over top of her and getting her stuck. Some friends arrived, and when we got their truck into the pasture, and shined the lights down the hill, the bear was sitting on top of Celina trying to drag her through the fence. They shot off some rounds, but he took off. We got Celina on the truck. She was still alive at that point and had been answering me when I called her. I was hopeful she could survive, but then I noticed her intestines spilling out of her side, and she died a few minutes later. The police finally showed up and we showed him my beautiful doe, which he really didn’t want to see. My friends left after that, taking Celina with them. The bear came back about 5:30am. At that time I did not have a door on the barn, the goats were free to come and go, so we locked them back in the small paddock with the dog. The bear came back looking for his kill, and I was afraid when he didn’t find it, he would go after another goat, so I sat out there beside the goat paddock in my car, alternating between banging pots and pans, and blowing on the horn, and he stayed in the bottom field. Once it was light, the dogs went off alert and I could tell he had gone on. Later that day my friends came back and put a door on the goat barn for me and made a run attaching it to the paddock. The bear did not come back that night, possibly because another friend came over about 11pm, and we searched the wood line with a spot light. We saw eyes, but were unsure if it was a deer or the bear, so he fired off quite a few rounds and there was no issue that night.
Later the next day I got in touch with a local bear hunter, and he came and scouted the property, and found out which direction the bear was coming from, and that sort of thing. I was issued a kill permit, and two night later, the bear was shot when he showed up and tried to get into the goat barn. The whole thing has been a terrifying nightmare for me and the animals. The pony, Smokey, who lived with the goats, and the Great Pyrenees, were especially traumatized. Smokey was moved back into the horse herd, and seems to have gotten over it for the most part. He has heaves, and did better with the goats, as they have more grass and he could have his own soaked hay, which helped with his breathing. Sampson was a changed dog afterwards. Much more wary, and hyper-alert…barking at every tiny noise all night long. He is doing much better with his new companion, and the addition of a radio playing at night, and locking them in the paddock, his stress levels are a bit lower now.
It seems like it is very unusual for a bear to come into a residence with human activity and 6 dogs outside barking, and kill livestock like that. My goats live very close to the house, and we have a big yard light in their paddock area. This particular bear had also killed several other goats within a one mile radius, so had apparently developed a taste for them. Normally, with our livestock guardian dogs, all predators are kept away. I hope and pray this was just a very unusual bear and situation that will never happen again. We did get one more guardian dog to help out Sampson who was guarding the herd pretty much by himself since our older Great Pyrenees has been retired. Sampson is only a year old…not a mature dog, and even though my other dogs joined in the chorus of barking, none of them tried to engage the bear in a fight…which is good, because they would have been killed. The bear was estimated to weigh about 500 pounds. No dog is a match for that. The best we can hope for with a large predator like a bear, is that the dogs alert me, and I bring out a gun.
Such is farm life.
On a happier note, my daughter has joined me in our business full time and we are gearing up for a fantabulous year! I will still be making most of the soap, while Shannon is taking over just about everything else. We now have candles…lots and lots of candles. We also have natural deodorant, Smelly Jelly room fresheners, lotions, and lots and lots of laundry soaps…both liquid and powdered. If you’d like to shop with us, you can click on the link at the top of the page, which will take you to another page with a link to our Etsy shop.
Shannon and I would like to wish you all a very Happy and prosperous 2019! We hope you’ll come back here often to check out our posts. Now that Shannon is helping, I will have more time to blog about our farm and business. So, see you around!