Tuesday, July 26, 2011

No Varmints Allowed!

One constant in a farmer’s life-work is the diligent protection of those in his/her care. It is essential that we protect the plants from pests and disease in order to harvest any produce. It is equally important to protect the animals from predation and disease in order to have meat and eggs.

Over the years, we have found it necessary to eliminate various and sundry undesirable, potentially harmful, critters. While I end up on pest and parasite patrol, Tom finds himself with the unpleasant task of “varmint eliminator”. My pest and parasite battles are continual…Tom’s skirmishes are far less often, but much more noteworthy. I do hope that no one will condemn us for our seemingly harsh actions. We consider them the only solution.

A few weeks ago, I began to notice raccoon tracks around the place. First, I noticed them in the sheep’s water trough. It looked like little handprints in the bottom of the tub. Hmmmm…a report was issued to “the boss”.

Shortly thereafter, I saw distinct footprints in the mud around the garden, very near the corn patch. I set one of our traps out near the tracks, hoping that the coon would be curious about the trap, walk in…and we would solve the issue. No luck.

I didn’t see any more tracks. I didn’t cross paths with the raccoon. I had rather forgotten about it until one night last week.

Something woke me in the middle of the night. I could hear the dogs barking their urgent bark, so I went outside. Jed was standing upright at the barn gate. Now, Jed is a very large dog, and when he stands upright, he is taller than I am. This sight, combined with his urgent barking and attempts to climb the gate aroused my curiosity. Jed is usually pretty mellow, so this definitely warranted further investigation. As I shined the spotlight around the barn, I saw a striped tail in the loft. At first, I thought it was one of the barn kitties. They are somewhat striped and grey. Then, the animal turned to face me…A RACCOON!

We have had our fair share of critters around here…skunks, possums, foxes, raccoons, and deer have all made an appearance around the barn. This is doesn’t even account for the birds and owls and snakes that have also been sighted.

While the natural beauty of animals is something to appreciate, these critters are also much more than just a nuisance. Most of them carry serious diseases that can affect our livestock, not to mention the parasite issue. They can and will eat the crops we work so hard to produce. We cannot allow them to harm those in our care. So, they are usually eliminated. We have found that “No trespassing signs” don’t work so well with the animal population.

Last night when I went out to close the hens in their house (this protects them from predation), Jed was doing his gate-standing thing again. Sure enough, there was the coon.

Tom was consulted, the coon was dispatched.

I have done some further research this afternoon on raccoons. They carry rabies and distemper. They will eat eggs and small chickens. …and their favorite food is sweet corn. Yes, that corn that we spent about FOUR hours standing upright earlier this season following a big wind. That is the very same corn that we hope to sell at the Market in a couple weeks and offer to our customers this winter.

So, I must say…..Good Riddance!

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