Listen to the spectacularly haunting chorus for yourself! I sat straight up in bed, alerted Laura (who has “activator” on her top 5 list of strengths). She and Uno were out the door in seconds. Validating our sense that the coyote were VERY close, the calls ended abruptly with the lights switching on and click of the door. We drove out the farm road toward our farthest livestock, sacrificing the charge on the truck battery, leaving radio and emergency blinkers to hold our line and returned to a restless sleep. Subsequent actions included a night in the station wagon near a vulnerable edge, consolidating our rotating livestock — turkeys and chickens always have a pig or goat group between the perimeter fence for predator determent but now even the 4 legged herds needed reinforcement! How do we celebrate the importance of large predators and recent scientific breakthroughs linking wolf and coyote genetics and sleep through the night with 400 chickens and 80 market-sized turkeys in the field?
Speaking of those turkeys… They are looking incredibly handsome but they are supposed to be in the freezer already! A broken plucker at Westminster Meats has meant two weeks’ worth of cancellations and our stealth attempt to tame the madness of the growing season with tactical scheduling for our pinch points isn’t panning out.
We are usually still optimistic about the day during our dawn cup of tea but last Friday Laura lifted her mug, looked out the window and darted out the door again, announcing that Nimbus and Zephyr were out. We are lucky. Our livestock rarely get out and since we move them frequently they follow us and are easy to herd back. However we realized luck wasn’t with us when the three other milking does were not in the fence. Neighbors responded to our listserve inquiry. They were nowhere to be found. Nor after scouring the roadside and nearby vegetation was there any sign of them.
So improbable was the culvert that we didn’t look there for 45 minutes. But sure enough a few feet in the culvert was the visible twitching tail of Grace Kelly. Her body filled up the hole so we couldn’t be sure but immediately concluded 3 were “holed out” under the barn driveway.
The ordeal that followed utilized our best teamwork… Kat grabbing headlamps and climbing gear from her car, Donna pulling Mark’s neatly coiled lengths of web strap from the truck, Darienne gently speaking to the goats down the length of the hole, Mari’s what if voice thinking out loud to try to ensure that we kept Laura safe as she proved she wasn’t claustrophobic, Army-crawling her way to the does in distress.
Eventually it was like the few bad rounds of kidding we’ve had these last 8 years… we grabbed a hoof, then 2 and worked our way up higher on the legs, barely able to reach in, and pulled… Next thing you know — Donna is cutting Grace some browse and she is munching Black Locust leaves like nothing ever happened. The team confirmed the other two were alive. We reviewed what we had learned in rescue number one, tweaked our technique to extend Laura farther in and to handle the youthful strength of Annapurna. Next thing you know mother and daughter were both enjoying the browse.
But Ingrid Bergman was farther in still, where 2 culverts joined and, at some point in history they buckled. In fact if this pinch in the tube wasn’t there perhaps all 3 goats would have Army-crawled all the way through.
This time we tied a line on Laura (what if she passed out 25 feet in at the midpoint under the barn driveway?). Instead Laura held steady, managed to get the straps across Ingrid’s chest and fed the length onto Darienne’s roof-rake pole extending from the opposite direction.
Laura, face to face with Ingrid, used all her strength to pivot Ingrid who let out the same awful noises of a doe in difficult labor. But finally the spine and horns were no longer caught on the rough edge of the culvert. Laura gave the team the green light to pull, maintaining watch that the straps didn’t shift to Ingrid’s neck and throat. Heave, breath, listen. Heave, breathe, listen, Heave…. and suddenly we were all above ground.
The 5 milking does were reunited for a temporary hold in hard fencing near the barn while we collected ourselves and the random tools utilized for the rescue. They didn’t seem phased in the least.
After action review methodologies confirmed that we had all felt safe during the response but also pointed to the everyday menace of the common stable fly who’s incessant harassment of the does had likely caused them to seek out such an unlikely diversion from their black locust and sun-choke roadside special assignment. Ironically the unusual paddock had been designed as a shady treat in the midst of the relentless heat wave.
About that heat wave! Humidity, heat and the final droughty days of last week felt oppressive to us and apparently to the walk-in compressor too. Unfortunately we did not notice the failure of the walk-in freezer until it was 34 degrees. Rapid response of the team moved lower level shelved boxes of meat still frozen to other freezers in the neighborhood and inventory of some juicy boxes of berries etc. began.
Luckily, though our insurance would not be relevant to losses to coyote, cancellations or culverts we do have “spoilage” coverage so we believe most of our losses will be covered.
So the drought-ending 4 inches of rain and recent incidents leave us looking at the world very differently this week than last. And with California’s fires and Louisiana’s floods putting things in perspective, we are feeling very humbled but lucky this week at the farm.