Friday, January 06, 2017

And finally, the twelfth day of Christmas, December

We have snow approaching so today I had a list of things to get done in the event we get the high end of the range of inches predicted, which is 9. A huge amount for us here in North Carolina, enough to bring things to a standstill here.

This morning before leaving to run some errands, though, I was sitting on the sofa reading when I saw a red-headed woodpecker on our shagbark hickory tree, pecking away. He was big and very handsome and I watched him searching for food wishing I could hear the knocking of his beak against the wood. I always think of knocking when I hear woodpeckers, like someone is building something or else the sound of someone at the door, so symbolically that's what comes to mind when I think about what might be showing up next December.

Later in the day I saw a cardinal, probably the same one I've been seeing all last week and this one, and again, felt his brilliance and cheer.

I spent the afternoon getting the barn set up for horses and snow, but also for a couple of nights of very cold temperatures, 9 tomorrow night, 0 on Sunday. 

Before coming inside I was startled by the coyotes shrieking and yipping in the 11-acre field just next to the barnyard. The horses, pony, and donkeys all flew out of the barn, into the rain, on high alert. I was so annoyed that the coyotes were this close, that they had drawn my herd out of their dry clean stalls with hay into the cold rain. I went out and shrieked and howled and yapped back at them and they stopped. Whether they moved on or just went silent I don't know, but I coaxed Keil Bay back into his stall and the rest followed suit except for Little Man, who stayed out until I got a lead rope and led him into the dry barn.

We've been talking about getting a Great Pyrenees as a herd guardian. I'm not sure how serious we are, as I would want to enclose the property with woven wire if we were going to have a dog living out there, and I can't quite imagine us owning a dog who stayed outside 24/7. But tonight I announced we should get two of them and let them deal with the coyotes.

All of this makes me wonder what the coyotes mean for next December! A lot to think about with these omen days and the year to come. 


Calm, Forward, Straight said...

I had a Great Pyrenees way back when. He was much happier outside (broke through a window numerous times when cooped up in the house), and would have appreciated having a job. They are lovely dogs. :D

We're waiting for our dose of winter weather - looks like freezing rain/sleet, wind and tide. Six hours of today went towards winterizing + storm prep. I think we're ready... You guys stay safe and warm!

Grey Horse Matters said...

We also have coyotes at the farm. They sometimes seem to be unafraid of us humans. J. Actually opened the front door one time and yelled at this one huge guy to go away. He stood his ground and stared her down. When Gunnar was here they didn't come around much. He was half Maremma which is similar to Great Pyrenees. They are nocturnal and actually like to be outside at night. He used to wake her about 2a.m. To go out and stay out all night. He could be found sleeping in the barn or out sleeping or watching over the horses if they stayed out all night. Very sweet dogs and protective.

I have cardinals here everyday too and a woodpecker occasionally. Of course I put out food for the birds everyday but they are interesting and pretty to watch.hope you don't get snowed in. Was watching the news and was surprised by how much you're getting in the south.

billie said...

We rarely see this pack but they come closer and closer at night and do their wild shrieking. Daughter read that if we howl and shriek back we establish this as our territory so when I hear them I go out and act like a mad woman and they do stop the noise almost immediately! But I'm not sure it's moving them away.

I am SO interested in hearing more about Gunnar and his Maremma bloodline. Last night I was reading about Great Pyrenees and then found a very good site that helps you determine what kind of livestock guardian is best (between llamas, standard donkeys, and dogs) and it looks like for our purposes dogs would be best, and that we would want to get a pair. I went through each of the breeds listed and narrowed it to the Maremma as they seem to be much less likely to wander than Great Pyrenees and also are reported to be easier to train.

What I read is that if you want them to totally bond with the animals they are to protect you have to put them out there (initially in a safe pen so as puppies they don't get injured) and do supervised time with their "pack" - in this case our equines - so they bond first with them. I admit the idea of putting two puffballs out there alone makes me sad but it also sounds like they end up loving their jobs and according to what I read, will fight to the death to protect their herds/flocks/etc.

We would need to do some securing of our fence lines. I'm not sure we're ready to enact this plan but I would love having a sense of security out there 24/7. Seeing my herd go into high alert really made me realize that hearing that coyote sound is stressful to them.

billie said...

C, thanks for the Great Pyrenees info! Everyone I know who has them says they are terrific dogs. It does seem having a real job is the key to keeping them happy. People who have no fencing seem to have some issues keeping them at home. We have one farmer friend couple who has one to guard their sheep and goats and ducks and he seems to be very devoted. He is out there 24/7 - through rain and mud and snow and heat and cold - it would take a concerted effort for us to get used to having dogs that don't come in the house!

Hope you are safe and things move through without any major problems.

Grey Horse Matters said...

The only thing I can say about Gunnar was that he was devoted to his herd and took it upon himself to protect them. We have a few horses who don't like dogs very much but they all seemed to accept him. He was very sweet and used to go into the paddocks with them all the time and just lay in the middle of the herd. He also was big enough to drink out of the automatic waterers. He was a calm dog and I think that helped that he didn't bark and run around too much except when he was playing with J. or Ginger or me. I don't think you can make a mistake with either breed.

billie said...

That sounds exactly like what I read about the Maremma breed. There is a family in NY who breed them responsibly and expose the puppies to all kinds of "herds and flocks" from the beginning - they will also keep the pups to 5 months of age and do a more specific exposure to the animals you want them to protect so they come already acclimated to horses, for example.

They have many photos on their site with goats, sheep, and chickens literally sleeping ON their Maremmas!

I wonder the horses and donkeys here would take to them - they probably sense, as your horses did, that they are being guarded by these dogs. I love the thought of having a pair looking out for my herd. They look to be huge as adults - am wondering what the dog food bill would be!!

Grey Horse Matters said...

I think Gunnar was around 110 pounds and he ate two times a day plus whatever he could find around the farm when he was a puppy. If you do contact the people in N.Y. please let me know their names. I wouldn't want you to get the dogs from the same people who are in the next town from us and who breed these dogs indiscriminately and throw away the ones they don't want into the woods for the coyotes to eat and whoever is left they go in and hunt them down and shoot them. I'm not sure if they sell them but I know they have goats and chickens etc. I don't want to see you get a puppy that has the problems Gunnar had. It cost us a fortune to keep him alive and basically healthy for his two and a half years.

billie said...

THANK YOU! Sent an email. Can never be too careful about these things!