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Friday, November 18, 2011

Coyotes at Cocktail Hour

The Farmer had been cooking for more than 2 hours. A farm-raised chicken and roast of beef sat side-by-side in the oven. My husband ran upstairs, took a shower and emerged well-dressed and refreshed as our first dinner guests arrived. He poured them each a glass of wine and we all retired to the porch to watch the sheep come in from the pasture on their diagonal, well-beaten path.
A few minutes later the Farmer pointed out the window and said to me (his eyes when his glasses aren’t handy), “what’s that in the middle of the field? What’s that? Is that a coyote?” My eyes searched the view for what he was pointing at. Suddenly it moved and came into focus. Camouflaged perfectly against the sandy grass and rocky ground, a young coyote ambled across the field.
Just two days earlier, a bold and brazen coyote came right into the barnyard and stole a fat lamb. The Farmer had been out hunting in the middle of the night but could not find the thief. Now here it was, at cocktail hour. And the Farmer couldn’t find his bullets.
The entire dinner party gathered at the porch window and yelled out the coyote’s movements as the Farmer ran upstairs and down, searching frantically for his bullets. I couldn’t help but think this wasn’t a recommended pre-dinner activity in any Martha Stewart or Good Housekeeping party guidebook. Finally, the Farmer found his bullets, loaded his gun, located the coyote (who had waited patiently at the corner of the field) and let ‘er rip. His shot was true. Moments later we had dinner guests pulling on boots to go and inspect the mangy mutt.
My husband the multi-tasker came in, washed his hands, served the veggies into the chafing dish on the buffet table and began carving the meat. And what was I doing all this time? Playing hostess with the mostest, of course.
Earlier in the week I had done my share of farming, I figure. I came home from a client meeting in Ottawa to a message on the phone from the neighbour: ‘your sheep are on the road again. They have been in and out of the pasture all day.’ Great. I took a shortcut through the field and opened the big swing-gate to the pasture before heading out through the bush to the road. There were my sheep, in two different groups. One was heading up the hill to the neighbour’s house. The other was heading toward county road 20. I emerged from the forest in the middle of them. I decided to get the ones headed for the highway first. I cut through the cornfield, headed them off on the road and managed to turn them back the way they came, waving my arms and making menacing growling sounds. I’m sure this activity is most confusing to Gracie and the other sheep who know me as the bearer of good things such as sweet corn and apples. But they willingly headed off into the bush. Next, I ran down the road to get the other bunch. Just as I reached them, the neighbour’s dogs came off the porch, barking. My sheep turned tail and ran towards me, bleating in fear. I jumped into the ditch and let them pass, hot on the trail of the first bunch of sheep. Now I had 100 sheep wandering through thorns and brambles in the forest. I could hear them complaining. I picked my way back through the bush into the field and lured them through the gate very slowly, with a bucket of sweet corn. The last sheep came through just as Mocha the cow noticed the sweet corn in my hand and came bounding over, tossing her head and hips like a bull in the ring.
The sheep broke out three days in a row last week. They can see meadows and corn fields through weak fences and leafless trees now. I guess this kind of bad behaviour is to be expected until snow covers the ground and sweet hay fills the feeders.

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