Only for a short while did the coyote have the land to itself. Humans have returned. Only for brief periods at first, but now they have come to live here. The humans begin to change their den and reclaim their territory. This one is not concerned. It knows how to live within the land of humans.
Still, this one is curious. These particular people seem strange, even for humans. Domesticated animals come and go. Strange lights and noises are seen and heard at all hours. They tear things down. They build things up again. They repeat this many times with no apparent order or reason. And the humans seem extremely vocal about the whole procedure.
Welcome to the farm.
Coyote Run Farm is situated in the Northumberland Hills on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Approximately half the land is arable; the remainder consists of natural forest and bush, excepting two stands of planted evergreens. There are two ponds and numerous streams. An occasionally resident beaver will do maintenance work on its dam and restore the south pond every few years. Of the arable land, the best is used for growing hay rich in alfalfa and the remainder is used as pasture.
The farm is defined by its position high in the hills. This affords it a tremendous view of the surrounding hills and of the lake. There is very nearly a 180 degree view of the lake and a few miles of scenery between us and the water. Weather can be seen coming from miles away and the myriad of stars at night are unobstructed. The consequence of this lofty position is an exposure to fierce winds. Gale force winds at times. We don't rake leaves or shovel much snow. It all blows away. This is the kind of wind that blows out the walls of barns. This wind has personality, but then so do the buildings.
At the time we acquired the land, the farmhouse was well over a century old.
The farmhouse required considerable repair over the course of many years. As we worked on the house, we expanded our efforts outwards. The pervading tall grass was cut around the house. The well was located and returned to use with the repair of the plumbing systems. Gradually, the area was cleared of trash and rubble. Eventually, the way to the barns was clear.
The barns were large sprawling structures in poor repair. At the centre was a traditional barn with stone foundations and a wood structure, including a substantial hay loft. Attached to the south of this was a long pole barn. This was essentially a concrete pad with wooden poles on footings. The poles held up the wooden framework to which was secured the tin-sheet walls and roof. The southern-most end was in a state of partial collapse. Another long pole barn extended to the west. It could be said that it leaked like a sieve, but it let more water through than that. This west barn was connected to the original barn by a concrete monstrosity that had been a bovine milking parlor once upon a time.
After spending many evenings sitting around looking at wads of insulation and extremely fuzzy television, we thought it might be nice to get a few pets. It was a farm after all, and we had these huge barns to put them in. Something small, self-sufficient and fun would be nice ....
The Year of the Duck
Muscovy ducks are fairly robust and self-reliant. They don't require much in the way of care, but like all domesticated animals, they should have access to shelter. The milking parlor was deemed ideal for this. It was predator proof, being made out of thick concrete. However, the old barn was impassable and it was a long and inconvenient way around. Also, there was no electricity or water.
To alleviate these problems, it was decided to open up the old barn. This involved opening the boarded-up doors and clearing a passage through the packed debris. An electrical panel was installed and lines were run down the centre of the barn to the milking parlor. It seemed a shame to clean the centre aisle and leave the rest, so the huge job of cleaning the lower floor was undertaken. This was the critical juncture.
With a barn that had power, floorspace, and some rudimentary penning, the fateful decision was made by the soon-to-be shepherd. She came home with a few goats. To make a long story short, a few goats became a few more goats. A few more goats became goats and a donkey. Goats and a donkey became goats and a donkey and chickens. Goats, donkey, chickens, and a visiting horse led to sheep.
So now you know where sheep come from.
Copyright © 2000-2005 by Craig Routledge.
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