My children, husband and I have been through, and I mean all the way through and out the other side of, some wild heartache out here where we are living our American dream.
It was while choking down another round of country reality living sadness, a most unnatural emotion for me, that I fixed my little son and daughter their breakfast.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat very much, if anything today, including our favorite, fresh picked from the tree cherry pancakes.
Shoot, I could barely see to flip the cakes through my tears this morning.
This bright and early and hot already, July morning, on our way back from watering and feeding our sweet hens, my little son spotted a pile of coyote mess on the brick path just off of the front porch which is about 8 feet from our front door and the children’s bedroom window.
Mr. Twiggsie-kittie was meowing and underfoot, as usual as we tended to the chores.
We had a pile of mess right at the base of the hen house just last week, and so I spent an afternoon pounding in more pencil rod, which we use when we have new vine plantings in the vineyard, to support their grow tubes. It’s a steel rod, four feet in length and as big around as a pencil.
The week before that, the hens were going crazy, crazy, just before sunrise, and when my husband, Bryan jumped out of bed and stepped to the front porch, there was a German Sheppard sized coyote looking right back at him.
Again, just feet away.
Hens are good “watch dogs”, but cannot defend themselves, so it’s up to their humans to protect them. Same with kitties. And with kiddies.
Today, I was focused on my little son, and his staying close by my side on the way back inside. So focused on my son in fact, that I did not notice that my other little love, “Dogcat” was not in his usual all about my ankles place.
Once inside, I turned my attention to the water and food for the cats.
Stepping on to the front porch, I was now aware that Dogcat was neither around nor about. Shaking the cat food bag and calling to him has always made the just recently one year old critter come running.
“Oh, no. Not Dogcat.” I said right out loud, beginning to get choked up.
While I couldn’t bare to write about it in great detail, I did dedicate a post I wrote here on 8 Women Dream, called “Rabbits Touching Noses,” to our bunny Jack Lapin, who we lost to some wild thing just this past spring.
We’ve had some sickening scenes with skunks who stole one of our baby turkeys and some chicks as well as faced some not-so-adorable raccoons who were laying waste to our hens.
Also, very early on in the development of this property from grass farm to vineyard, we had a pair of large coyotes show up every morning very close to our small back deck, where our even smaller children would play.
My very own Daniel Boone breed of man, Bryan, who is a winemaker by profession, didn’t take too kindly to what was beginning to feel like a stalking of our little ones and made quick work of dispatching the bigger of the two coyotes six years ago.
We hear them every night.
They are in at least one good sized pack, perhaps two and I have taken up the task of researching and learning everything I possibly can about these animals.
It’s important to me to educate myself on every aspect of living this kind of vineyard farm life, and I take all of it seriously.
Turns out coyotes are considered among the most, and certain experts believe the most adaptable animals on the planet. They can survive and thrive wherever their needs are met, from hot desert conditions to freezing snow laden environments. There is a breed known as the Eastern Coyote, which is believed to be a cross between wolf and coyote, and they are very large.
This breed is responsible for the predatory killing of a young woman in the Canadian Rockies on a very popular hiking trail in 2009. Locally, a five year old girl was bitten on the back by a coyote on the Oregon coast here, three weeks ago.
So there it is, like them or not, I respect these beasties.
Respect is one thing, coexisting with a creature that kills what I love, well that’s another. What to do about this is the problem? In fact, it has me for the first time, questioning the sense in this big dream I think I have to keep going here in and around our Willamette Valley country home.
Gratefully, I suppose, I have options.
This evening, my husband and I will safely target practice with the rifle we own and his grandfather‘s shotgun.
I will continue to have my boys urinate around the hen’s house because animals will sometimes be scared off by the scent of an animal larger than they are. We had good success with this in dealing with the raccoons just past the aftermath of their brutal attacks on the chickens.
Bringing in all of the feed and water every night, because a smart farmer woman knows that wherever there is food and water available, the animals will come.
Sharing many times through my writings on the Internet, and face-to-face with friends and family that I am a lover of all creatures great and small does not absolve me from the possible life I may have to take in order to keep our own alive and well here on this tiny little section of many hundreds of acres of vineyards and forests that surround or home.
Absolution is not the stuff of my dreams.
A little vineyard garden and farm where I can continue to raise up my family in confidence and in balance with nature is what I dream about.
I admit for more than half of this day I have seriously considered giving up the idea, at least in part, of this pursuit of my happiness.
The five remaining hens could go and I won’t go through with this fall’s project of using an incubator to hatch our very own new brood of chicks.
I won’t get the adorable new bunny that my farmer gal neighbor friend has been saving for us.
Mr. Twiggsie, I’m pretty sure would eventually stop coming around if we didn’t give him food or water. And we could just let him find his own way in life.
The garden, which has been my joy, that my family and I built up from nothing but unforgiving soil over the past five years could just go away after this harvest, and I could go shopping like normal people do and see how far the jewel colored jars of preserved and pickled foods would take me.
Well it sure as heck would give me a lot more free time.
Would I really be free, though?
Or would I just have let fear and difficulty turn me into someone I don’t want to be.
Once again, I find I am the only person who can answer these questions, and as I said in the beginning, I am no quitter.
I close this post filled with the love and gratitude for my blessed life and with the feeling of sadness now replaced by the strength and resolve that comes with the gift of prayers answered, for Dogcat has just rejoined Mr. Twiggsie at his food dish.
Have a great big beauty of a week and until we meet next Sunday, I wish you love.
Shellie Croft spent a year sharing her American dream stories on 8 Women Dream. You can now find these stories on her blog Shellie’s Consumption.