Wyatt vs the Wolves

*disclaimer: graphic images

Total "Peter and the Wolf" soundtrack moment... I'm expecting Scut Farcus to show up at any moment

A lone wolf caught on our game cam last May

Yesterday morning, one of my biggest farm fears was realized.

I was awoken with a call from the front door, “Katy, get up, something’s happened to Wyatt.”

Clay had gone out to start his truck for work and found Wyatt at the end of the driveway, stumbling and bleeding. Help Dad look on his face. His eyes were glazed over, he was shaking violently, had a large gash on his shoulder and puncture type wound on his back/neck area. I looked him over, noted he wasn’t actively bleeding although there was blood, quickly wrapped him in a towel and my husband rushed him to the vet clinic in town, 20 minutes away. At first we couldn’t figure out what had happened. Was it a neighbor dog fight? (no… Wyatt would have won that). Did he get down to his number one arch nemeses, the horses? Coyotes? What had happened to my old man as he did his morning business? He had only been outside for 15-20 minutes.

After calling the vet clinic to give the heads up, I bundled up, grabbed my .243 and headed out to follow Wyatt’s blood trail to get a better idea on what might have happened. I followed it to the near by woods, lost it and decided to head to the corrals to see if he had taken any paths leading to the horses. Sake, our cat, decided to accompany me on this short walk and I was grateful for it. Something just didn’t feel right.

I received a text from Clay saying that Wyatt was in surgery getting stitched up and the vet stated it was an attack, multiple assailants. In that very moment, I was surrounded by the sound. The undeniable sound of a wolf howl. Multiple wolf howls – two above me and one below. I took one look at Sake and we booked it for home. I texted back with alarm “Could it have been wolves?”

“Definitely coyotes,” was the reply I received. “My Conservation Officer (CO) buddy said that if it was wolves, he wouldn’t have come back.”

After ensuring the chickens were safe and that Maynard was by my side, I heard it again. A lone howl this time, calling, calling. It was coming from our upper field. I sat and listened on the back deck for 5 minutes or so.

I called our CO friend immediately.

Once again, it was unlikely it was a wolf attack because lets face it, what dog makes it out alive. But he did mention it was weird that I thought I was hearing a wolf as he didn’t believe in coincidences. He called his father (a retired CO) to come out and told me he’d be on his way later. At least we could start to piece the puzzle together.

Meanwhile, Clay starts sending photos of Wyatt and his injuries. Something had picked him up by the back of the neck and torn all of the skin away from the muscle…The vet said he was very lucky to be alive. I knew that coyotes aren’t large enough to pick up Wyatt like that, I mean he is a tank. But it couldn’t be wolves. He wouldn’t have gotten away, right?

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Jugular puncture wounds, back of neck

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He had two drains placed on his upper back, they criss cross one another

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The third drain and retreat puncture wounds

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His back got the worst of it… good thing he’s pure muscle and super top heavy

Three drains, 10 wounds and 20+ stitches later, Wyatt came home and started to fully come out of the sedation. He was afraid and disoriented, but wagged his tail any chance he could. The retired CO arrived and said he had found two pairs of fresh wolf tracks above the house. He took a look at Wyatt’s wounds, looked at me very seriously and asked where I had lost the blood trail. I walked him out to the spot, and he immediately found what I had missed – a blood covered bush that lead through barbed wire up a path trailed with blood. Not very far from the house at all. He set off and I went inside.

He came back, quickly. It was a wolf attack. He found a fresh kill site not more than 100 yards from our house, at least three different sets of wolf tracks and he had followed their pursuit and attack on Wyatt. How he made it home, alive, we do not know. It kept being repeated – he is very lucky to be alive.

So, we assume Wyatt was on his morning rounds and went to check out the new smells and the raven party, only to find some not very nice creatures on the other side.

The retired CO spent the rest of the day tracking on the property, I ended up seeing one grey wolf cross our upper field, but we didn’t have much luck catching the buggers. Wyatt was in a lot of pain and really freaked out, but was starting to come out of shock. Our CO friend showed up at the house and he and Clay were ready to hunt. Following the blood trail to the kill site is the second eeriest moment of that day for me, the first, y’know, that whole being surrounded by wolves thing. Still sends shivers down my spine.

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Wyatt’s journey home

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The kill site, a mule deer

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Yep, that’s our house from the kill site…

Although they staked out the kill site, no wolves returned. Clay set up the game cam and we got to witness the coyotes and ravens clean up the site. More fresh wolf tracks today to go along with the howling I heard throughout the night, but still no actual sightings close enough for a shot. Wyatt had a terrible night, I think part pain, part trauma, but we got through it. Nothing like sleeping on the floor holding your dogs paw just to let him know you’re there and that he is safe. He’s a hero in my book… thank god he found them first. I can’t imagine if I’d been doing chores and stumbled across them unarmed or if I had to go look for him and found a bigger mess than I was prepared to tangle with…. he came home, he came to warn us. My heart breaks for him, but am I am so so happy that he came home. How? We will never know, but he definitely earned his “bad ass farm dog” award. He didn’t give up, he didn’t submit, he didn’t lay down, he has two bad hips and a bad knee and still ran like hell… He won’t be winning any beauty contests any time soon, but that’s just fine with me. He has also once again lived up to his Wyatt Earp namesake, the baddest doggy in the west. I guess that makes Maynard your huckleberry…

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I took Maynard up to the site this morning to take some photos and check the game cam. He smelled out his brothers trail immediately and led me the entire way through it

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One of the smaller wolf tracks on site

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Nothing left but the carcass and bones after the coyotes and the ravens got to it

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It seems so small

Today is a new day. Wyatt is alive and we are on the hunt. For those of you who may feel sorry for the wolves and think it is not right that we kill them, please remember that the safety of myself and my family is at stake. I refuse to walk around my property being afraid of the big bad wolf. I will not constantly look over my shoulder, or worry that one of the dogs, chickens, horses could be killed at any moment because wolves are in our territory. We share this land, but we must stake claim to what is our safety zone. I’ve run across countless kills on my hikes/walks/skis and never once felt in danger as they were not 100 yards away from my house. I have no problem staking claim on our homestead and defending my brave dog, frankly it would be stupid not to. He lived to tell the tale for a reason. The night is dark and full of terrors, but Mama’s got her .243 and she’s not ashamed to use it.

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“I’m your huckleberry”

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Everything is pretty swollen, but draining well

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The criss-crossed drains

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Fraken-doggy

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It’s going to be a long road ahead…

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Happy to be here with Mama… I think he just might make it

Keep you dogs safe and your guns close folks, homesteading is not for the faint of heart.

And wolves… we’re coming for you. I hope Wyatt got a chunk or two for himself.

Now, if I could only get the Peter and the Wolf soundtrack out of my head when I am walking the property, that would be great.

Thanks to all who sent prayers, concerns and well wishes – Wyatt knows he is very loved.

~Katy

 

My Permaculture Garden – Planning an Edible Food Forest in zone 2b-3

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Pineapple sage seedlings

Sunshine and mud is upon us and thus brings unrealistic hopes of gardening in the near future, if you live in the North. We have at least one more month of cold temps and snow before we can begin to see the landscape change into spring. And our springs a little muddier and a little chillier than most, earning it the unrivaled title of Break-Up. Like I really need to label my feelings on how I feel about winter right about now…

BUT, spring is coming. And so I must be ready, because in the North, gardening season happens fast, happens dirty and happens to never last.

Since January hit, I’ve been scouring the internet and several books to gather the information I’ll need to start putting our garden into place. Exciting! In a previous post, I discussed my interest for permaculture gardening and how we implemented some practices last summer (read more here). This summer, we plan to take on a larger chunk of our property and start building a food forest, a lush perennial garden as well as a possible annual market garden. I mean, you know, because we don’t have a lot to do around here. In my quest to put as much research together before the soil thaws, it made sense to start piecing together a list of plants that are both favorable to a permaculture garden as well as the garden zone in which we live.

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The garden/food forest site

Fort St. John, British Columbia is noted as a garden zone of 2b-3, although it is apparent after much observation we have a pretty great micro climate on our property, especially in our 1 acre garden plot. Most of our 1/4 section is south facing towards the Peace River and our garden plot slopes slightly towards agriculture fields, downwards from a large hill and in between a shelter belt of trees and a dugout. I’ve noted that it warms incredibly fast in the the spring, has good drainage and isn’t terribly affected by our winter winds. We did a soil test last summer that came back great, made some amendments, mostly with old manure soiled hay and left it to it’s own devices. We also tested for pesticides since it is so close to traditionally farmed fields which came back negative (whew). All in all, the plan is to plant with the zone 2b-3 in mind, but experiment and have some fun as we go.

I’ve been making lists and lists. Lists of fruit trees, of bushes, of varieties, of herbs, of nitrogen fixers, of dynamic accumulators… pretty much anything I’ve come across as favorable to our zone. Well ladies and gents, it’s time to put those lists to work and start piecing them together.

Let’s talk about edible forest gardening. I’ve always wanted an orchard and with land comes the opportunity. Though, the more I read up on permaculture practices, the less I wanted a traditional orchard. Enter the edible food forest garden. The principle of a forest garden is to build in layers, 7 layers to be exact, imitating the natural process and growth patterns of a natural forest. If you’ll notice, no one ever has to weed or water a forest because there is a balance. Building a forest garden allows the gardener to use similar patterns while allowing a break from too much weeding and watering. Sounds good, right?

Here’s a handy drawing I made to explain the layers:1-DSC_0076

  1. Canopy – large fruit & nut trees
  2. Low tree/tall shrubs – dwarf fruit trees, tall shrubs
  3. Shrub layer – berries, nut bushes, etc.
  4. Herbaceous layer – comfrey, herbs
  5. Rhizosphere – root vegetables
  6. Soil surface – ground covers
  7. Vertical layer – climbers, vines

When you include each layer surrounding a main large fruit or nut tree, we refer to this as a plant guild. Each plant has a “job” within the guild and an overall purpose to the health of the guild. Jobs include providing nutrients, mulch, pollen, protection, etc. Plus, with each group of plants comes differing root length and spread, so planting in guilds cuts down on competition. Two major types of plants within a guild are described as nitrogen fixers and dynamic accumulators.

Nitrogen is a vital nutrient for plants and plant growth. In traditional farming practices, nitrogen is added through fertilizers. In a permaculture garden, nitrogen is added through plant systems. As a nitrogen fixing plant grows, it creates a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. Excess nitrogen is built up in the plants tissues and when leaves fall, roots die, or gardeners prune back leaves and leave as mulch, the excess nitrogen is released back into the soil. This excess nitrogen is picked up by the other plants in the area and utilized for their own growth.

Dynamic accumulators (DA) involves the idea that certain plants (often deep-rooted ones) will draw up nutrients from the lower layers of the soil, and these nutrients will be deposited in the plants’ leaves. When the leaves fall in autumn and winter and are broken down, those stored nutrients are then incorporated into the upper layers of the soil where other plants will benefit from their decomposition. You can hasten this process by cutting back vigorous growth and leaving the leaves as a green mulch layer.

Pretty cool, huh? Making your own fertilizer with living plants – sounds good to me!

So I’ve started my list. I’ve gathered plants that will survive in our 2b-3 garden zone that I will use to create my plant guilds and it was quite the research project. But I am so happy to finally have them all in one place. Now I can share them with you and hope that other northern gardeners will find it helpful.

PDF found here – Food Forest Plant List

Food Forest Plant List

There you have it… the beginning of something beautiful. Food forests are a labor of love and can take a few years to establish, but I’m up for the challenge. Looking forward to many days spent planning, planting, pruning and providing… with so much to do, it only makes sense to make my plants work too.

Do you have plants with jobs in your garden?

~Katy

 

 

 

Warmer Weather

March has arrived and with it, warmer weather. At least today. I have spent most of the day outdoors with my critters enjoying the sunshine and thought you all might like a peek into our funny little world.

Wyatt and Sake have been working on their relationship…

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Wyatt is working on his “easy” skills

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They both got in a good sniff

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Then Wyatt was ready to play

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The intensity Wyatt, the intensity

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We also worked on his “lay down” skills

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My handsome old man

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Then she just started to taunt him

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She would tolerate playing under the BBQ

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Mostly…

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In the end, the sun won and they both took a nap

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Ain’t she purrrrty

The cat’s ratings went up when Wyatt noticed she could get ONTO the barbecue. The plot, as always, thickens.

The chicks are more active everyday as well as their Mama. Dad came in to see the babies for the first time, and although Josephine wasn’t stoked, she tolerated him a lot better than everyone else.

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Learning

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The four newest fluffs: Hazel (yellow), Mabel (all black), Malka (middle) and Phil (if he turns out to be a she, Philomena it is)

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Beatrix checking out the scene… and the food

The chickens are happy for the sun.

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“My mom cleaned out the chicken coop and all I got was this lousy chicken” ~Sake

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Georgia takes a dust bath in the sun

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I can’t sit down without someone on my lap

I hope you all are enjoying March so far, just keep in mind.. in like a lamb, out like a lion. Or in my case, in like a chicken, out like a Wyatt 🙂

~Katy

 

 

The first babies on the farm

If you have ever felt the urge to get nothing done in your life, I suggest you hatch chicks under a broody hen. It has been 23 days since I set Josephine and Georgia on clutches of eggs and the last few days have been busy. And I haven’t gotten a lot done… well, I guess if you count judging 4-H speeches, going to a job interview and taking the dogs on a ski with mismatching skis nothing, then yeah. But the remainder of my time has been spent in the coop. On the floor. Staring at Josephine.

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I think the saddest part about this is that I didn’t realize it until about 20 minutes into the ski… babies on the brain I suppose

Thursday night around 9 pm I heard a faint chirping noise coming from Josephine’s nest. WHAT!? I was so excited, I promptly sat myself down and listened intently for about an hour. Friday would mark 21 days of gestation which is the average amount of time for a chick to hatch. I knew (Googled) that chicks can start peeping from within the shell before they attempt to break on through to the other side, so it was really happening.

I spent pretty much all day Friday in the coop, although didn’t get to see anything. I still heard chirping and knew we had at least one little chick on it’s way.

Saturday brought a busy day, but I rushed home to check on the situation. I sat on the floor and hunkered down for a few hours of staring at Josephine. Don’t worry, I had company.

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Group audience selfie! (Sake kills it in this photo)

Then, I finally saw our very first baby on the farm. It peered out from below Mama hen, took one look at it’s audience and scurried right back to whence it came.

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Hello little one

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Oooo, it’s a baby!

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I guess I wouldn’t know what to do with an audience like that either…

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Yay Mama Josephine

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I feared it was dead, but it started to chirp at me

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Such a little sweetie, looks like we might have Dad’s markings 🙂

Well, three days later I’m proud to report Josephine hatched two more little ones. To my surprise, Georgia got off of her nest this morning, and as I walked by, I noticed a wee one who had literally just come out of the shell. A light colored one to boot! (I have an inordinate amount of black chickens) Georgia seem uninterested in returning to her nest, even though I tried to set her back on it a few times. I was aware that with it only being 40 degrees in the coop, it was a critical time to keep the chick warm. Then, Pearl decided she wanted to lay her egg in that nest and started pecking at the baby. Well, Katy to the rescue. I scooped up the little one and sacrificed my hand to place it under Josephine hoping she wouldn’t be too upset and reject it. She was upset, but just with me. She tucked the little one under her wing, gave me the goose eye and proceeded on with her day. Good Mama.

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Sometimes it’s easier to drink when you sit in the water

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Mama and baby

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I call these two the twins

So all in total we have four hatched, one that died on it’s way out of the shell, and one that is still “cooking”. I originally set fourteen eggs so although not the greatest success rate, I’m pretty impressed with my two broody gals. Over the past three weeks we’ve had temps down to -20 so they did their job well.

I candled the remaining eggs and found all of my orpington (brown) eggs didn’t even seem to be fertilized. I guess we know who Beatrix prefers… those beautiful Olive Egger ladies. Which I’m stoked for because I just love my green eggs.

I’m still hoping for that last egg to hatch, but am over the moon about four new additions.

We may still have snow and ice, but it’s sure starting to feel like springtime around here.

~Katy