Friday, October 9, 2009

Pest control

It must have been just a few days ago. I knew I shouldn't say it, but there the words were coming out of my mouth and I couldn't stop them, and there was no wood handy to knock on.

" far we haven't had any sheep in the garden this year. That's progress!"


We heard the strangest sound while picking vegetables in the steadily pouring rain this afternoon. It sounded like a small animal being killed, or like a car engine being cranked when it was already running. It was loud.

And it was coming from Freckleface the llama, we discovered after investigation. He was very not happy about something, but I couldn't tell what...unless he was just voicing his extreme disleasure with the weather.

So I checked the sheep. All present and accounted for. No predators that I could see. Water tanks were not an issue. I rearranged an electric fence so the lambs had some fresh grass, and I opened up the lane to the green sheds so that the ewes and llama could seek shelter in the sheds as well as the barn. Then I went back to picking, until nearly 5:00.

The WWOOFer and I went out at 11:30 p.m., to replace the frost blankets we'd moved for picking. "Sheep," he said, in a voice of mild surprise. I don't know him well enough to know the exact nuances of his voice yet.

"Yeah, I let them into the lane earlier, and they have access to the chicken pen from there," I nonchalantly replied, still focused on the frost blankets.

"No, I mean in the garden!"

And so they were. Four of them, briskly moving towards the door to the chicken coop which we'd left ajar last week. They knew very well that they weren't supposed to be in the garden, and they knew exactly where they'd come in at.

I closed the gate behind them. That was easy...but only 4 of them. Where were the others? I scanned with my headlamp, looking for their glowing eyes in the dark. There they were, on the other side of the chicken pen, bedded down by the gate to the shed lane.

I posted the WWOOFer with scary headlamp between them and the beds of salad greens, went around to the shed lane gate, opened it up, and they all stood up and marched in, nice as you please.

Sigh. I knew I shouldn't have said that, about them not getting in the garden all year.

It does not look like they've done too much harm, other than deep pits from their hooves in the soaked ground. In time the worms will fluff up the soil again. The kale may take awhile to regrow, but they didn't touch the lettuce in the next bed, and their other favorite crop was covered with frost blanket.

The frost blankets--a heavy floating row cover--are designed to protect the crops in several ways: from wind, heavy rain, falling leaves, cold air, and insects.

But they also seem to offer some protection against sheep.

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