The speed with which the fox notices a change in our routine is astounding. And so it was, last night, when I woke up at 1:30am to the sound of the vixen's call outside my bedroom window. With two guardian dogs that roam the property by night, keeping predators away from our flock of sheep and birds, it's unusual to hear our neighboring fox so close. I know exactly where she lives just over the property line by our lower field, and I've seen her kits each year from the age of young pups grow to independent hunters. Her presence isn't new, and isn't even entirely unwelcome so long as she leaves my critters alone. That's what the livestock guardian dogs are for.
When we take a vacation, the fox immediately recognizes the absence of the free-ranging dogs. Aaxlu is enclosed with his flock of ducks, geese, and guinea fowl to make sure he stays contained while we're away... and to ensure the birds are under his protection while I'm gone. Orsa takes charge of her sheep and sounds her loud bark at coyote from either the lower field or the in-out run that is attached to the sheep barn. And this is exactly the setting in which the fox found the dogs last night, for a sudden cold snap blasted the farm. This meant frozen water troughs and buckets brought on by the cold wind. I could better ensure fresh water for the dogs if they stayed enclosed with their stock; more body heat, more water disturbance, less buckets for me to crack, and stock tank heaters.
The screech was loud and just to the front of the barn which resides across the drive from my window. After every scream and chatter she sounded, the dogs began barking incessantly; frustrated at their lack of ability to chase after her. I got up and peered through my windows and, thankfully, the moon was full, casting a gentle spotlight over the pastures and yards. I could not see her but I knew exactly where she was in the shadows. Eventually the chorus of canines settled and I went back to sleep, hoping she hadn't made her way into the barn. She knows exactly where the dog and cat food is kept in large bins, and isn't deterred by metal flashing or locks. Not once did I fear for the safety of my animals.
This morning when stepping outside for breakfast rounds, the dogs were visibly agitated. I let them out of their respective fences and immediately they chased for the fox, in the direction of her den. Orsa's nose stayed to the ground following the scent, while Aaxlu charged ahead. Perhaps they remembered the cacophony from the night before, or maybe she had just passed through. But as I watched them follow the fox trail I was, yet again, reminded of the gratitude I have for the commitment and protection these two dogs provide. I could not do what I do here without them. And now that the cold snap has moved on, the dogs will resume their usual positions in tonight's occupation.
Angela is the farmer and content creator behind Axe & Root Homestead LLC. This historic six-acre permaculture farm is home to two Clydesdale horses, ten honeybee hives, five sheep, two guardian dogs, barn cats and a flock of 40 geese and ducks. The farm produces maple syrup, fruit from a small orchard and loads of garden produce for consumption, preservation and donation to the local food pantry.
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