Back in 2016, I had caught a fox kit accidentally in a have-a-heart trap. I was going to try to relocate a large fox who kept taking our ducks. She would look me in the eye, just feet from me, while taking my birds. I lost half my flock that year. I set out a trap in hopes of moving her to a new home, but I caught a kit instead. I hadn’t realized she was hunting to feed her offspring. I didn’t have it in me to hurt or remove the kit so I returned it. I knew then that I was a different breed of farmer, and that there had to be a way to grow food and keep stock safe while sharing space with wildlife.
I started researching ideas for what I was calling “holistic homesteading” before I knew it was called permaculture. That’s when the shift went from a utopian idea to implementation and practice.
1. The first thing I did was get a livestock guardian dog. I knew if I removed one fox family, another would just move into their burrow. I needed a dog to communicate a boundary.
2. While waiting for my Anatolian Shepard to grow and be able to take charge of the birds, I upped my guardian geese numbers. They can’t withstand a physical fight with a predator, but they could sure sound their alarm and alert me when they saw something approach.
3. I dedicated specific areas of my land to wildlife and their traffic patterns. I respect their space, their comings and goings, and leave natural forage for them.
Now, with these efforts in place, my birds are literally out 24/7 with their guardian protector. I don’t use a coop. They sleep in a pasture with access to an optional shelter. The fox keep to their trails and traffic areas and do not enter the farmyard. I see them almost daily circumventing the farm to hunt. Heron, owls, and hawks do not prey on my birds with the dog and guardian geese present.
Gophers and deer no longer enter my growing spaces. Anything fragile gets put inside a growing fence. Deer and gophers aren’t interested in walking past my guard dogs, even when they’re fenced in their pastures. These pastures reside on the exterior boundaries of my property lines. They would have to walk inward past the dogs and guardian goose alarms to get to my orchard and they simply choose not to.
If natural hunters were not here, we would have increased pressure from raccoons, fisher cats, weasels, and more. Rather than deter wildlife, I invite owls by hanging owl housing. I do not remove nor destroy eagle nests. Black bear tossed my empty beehive around shortly after we moved in, thankfully, before I had installed my first hive. After that, I ratchet strap my hives tight and keep them within visibility of the dogs (at a safe distance).
Rather than think of homesteading as a game of wildlife vs. my farm, I think of my stock and my plants as filling in the gaps of what nature doesn’t already provide here. I try to complement what exists rather than venture on an unproductive, frustrating journey of tug of war.
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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