Silver linings

If you’re friends with me on facebook, then you’ve probably realized that I’m kinda into finding the silver lining in every situation. I think it’s a mental-survival thing. Without it, I would be completely whack-o a few times over. (Be careful…I know what you’re thinking!)

But today’s silver lining showed up a few times! Yay!

First: George ran his first fever last night since we had The Plan in place. It was a bit scary, but things went well. I called the pediatrician, he ran through things with me, we formulated our plan and all went well. I ended up not having to take him in, the temp stayed down over night, took him in this morning and all things are well. Woohoo! Chalk one to George!

To celebrate, we got his FIRST big-boy haircut! Not bad, for a boy that’s about to be 2!

Not only will George be 2 in a month, but he got his first real hair cut today!

Second: Someone asked if the deer are still a problem. Here’s the answer:

That isn't just dirt on the horizon. Those are hundreds of deer, still making our yard home.

Yep.

But the silver lining? Another creature has followed them here…namely Bald Eagles. It is COOL! There are at least four of them right now. I think they’re eating off the carcasses. But they are so majestic and all things amazing. I tear up looking at them, and feel like saluting as they fly by…kinda weird, I know.

Getting close to a Bald Eagle isn't as easy as getting pics of deer in our yard.

And just to let you SEE what kind of damage the deer are doing, I’ve got these pics for you:

Yeah, that's what you think it is...deer urine

You can see where the hay has been moved from. Notice the difference between white and yellow/brown.

Notice the yellow/brown snow? Do you remember what your mother said about eating yellow snow? That’s right, that’s urine. As in deer urine. As in lots and lots and lots of deer urine. Now imagine all that on your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yum.

But SB 2227, which will give landowners a few more options in deer depredation, is supposed to be voted on in the House of Representatives tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted.

And come next fall, I expect you and ALL of your family to come hunting.

Silence

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Another 45 have died. I know because I counted them. Add in the two dozen or more from before, and that seems to be a pretty significant number. (And apparently the coyotes can’t keep up.) According to Game and Fish literature, it’s expected that about 10 percent of a population will perish through the winter, especially in high-stressed areas. If this is an accurate percentage, then we definitely had more than 500 deer in our yard.

We were working on a bill that would have allowed unfilled deer licenses to be used in areas that are facing extreme amounts of deer pressure. These tags were ones that the Game and Fish Department had already sold and profitted from, I’m assuming with the intentions that they would be filled. If the Game and Fish Department deemed an area a “problem,” then December through March 15, the tags could have been filled.

A perfect solution? Of course not. Another tool in the tool box? Certainly. Apparently continuing on with the status quo isn’t working.

One of the legislators that I contacted regarding the issue was kind enough to reply. He told us that they are sending the bill to a “special committee” to come up with another idea, perhaps with food plots and feeding areas. They don’t want to see the deer shot. My question is why? These are tags that were already paid for and calculated by Game and Fish as being acceptable to lower deer numbers.

Somewhere, somehow, we need to start thinking outside the box and trying something new.

Battle weary

It’s been one of those days. You know, the type of day where you just can’t wait to crawl into bed, knowing that when you open your eyes, at least it will be a different day?

Tonight, let me focus on the problem we HAVE NOT gotten rid of yet (check here and here for reminders as to what’s been going on)…and that would be deer. That’s right, they’re still here. And for argument’s sake, let’s just say the number is 500.

 

The deer are dying in and on our feed supply for our cattle.

Boss Man is trying to put plans in place so that we’re able to be better prepared for next year. Apparently this year is a loss. We will never get back what the hay was worth that has been destroyed. (Think in the terms of multiple thousands.) There is nothing we can do about that. So we need to move ahead.

 

He spoke with North Dakota Game and Fish today. They are less than receptive to assisting. According to them, we have been uncooperative. By uncooperative, they mean that we were not interested in the only plan that they came up with. This “plan” was to wrap our bales with a plastic wrap, that would supposedly deter the deer from eating our hay.

Every person we have spoken to regarding the plastic wrap has claimed that it does NOT work. Not only are there problems with the wrap coming undone, or stacks falling over, but remember that we’re trying to sell our hay that is salvageable. That means that we would have to wrap and unwrap bales each time we were moving or grinding hay. We would also have to dispose of the wrap as we were using the hay.

Another concern we had with the hay wrap was that once the deer made our yard their winter habitat, without STRONG encouragement, they would still be in our yard, just forced to feed with our cattle. The deer are a danger to our herd, just by being in their feed supply. But the danger would be even greater if they were nose-to-nose and feeding out of the same bunk.

So, by trying to protect our livestock, while still being conscientious of the wildlife, we are now deemed uncooperative. Thank you.

Tonight, Mark decided to be proactive and try to call some of the neighboring landowners, making them aware of what the problem is, and asking if we could all be more receptive to allowing hunters access to prime hunting land.

The first call was to a “neighbor” who happens to own a hunting lodge and guide service. He basically thanked my husband for ruining his evening, told him not to tell him how to run his business and hung up the phone.

Most of the other phone calls went very well. Most people understand what the problem is, and are willing to do what they can to help. Here’s hoping that they remember next fall.

Here’s what I’d like to remind Game and Fish: this isn’t just another hay yard, another complaining farmer, another “problem” that they’d rather not deal with. This is MY hay yard, MY herd and MY sons’ futures. I have four boys that I hope have the opportunity to continue to make this farmstead their home, and continue to live and prosper in North Dakota.

I hope and pray it’s not just a dream.

And by the way, if you’re looking for a place to hunt this coming fall, I can hook you up…bring your family, your friends and your neighbors!

Post of destruction

I’m not sure that words are necessary…so just watch the slide show.

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I didn’t take the picture of the Game and Fish official who stopped and had picked up a pick-up load of the carcasses. (He did give me permission to take a photo.) These were just the ones left behind, or the ones not picked up yet. It makes me sad, frustrated and wondering.

To quote the Game and Fish website, the department’s mission statement is:

“The mission of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is to protect, conserve and enhance fish and wildlife populations and their habitat for sustained public consumptive and appreciative use.”

Well, they’re failing.

A new twist

So, I’ve written quite a bit about our deer problems. But now they’ve taken a whole different turn. Now the deer are dying.

I don’t mean that one or two has met its maker in a peaceful ceremony performed by the deer-healer. No, we’re talking more than a dozen of them, all lying in our feed. I actually believe that there are at least two dozen carcasses, but I’m not interested in actually going out and counting. Here, see for yourself.

So, yeah, it’s a problem. And here’s the kicker…why are they dying? There’s plenty of feed (although, truth be told, deer aren’t meant to eat dairy-quality alfalfa, so that could be part of the problem), they’ve made nice little burrows in our haystacks, which should be providing excellent cover. Do they have diseases? Are they sick?

Next comes, what will happen to our feed? Is our herd at risk?

The master-minds at Game and Fish are supposed to be here in the morning. One of our neighbors called them this evening. It seems that one of the deer decided to die next to his house. Even kicked the house as it was taking its last breaths. I’m very sorry that the deer caused such a commotion, but I’m grateful that our neighbor called Game and Fish to complain. Perhaps if we’re not the only ones calling, they’ll start paying more attention.

Well, I better head to bed. There’ll be a long night of checking cows, since it’s so cold tonight. Plus today was a very stressful, crazy day. I’ll tell you more about it later.

If I remember.

What’s the big deal?

I realize now, that with all my complaining about the large number of deer here, that some people are wondering what I’m complaining about. I mean, they are beautiful, and tasty, creatures.

Well, here’s a quick rundown:

1) As I’ve said before, deer poop. And they pee. All over our hay and feed. Cows don’t like it, and I have to admit, it’s starting to smell funny over there. Yuck! What a mess!

2) Deer can carry disease, and quite a bit of it, especially in the numbers that they are travelling here. These diseases are transferable to our cattle…which is bad, really bad. Remember way back when? When I talked about our herd? Well, we’ve worked really, really hard to make sure that our herd is healthy and disease-free, mainly for the benefit of those that enjoy the beef we produce. We would hate to risk that, all because we weren’t given any other options by those that are supposed to be helping us. And, just to remind you, calving starts in just a couple weeks. Which means we’ll have some little calves that are even more susceptible to disease than our cows are…not a good situation at all.

3) Again, I’ve mentioned before that with the large number of deer come predators. Predators make cows uneasy. Cows that are calving that are uneasy makes for dangerous conditions. Not just for the cows and calves, but for anyone that works with the cows. We need to be as careful as we can, so that everyone can make it through calving season without being injured…including the cattle.

4) Danger to family. OK, now this is something I’ve been working on, and pray that I’ve taught my boys well enough not to have to worry TOO much about it, but I still do. As you can see in this photo, the deer are eating at the hay bales that are easiest to get to…the ones on the ground. Well, you see, each of those bales weigh a little less than a ton. And they are stacked four high. As the deer eat away at the bottom bale, the whole stack becomes unstable…posing a risk for the whole thing to come toppling down.

As the deer eat away at the bottom bales, the whole stack becomes unstable.

Imagine almost 3 tons falling on you? Now, I’m not just concerned about my boys, but what about a Game & Fish officer coming to check on things, or my husband, trying to straighten things out? Or even the deer themselves. (Although, that would seem to be poetic justice to me!)

5) Last, but certainly not least, the deer are costing us money. Not only are we losing feed, and the costs associated with that, but the deer have very good taste. They are eating the hay that we’ve worked very hard to put up in dairy-quality condition. This means that these deer are costing us every where we turn. I can’t give you a real accurate number right now, but we’re talking multiple thousands of dollars. Could you afford to lose $10,000? How about $20,000? Wouldn’t you feel a little frustrated and concerned about it?

Well, we certainly have a lot to discuss and figure out on our way to Mayo…and here I was concerned that we would have nothing to worry about! 😉

Preparations

We head to Mayo tomorrow. It’s hopefully time to finally get to some answers. Poor kid has been through the ringer, and all before he turns 2. I’d complain about the fairness of it all, but we all know that fairness doesn’t play into these things.

Anyway, while all this is going on, we’re still at the mercy of winter, still have cattle to care for and still have chores that need to be done. Which means we start planning now, preparing for the worst, hoping for the best, making sure that everything is in place, so that if (I should say when) it snows while we’re gone, it’s not a lot of extra work for whomever is helping us out.

So Boss Man is off, getting things ready. I’m packing bags for all of us, arranging staying places for the other three kids, arranging back ups, in case someone is sick, and the back ups for the back ups, just because we roll that way! Planning out time of departure, time of arrival, places to stay in Rochester, what mode of transportation to take, etc., etc. Like planning a great vacation, minus the fun and vacation!

And just when I thought I had it all planned out, up pops another problem. Our deer situation has gone from kinda crazy, to absolutely unbelievable. It’s hard to even imagine saddling someone else with this issue while we’re gone, so we’re trying to do what we can to help the situation out.

Here’s my latest shots, without any voiceover. I think it speaks for itself:

I’ve contacted the proper authorities (probably even a few that could care less), shot footage and sent e-mails. I’m not sure what will happen from here on out, but I know we’re working on it.

I will try to keep everyone posted on how things are going. And we’ll hopefully be home before we know it. I’m also wishing that maybe we’ll be a few hundred deer shorter than where we are now!

Ever increasing problem

We have a “small” problem on our farm. I call it a small problem, because the animals themselves aren’t all that large, but the number in which they are here…that’s where the issue lies.

Last year it started as a nuisance. I warned Boss Man that I thought the deer around our house seemed to be getting closer and closer, and seemed to bring their extended families with them. At first, he kind of brushed off my concerns, saying that they had never really bothered the hay before and that they would probably move on shortly.

They didn’t.

In fact, they seemed to rather enjoy themselves, and made themselves right at home. As you can see here: (Warning, this is the first video I had ever shot, so please excuse the nausea-inducing zooming and movement…I’ve learned…well, at least a little.)

This year is a whole new ballgame. We have already enrolled the help of our state Game and Fish, who have come up with some interesting tactics. (For instance, a really neat gun-looking, bottle-rocket-on-steroids type thing!)

To explain it from my husband’s point of view, I’ll just give you the run-down of a conversation we had:

“It’s a double-edged sword. If they eat my hay, they won’t starve. They’ll be stronger and healthier, but then they’ll also survive winter and there will be more next year.

“If they don’t eat my hay, they’ll starve. But they’ll be weak and more susceptible to disease, exposing my herd to who-knows-what.”

And this is what we’re talking about for this year:

So, you see, we’re in a tough spot. If we don’t feed the deer, they will get sick and die. But may expose our cows to all sorts of unwanted stuff.

If we feed the deer, they won’t leave, and could still get sick and die. And we will still have exposure to whatever it is they are carrying.

We have already spent money on buying panels to place all around our feed, such as the silage that we cut and the freshly-ground hay. Game and Fish suggest that we space our hay stacks closer together, but our insurance insists that our hay stays further apart. I personally don’t believe that where our hay is located would make much difference to this large number of animals.

The amount of money that has been lost through the hay and feed that has been destroyed is almost nauseating. But the danger to the health of our herd is what has us the most concerned. We are doing all we can to protect our livestock, but it would be nice if there was a better system in place to assist producers that come across these issues.

Trust me, this is something that Boss Man and I will be working on.

Hoping for a good weekend

This week has been a mixed bag of ups and downs, sickness and wellness, etc., etc. We were blessed with pink eye on Thursday, which means eye drops for all! Although things have cleared up remarkably well today.

I’ve been working on trying to tag my deer this year. And I will say that I did get two shots off this morning on a pretty nice buck, but I wasn’t expecting him to pop up and wasn’t prepared. My own fault, I’ll admit.

One of my problems seems to be someone who thinks I need to be babysat. No matter when I go or where I’m at, it appears as if a vehicle or two just happen along and stop and watch. It’s driving me nuts!

I get it, I know that my presence isn’t exactly wanted. No one on this farm has hunted in many, many years (if ever), and so the idea of someone who would like to shoot an animal in this area is daunting for some. But if I’m that intimidating, then I would gladly teach them a lesson or two on how I got to be the powerful sportswoman I am today! 🙂 Anything to get the high-powered binoculars off my back.

Just some background on my hunting: I have a gratis, which means that I can only hunt on land that we own or operate. That’s it. No more, no less.

Since I have a gratis, that does mean that I can shoot a buck or a doe. My choice. (Actually, more like the bullet’s, but that’s another story.)

I hunt because I like to have the meat. Although for some it’s the thrill of the chase, for me it’s the pleasure of knowing that I’m providing a meal for my family…and one that is mighty tasty! (We also process our own sausage, which is unbelievably nummy!) And it’s one less animal out there for my van to hit.

At the end of deer season, all I want is to have an animal in my freezer. Buck or doe, doesn’t really matter. In the last 5-6 years, I have only shot two bucks. One was not definable as a buck until you were up close and personal. The other is mounted on my wall. I am not a trophy hunter.

Although, I do have to say that with the attention I’ve been getting lately, I wouldn’t mind at all to shoot the buck that legends are made of…but that’s just a little dream of mine. As long as my tag is on something, I’ll be happy. It does me no good to have my tag at the end of the season.

I’m not real fond of the taste of paper.

Not your everday mom

I was told this morning that Big Bro and his friends think that I”m weird. And I guess it’s kind of a good thing.

Let me explain:

In our family, the family dynamic is a little off. Boss man takes care of most of the farming stuff, the cattle stuff, etc. When I can, I pitch in and help wherever needed (such as driving silage truck). On the flip side, I do kid duties, school duties and house stuff. He pitches in when I force him to. (Just kidding!…kinda)

That’s a pretty normal scenario for a lot of families, especially a lot of farm families with young children. So where do we differ? Well, for the most part, I’m the one that takes the boys fishing, hunting, playing sports, etc.

Apparently this makes me weird to a bunch of third graders.

It’s a family tradition. My dad took us hunting and fishing from a very, very early age. It was a family event and everyone was involved. I’ve always wanted that experience for my children…and so we began.

With George’s frequency at the doc’s office, I haven’t been able to take them out as often as I would like this year…but we’ll make up for it in years to come…I know it. And we’re already scoping out deer for deer season.

And don’t worry about me taking out the best and brightest of the animals, because if a deer is dumb enough to come close to my mini-van full of yelling, screaming kids trying to tell me that the deer is coming towards us while I’m trying to quietly “sneak” out of the vehicle without alerting the deer as to my whereabouts while wearing a large amount of blaze orange and shushing my children…well, that deer is probably at the shallow end of the gene pool and should be culled from the herd. The good news is that intelligence does not effect the taste…so the sausage will taste just as good! 😉

There was a year, quite a few years ago, that I was able to go out at daybreak, all by myself, and boss man would stay home with our (at that time) two young children and I was able to pretend that I was a real hunter. I even had that one mounted!

Apparently being a mom that hunts makes me weird. I can live with that.

And yes, I know how to field dress a deer. And no, I don’t expect anyone else to do it for me. So, in a few weeks, the boys and I will pack up our gear and after school we will drive around and see if we can secure our sausage source for the upcoming year.

Just one more reason that I love our farm.