Thursday, March 22, 2012

Other Preparations for "Home Defense"

Least anyone feel Kim and I are trigger happy, let me tell you a little about our ranch wildlife philosophy.

We are practicing permaculture on our ranch.  That means, our primary goal is to figure out how we can live harmoniously with the wildlife around us (see the "Sundog Permaculture" for more background on this concept). In fact, ideally, we want to figure out how the wildlife can HELP us do what we want to do.  For instance, a raccoon family in the area is likely to keep other raccoons away. Kill the raccoon and you only create an opportunity for another raccoon to move in.  Same with wolves and bear.

Even if we were not interested in permaculture, Kim and I LOVE wolves, foxes, raccoons, bears, hawks, squirrels and all the other animals that surround us.   Killing them is the LAST thing we want to do.  The problem is, once they get a taste of chicken (or fruit, in the case of the vegetarian "preditors"), it will be very hard to keep them from coming back for more.  So, our FIRST task is either to make it very difficult to get that FIRST taste or to have enough to go around!

BARRIERS:  Our property will be surrounded by a five foot woven wire fence.   Though no fence will keep a determined animal out, it will keep our animals in and help take them out of the "easy meal" category.  Since most predator attacks occur at night,  all of our smaller animals (and our horses) will be in a secure barn or coop at night.  Our important food crops will also be protected (from the cold and the nibbling mouths of wildlife) by greenhouse walls.  Finally, our chickens will have plenty of tree cover during the day to reduce their daytime visibility from the sky (where hawks will be hunting).  Their dark plumage should also help them avoid detection to some degree as they will blend into the shadows and pine needle ground cover.

DOGS:  Our next level of protection will come from our dogs.  Kim and I have four dogs all told.  Two are Australian Cattle Dogs, who take guarding our property from unknown humans very seriously.  The other two are Catahoula mixes, and they are excellent hunting dogs that love to chase squirrels and do not like other predators on their property.    All four dogs will be patrolling our property, backing each other up, and their scent will be on everything.  We are hoping that between this and the barriers our livestock will be reasonably safe, and squirrels and other rodents will be keep in check to some degree.

BIOLOGICAL VECTOR CONTROL:  We are depending upon our chickens (an perhaps pigs) to help us keep rodents and bugs in check as we will not be using pesticides or poisons of any kind. We will also be encouraging bats and birds to live on our property as well.  The more they work, the less we have to!

MOTION DETECTORS:  Our barn and chicken coops will also be protected from predators through the use of motion detectors that turn on lights and/or water pistols. Hard to keep your concentration when you are being soaked with cold water or illuminated so all can see!  These signals will also likely start the dogs to barking, which is an added deterrent.

DISTRACTION: We plan to have a number of fruit trees on our ranch, which we know will attract birds and squirrels.  However, we will also be planting a number of lower-growing food crops underneath the fruit trees, some of which will provide food we are not interested in at the same time the fruit trees are ready.  This "polyculture" approach to farming should serve to distract bugs, squirrels, chipmunks and birds from the fruit we want to some extent.

SHARING:  We plan to plant far more fruit trees and berries than we need so we can afford to share to some extent. 

OTHER STRATEGIES:  We will keep looking for other strategies that require little energy on our part to be effective.  Necessity is the mother of invention, right?

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