Friday, 28 May 2010

More foxes

Underkeeper Pete organised a fox drive last night. The concept is a few people with guns stand in a field on the edge of a woodland while others walk through the wood. The fox is disturbed by the walkers and breaks cover in front of the waiting guns. It's a more common practice on the continent. In France, I often saw a line of men dressed in country clothes, guns ready, almost vibrating with excitement on a roadside, while others walked through crops of corn disturbing wild pigs or foxes in their direction.

We only had one fox for our evening's work - a vixen. Her milk was dried up so her cubs were old enough to fend for themselves. Mike saw her leave her earth and run in the opposite direction, no doubt to draw our attention from her cubs. I called her and Dave shot her. She's still moulting her winter coat, and she's thin from feeding her young.

Fox driving doesn't seem the most efficient way to clear up foxes. Unless you get lucky and move quite a few through at once. But there is a social aspect, and this time of year when outdoor folk are busy cutting hay or lambing, this in an excuse to get together and catch up. When all the grass is cut, we'll go back to calling foxes to us, instead of chasing them. Fox calling is a solitary pursuit - one hunter and her rifle. And maybe her husband to call the fox because she's pretty rubbish at making the noise.

Besides the camaraderie, the views are great. I can see my house from the first drive -

 It's right in the middle of the picture. It looks very small from here.

I can see the sea from the second drive. I often forget how close we are to the ocean.

I have been practicing my squirrel trapping too. Here's my barrel -

It's a standard pheasant feeder. Our feeders are upcycled from a shipping container used by a local leather factory. We cut mailbox feeder slots into two sides -

For trapping squirrels, just enough wheat is put in to cover the bottom of the feeder (so pheasants can't reach) and a fen trap is placed on top -

I've left too much wheat in the bin and it's jamming the plate from beneath, stopping the trap from snapping shut. I would stop and check my trap, just to find a squirrel pouring out of the letterbox slot like quicksilver and making for the nearest tree. I've taken some more wheat out and set a second fen, so I'm hoping to find two full traps in the morning.

The springs are strong. I can attest to this as I caught the tip of my middle finger in one a week ago and it still hurts. I was lucky it was only the very end. It's perfectly capable of breaking bone. It needs to be, to ensure a quick death. I make sure the springs are strong, and I check my traps more often than is required, just to be sure nothing's trapped awkwardly or going to suffer. I have recipes for squirrel but so far I've been feeding them to the crows as an excuse not to eat one myself.

Some of the dogs came out with me to check traps today -

They almost look well-behaved here. Don't be fooled. When I took this picture they'd already been running, flat out through the woods, for nearly an hour. That's why all the lolling tongues. Pip, the yellow lab was full of energy this morning but skipped the evening walk, as she found a better proposition -


That's what I get for forgetting to make the bed. The chickens were more helpful -

I've moved a few chicken houses and decided to turn their nitrogen-rich earth into a couple of vegetable beds. The chickens are clearing any tasty pests and refining the tilth for me. (All that and eggs too -  chickens are great!) It won't be a pretty veg patch, but it might keep us in lettuces over summer, if I can chicken-proof it. Well, at least I know one of us will eat anyway.

Mike's gone to do his final check of the incubators, and I'm off to bed. If I can convince Pip to go halves with me on that side.


Poppy Cottage said...

I just really enjoy reading your posts. Nun night Jen

Paula said...

Your house looks like it's the only one within miles, but I think you said you have five more in your village, so I'm guessing they are hidden by trees. At any rate, it looks idyllic.

Great shot of all your dogs! I'm also impressed that they leave your chickens alone.

Love the picture of Pip in the bed. She has that look of seeing what's disturbing her, before putting her head back down. She also looks supremely comfortable.

Jennifer Montero said...

Thanks Colette - Hope all is well with work and home.

Paula - It definitely looks like prime real estate from up on the hill, but the trees in full leaf hide a lot!

The dogs have all been taught that chickens in the agrden are off limits. That said, we have the very occasional suicide chicken that flies into their kennels and I'm afraid they're not that good then.

Except Pip who is terrified of chickens - Charles pecked her on the butt when she was a pup A defensive cockerel is probably a good teaching tool for dogs.

Pip will sneak off early to get the primo spot in the bed. The only thing that shifts her is the sound of food dropping into her bowl. Typical lab!

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Yay, Jen! I'm glad you finished the sweater, and are unperturbed by its imperfections. They're the mark of something handmade, and anyone who notes that one side of the sleeve is longer than the other is being churlish. I mean, you SPUN THE WOOL YOURSELF, for chrissake!

While we're on the subject of homemade garments, I've been wondering what you do with the fur of those foxes you shoot. Are fox fur coats all the rage?

Jennifer Montero said...

Tamar - I was listening to a knitting podcast today and the speakers pointed out that every knitted garment is like a metaphor for one's life: you look back on the mistakes you made and think what you would do differently next time but all in all it was worth doing. Fair comment I thought.

Sadly there's no market for shot fox fur. Furriers use farm raised foxes and gas them so as not to damage the pelts. Preparing fur is a messy smelly business as a DIY project. So far I've not been tempted to go the whole way in my "gamekeeper's wife" duties.