This evening, as I went about my dusk-time chores, I locked things in and out. I locked the chickens in. They need protection from coons and possums and foxes and coyotes. When we built their coop, we designed it to be predator proof. That means that there are absolutely no small openings anywhere that aren't covered by tightly attached chicken wire. Nowhere for snakes to slither in, nowhere for rats to reconnoiter, nowhere for predators of any kind to eat, maim or steal eggs from my girls.
After the chicken house, I locked the horses into the small lot in front of the house. I let them out during the day to graze on the green blush of grass just beginning to color the fields, but I coax them back into the small lot at night so that they won't pester my dogs and steal their dog food. I also want them in the small lot at least half of the time because both of my horses will eat fresh green grass until they founder which leads to sore feet and possible downing. The small lot is a place where the grass truly is greener on the other side of the fence.
Next, I lock the lambs into the woodshed. Two lambs live there because their mamas in the big fields won't claim them. One doesn't have enough milk for two lambs; the other is just plain mean. Who knows why she rejected this lamb and loved the other? Both lambs enjoy the open doorway, protected by a pallet gate during the day, but during the night I'm sure Mr. Coyote would welcome an easy meal. So, I slide the door closed and lock it for the evening.
Spring means we are also constantly locking animals back into their proper fields. At this time of year, drunk on that first taste of spring, the sheep and cows covet all the grass that is not theirs. They are masters at creating openings in a fence: first finding a weak spot, then poking a head through, then pushing until the opening is big enough for escape. Our sheep have been chased out of three yards this week and we have corralled a group of calves who were roaming the roads. Once the escapees are returned, then the fence pliers, staples and wire come out and the animals are re-contained until the grass is growing evenly all around or they find another weak spot in the fence.
What I got to thinking about last night, as I did all the latching and bolting and closing, was that I never worry out here about latching and bolting against human predators. My worries are all centered on animal enemies. When I take a walk in the early morning, before the sun brings the day to full shine, I worry about running into a skunk, not a human. I know almost everyone who lives in my county. I trust them. I don't trust the mama bears with babies or the raccoons roaming around in the middle of the day.
When one of my sons turned eleven, he asked if he could have a sleepover. I agreed and three other boys descended on my house and immediately began lobbying to camp out. I gave permission, thinking that they meant in our yard. It wasn’t until they headed across the creek and into the woods beyond, that I realized that they had other ideas.
I stayed up all night, glancing out the window, worried, but not wanting to go spoil their fun. I wasn’t worried that they would be abducted. I was worried that a stray cow might stumble through their tents, or a raccoon might slip in to sleep with them. I couldn’t believe that they would make it through the night. The next morning, they all climbed back over the fence, waded the creek and demanded pancakes and bacon. They’d had a blast.
So, locking and bolting have a different meaning here in the mountains. Locking and bolting mean that I keep my animals safe and don’t worry so much about myself.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.