Ghosts. And like ghosts, our lions are rarely seen. But there is a reason that “our” does have their fawns in the yard every spring, and keep them there throughout the summer. Although we don’t often see our lions we, like our deer, know that they are here. Because our ghosts leave tracks. Snow stories. Gotta love it!
Because everything dies. December 10, 2012
It’s the time of year when we field harvest some of our buffalo and I invariably get the question, “I know you love them, so how can you live with them and still kill them?” Those are honest questions and here’s my best answer.
“Because everything dies. Every thing.”
As a biologist, as well as for me philosophically, it’s not the fact that things die that we should focus on – after all, every one of us will do that – it’s the quality of life and the quality of death that matters. Because we do love our buffalo. And we do care about them. And we do eat them. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas. In fact, they are the basis of life around us. We all eat living things.
To us, that means that our bison are treated with gentleness and respect and honor. They are never penned and fattened, but are allowed to roam wherever they want on the almost one square mile they call home. It means that calves are never separated from their mothers, that there is no pain of castration, dehorning, branding, squeeze chutes, or electric prods – often a part of “traditional” livestock raising. It means that we can live on a ranch that is home to other wildlife including predators, where we can encourage native vegetation rather than introduced plants, and basically run the ranch in an environmentally friendly manner, all while living with that most amazing of creatures – the buffalo.
Yes, there is a cost to that, in both time and money. It means that we have to spend hours trying to coax a buff onto a trailer instead of forcing it, that there is never a semi-truck crowded full of our bison and trucked long distances to a central feedlot and slaughterhouse with it’s horrors, and it means marketing the meat ourselves, wholesale, one animal at a time, instead of in large commercial quantities. But it also means that when death does come to our buffs, it is done instantaneously, painlessly, and without bringing fear. And most of all, it means that each bison is treated as an individual with emotions and feelings that deserve respect. I wish we all had it so good.
Snow stories – Pop goes the weasel. December 7, 2012
First I saw the weasel tracks – then I saw some deer mouse tracks.
Oh Oh. Weasel tracks on top of mouse tracks. I bet the weasel was smiling.
After hauling firewood into the house, making fires in each of our outbuildings, plowing roads, slogging through snow to feed the buffs, and sliding across the driveway on ice, some days I have a hard time finding the upside of a snowstorm. So I take a walk through the meadow covered with a white blanket of snow, watch the white flakes drift to the ground, wrap myself in the hushed silence of a snow filled world, and let the peace of my seemingly empty world envelope me. Such a peaceful world.
But tracks are all around me – unfolding tales of curiosity and survival, the hunter and the hunted. They tell of coyotes looking for food, ermine following mice, squirrels scampering from tree to tree, a cottontail scurrying from haystack to chicken house (they know where the food is), dusky grouse nibbling the doug fir buds, even the flight of the great horned owl as her wings sweep the snow. Activity everywhere I look. Snow stories. Reminding me that this isn’t really a peaceful world at all.