Sunday, May 06, 2007

Andorra in the dark

I knew something was out there when Andorra started barking at just after 2 am.

She started barking and didn’t let up.

She might have been barking for half an hour when I finally got up and listened. Andorra’s not the sort of dog to just bark for just any ol' reason.

When Andorra barks, she barks for a reason.

A real reason. A threat. A predator. A marauder. Some creature creeping in the dark toward our farm.

Sometimes, maybe, she will see a scary moon beam scurry through the forest and she’ll bark. Once. Or twice. But she’ll immediately follow the bark up with an investigation. Running across the field, stand at the edge of the forest. Watching.

Looking around, Investigating. checking it out.

And if nothing moves, if, whatever had first spooked her, is gone, she'll turn and walk back to the farmhouse.

This time, though, she had run up the hill, barking as she ran, and stopped.

Still barking.

That’s when I sat up.

I really didn’t want to get out of bed.

I opened the window and listened.

Now if she was over by the chickens. In the far field. We call the cemetery field (in the middle of the field is the old walled family cemetery) If she was over there and barking and barking again, that would mean there was something over there going after the chickens. Going after the geese and the turkeys. And whatever it was, it hadn’t run away when Andorra had appeared.

And if that was the case, if something was over there that wasn’t afraid of a 150 pound dog barking in the dark.

If that was the case then I better get up, unlock our gun closet, take out the shotgun, throw on some clothes, put on my boots, put some shells in my pocket and get over there real quick.

Andorra needed help.

(News flash. Right now, in the middle of the day. Outside my window, the post on the edge of the field with the bluebird nest box. A blue jay has landed on top of the post and the bluebirds, both bluebirds. The couple. The two of them are swooping down, one at a time, and pecking at its head. One of the couple just pecked the jay hard in the back of the head, knocking it off the post and its flying away. Both bluebirds are chasing. I’m watching but the action is over. All three birds have disappeared across the field and into the forest).

But back to the story.

If she needs help I better get up and go out there. But the bed is nice and comfortable and it’s the middle of the night.

I pulled up the window and listened.

She was still barking. Something was definitely out there. What? Something was still out there, but barking wasn’t coming from the cemetery field.

She was up around the greenhouse, up on the hill. Up there I couldn't think of anything a predator was going to hurt.

If it was a deer eating vegetables Andorra would have run it off by now.

The only other thing I could think about were dogs. Two dogs in particular. I have a wildlife camera up there and in the past a shepherd and a pit bull have tripped the camera.

Those dogs belong to a neighbor.

He lets them loose at night and they've been coming over here. They cut through the forest and up there, behind the greenhouse is a gate.

It must be open and the neighbor’s dogs come through looking for trouble.

I listened a few moments longer.

If it was those dogs and they didn’t run away when Andorra barked then it was their problem. Two strange dogs are not going to cause our Great Pyrenees any trouble protecting her farm in the middle of the night.

If they were foolish enough not to turn around when she barked and go home than Andorra didn’t need any help. She could handle that situation.

I turned over and went to sleep and didn’t realize what had happened until the next morning.

(News update. I see the bluebirds have returned. No sign, however, of the Jay. One of the bluebirds quickly looked in at the nest opening then came out and landed on top of the post and looked around. Thinking, I imagine, all is well).

Which returns us to the other night.

Andorra continued barking but I went back to sleep. And in the morning, we were going to put about 1000 tomatoes into the ground. 100 each of ten different varieties (Roma, Celebrity, Italian paste, Rutgers, German Johnston, Big Pink, Lemon Boy, Zebra, Early Girl and Sungold)

And as I walked up to the greenhouse, right about where all the fuss from the night before took place, there were hundreds, maybe thousands of bees circling in the air.

This is where several bee hives had been.

I stopped and looked. One of the few hives that survived the winter had been attacked the night before. Sometime during the night someone or something had picked up the hive, one box at a time, and threw the boxes as far apart as they could.

I've seen this before. Several times. And once you’ve seen it, you know what has happened.

The first time, thought, the first time I went out to my hives and saw them scattered like this I thought it was vandals.

“Someone during the night,” I wrote to a bee list-serve, “went out to my apiary and turned over all my bee hives.”

But, that’s not what happened.

“It’s not people,” someone wrote, “it’s bears. The first night they turn over the hives. the next night, once the bees have been scattered, the bear comes back and helps hersel"f.

So, that’s what all the barking was about. The night before,Andorra was busy confronting a bear. The bear had come out of the forest and decided that a beehive would make a tasty meal.

Only, there's a small problem getting to all that honey and larva (yes, larva, a bees first choice in gourmet dining). Stinging insects. But bears have learned. The way to deal with bees is to first break up their hive.

Then come back the next night and eat the honey (and larva).

(next week I’ll tell you what a beekeeper can do to dissuade bears from eating one's honey)


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