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Front Porch: Life would be dull without all our wildlife.

Tom J Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

February 3, 2021

3 Min Read
Tom Bechman's black and white barn cat
RULER OF THE ROOST? This is as close to a barn cat as I can get, even shooting with magnification. Still, this cat and his seven buddies have free reign at the mouse-free barn. Tom J. Bechman

I hear it at every family gathering. “Dad, get rid of those sheep! You’re too old to fork manure, and you lose money feeding those sheep.”

It’s hard to argue with the truth. So, I don’t try. I just listen, nod my head in agreement and say, “Yes, probably someday they will go.”

Some days have come, but they’re still here.

Why? My top reason is so we can raise lambs for grandkids to show. So far, one grandkid shows, and maybe two this year. Could we provide animals without producing them ourselves? Sure. So, is that a good excuse? Probably not.

My second reason is because it gives me exercise. Doing the chores daily, except during lambing season, takes about 15 minutes twice per day. The biggest exercise is walking 100 feet to the barn and back and lifting a bale of hay. So does this one hold water? Probably not.

My logic

The real reasoning behind why the sheep are still here goes like this: A few years ago, I got sloppy with feed and mice nearly carried the place off. So, we got three kittens. Before you know it, three was six and then 15. After some serious population control efforts, we’ve settled down at eight cats.

That’s eight more than the vet would like. But I haven’t seen a live mouse in over a year! They laid one on the concrete pad outside the barn door, quite dead, just to make sure I knew they were still needed.

They’re feral cats, which means they’re wild. Two are black long-haired puffballs, four are black with white feet, one is orange, and one is gray. The gray cat will only eat from a certain feeder in a certain barn. Otherwise, she sits and whines — at a distance. Maybe it’s a he — I can’t get close enough to tell. They all meet me in the morning. “Meet” is a relative term. If I get within 25 feet, the four black ones with white feet take off. At 10 feet the orange one scrambles. At 5 feet, the long-haired ones get edgy. None have missed many meals, however.

So, if I didn’t have sheep, they wouldn’t get fed. And the racoons — don’t forget the racoons — they bug me all summer when the barn is wide open. If it doesn’t have a lid with a concrete block on it and there is feed in it, or if it’s a sack and isn’t tucked away behind locked doors, the coons find it. One morning when I went out early in the dark, there was a possum in the barn helping himself. I draw the line at possums!

So, as I see it, if I didn’t have the sheep, then the cats, raccoons and possums would take over until the feed ran out. I wouldn’t have any reason to go to the barn anymore. Then the cats, racoons and possums would leave, and mice would return.

So, it’s all because of those darn mice. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

What, an exterminator (for the mice, of course) would be cheaper? Probably. But where is the fun in that?

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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