There Are Lions Out There

The first couple of years that we worked on pasture reclamation we spent most of our time simply installing fence and cutting back saplings and forbs. We’d open the enclosures to the goats and the sheep and the cattle in no particular order and let them have at it until a new paddock was ready and then it was just back and forth between what was open and available with little or no regard for what was actually growing in them. I did a lot of reading during that time on organic based pasture systems; publications like Acres USA, Salatin’s work, Soil and Health, etc and I would apply whatever I read in those books based on what I had on hand or what took my interest because there was so much else going on like the aquaculture operation and restoring the broke down buildings and bringing the sugar bush back on line.

As we slowly got used to the rhythm of the seasons and observed the natural patterns of grazing as well as becoming familiar to the flora of our new region it became apparent to us that we could easily determine when something was not right with the soil by the kinds of plants that appeared and what to do to correct the imbalance. We learned the same kind of things in regards to the cattle, or if the sheep were distressed or doing poorly, or if the hogs were interested in specific forage at certain times. We got to the point — after about five years of doing this every single day — that the way the dogs barked at a given time let us know if something was amiss with the goat herd or if a neighbor was coming up the driveway on horseback. Did we learn any of this from a book? No, and I’m not sure you could teach it to someone if you tried. it was a base of knowledge tied directly to experience and animal behaviors over a period of time long enough to prove itself as either successful or as a failure.

A lot of cattlemen will breed their animals so that calving takes place in the Spring, so new calves hit warm grass. Sounds natural enough and I wouldn’t fault anyone for sticking to that if that was their preferred method. It sucks to calve in the middle of a blizzard when the temperature is near zero and the snow is three feet deep, but that’s the way our cattle prefer to calve left to their own devices and it makes sense when you think about it. They have a gestation period similar to humans — 9 months — and that means the cows come into season when the forage is at it’s nutritional peak, and parasite and insect levels low. Any woman who has ever taken her prenatal vitamins faithfully will attest to the practice, as will they stand by their decision to eat well, get rest, avoid stress, etc. When a calf hits the ground in Winter it either thrives or it does not. Nothing puts a new calf on it’s mother’s teat faster than a below zero morning and it will drink not only for the rich milk but for the warmth as well and nurse hard. These animals grow faster and hit the new growth of Spring completely weaned and ready to make the most of a full season of grass because they arrived as Nature intended, not as man imposed. A Spring born calf will be on it’s mother during the early Summer instead of on nutrient dense grass. It will pick up parasites and be troubled with flies and get scours and by the time Winter rolls around it will be under the weight of it’s cold weather born brothers and sisters.

Two years ago a pickup truck came racing up my driveway and the guy who got out of it rushed up to the house. he claimed that he had just seen “a lion” cross the road in front of the farm and head into the woods by our bottom pasture. Just after he left and older woman drove up in a Subaru with the same story. I thanked her for the warning and as she drove off I could hear the herd bawling from below and I took off at a run down the side trail to see what was going on. As I got to the top gate the herd came running up in a cluster at a full gallop, the boss and her daughters each with one ear cocked up, the other flat. I don’t know what that meant, it was something I had never seen before, but clearly they were frightened and had probably seen the same thing the two drive-ups had seen. I let them into the upper pasture near the house and went to look for myself. Before going I grabbed a rifle.

I didn’t see anything myself, but later I stopped by my friend’s place. He runs a herd of Black Angus cattle on the other side of the village and he said that earlier that morning he had come awake to the sound of his herd causing a fuss. He went out with a spotlight and his rifle but hadn’t seen anything. Later, however, when the sun was up he went out looking for signs and found a dead doe and signs of a “big cat”. I told him about what had happened at our place and he said that yes, it sounded like a mountain lion to him, but that we were probably safe now as they had a large range that took up to six months to repeat. I made note of it and headed home. I dutifully reported the sightings to our local Fish and Game officer who told me I had nothing to worry about as there were no mountain lions in the state. I asked him if it was okay if I saw one to shoot it in order to protect my herd. “No,” he said emphatically, “do not shoot it.”

That, in a nutshell, is official government policy; nothing is wrong, but if it is, do not address it.

I know that humans are not fields of grass or herds of cattle, but they are living organisms with observable behaviors, both healthy and chronic. You can look at a person and tell if they eat well or if they get enough sleep or exercise, it’s no secret when it’s written on their face. The same thing goes for the crowd.

These organized gatherings are intensifying and they are expanding across the globe, appearing in places where they have never occurred before, and they include people who formerly would have remained at home or never thought of going out to voice their discontent in the past. The order is definitely out of whack but all we hear from the ones who run the place is that everything is awesome, everything is cool when you’re part of the team. Anyone who points out the problems is the problem. The problem is that there are lions out there and they are hungry and because they are not part of the system and don’t abide by the rules they are free to follow their nature and take advantage of not only the denial, but the protection of the very leaders who deny their existence.

Something is wrong with the herd, you can see it everywhere you look, like the cows with one ear up and one ear down, and pretending that it’s all good isn’t going to fix the problem. These marches and protests mean something and it isn’t what we’re being told it means by the people who’ve been wrong about everything else so far. There are lions out there, no matter what the experts say and denial is no longer an option.

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