Monday, March 21, 2011

Lights glowing in the night

Dave and I were first introduced to headlamps on a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area last summer. Jesse, our son-in-law, used a head lamp to navigate us across a lake at night in a storm. He found us a campsite and avoided all the rocks in the way. It was amazing! When we got home, we ordered one for each of us to use during lambing.

Lambing checks at night can be a spooky proposition. The flashlight only shows a small area of ground at a time, so we have to sweep it back and forth. Also, most of our flashlights are constantly in need of new batteries. And if you want to work with a flashlight, you have to stick it in your mouth to leave your hands free. And if you set that flashlight down in the barnyard before you stick it in your mouth...

Several years ago I gave up on regular flashlights and bought some hand crank flashlights to save on batteries and to always have a flashlight that worked. But, as Gautam, our other son-in-law says, hand cranked flashlights only work in theory. The light beam they shed isn’t very bright and you do have to crank fairly often, which you can’t do with your mouth if you need to free up your hands.

So, the Petzl headlamps looked to be a wonderful improvement with hands free operation, and a good, bright light over the exact field of view of our eyes.

The first night I went out with my headlamp, it was snowing. Everywhere I looked, the air was filled with glittering crystals. It was so beautiful, I stood there entranced. Then I stepped into the pasture. Dozens of pairs of little green lights glowed in the distance. Most of the sheep were out enjoying a nice winter evening. Their eyes glowed green in reflection. When I stepped into the barn, dozens more green lights looked back at me. The headlamp had completely changed our grubby, late winter, manure – covered barnyard into a fairyland at night. My light woke the sparrows nesting in the barn, which fluttered around in the rafters, until one hovered in front of me, tail feathers spread, wings spread, staring into the beam of my headlamp. A fairyland indeed.

Last night, when Dave went out to feed the bottle lambs, he noticed a pair of glowing green lights beyond the barnyard fence in the south pasture, watching the barn yard. Dave walked toward the lights, expecting them to disappear. They continued to glow, steady, watching him now. Those eyes didn’t belong to sheep, they were in the wrong pasture. They didn’t belong to deer or any of the other animals that are afraid of people. They could have been dog or coyote. Either was bad news for the flock. Dave shut all the animals in the barn and closed the gate into the next pasture. By the time he was done, the glowing eyes were gone. But where had they gone?

Predators are always of concern on a farm. This morning, Dave checked the snow beyond the gate. No tracks. Whatever had been watching the barnyard hadn’t tried to come any closer to the barn. We will leave that gate closed until we have a chance to check our south fence lines. There can be a dark side to fairyland.

1 comment:

  1. Ah..shucks. Thanks for the complement. Sounds like Dave may need to practice his nighttime archery. --Jesse