We began noticing
missing animals
a couple of weeks ago.
First,
an adult guinea
living at the Pond House
disappeared,
mid-day,
without a trace.
We knew then
we needed to begin
to take autumn and winter
safety measures.
Soon, the Pond House guinea family
would have to move to the barns
at the Farm House.
Then, a kitten disappeared
from the barns at the Farm House.
That morning,
one of the alpacas
was wearing skunk perfume.
We quickly secured the part of the barn wall
which we had opened last spring
to let the Barn Swallows fly in and out
to nest, raise their young ones.

The cat population
had already dropped dramatically
last winter.
This spring, one cat had a litter of four
and only this one kitten had survived.
It was one of only four cats around the barns
and there was only one cat—
rescued from the road this summer—
at the Pond House.
“Dot” was partly house cat, partly outdoor cat
and we knew the time was coming
to keep her indoors.
Then, two days ago,
she disappeared.
We were heart-broken,
yet not regretting that we broke a rule
to not get emotionally attached.

DSCN1337

Dot

Every year,
come colder weather,
predators—coyotes, hawks, raccoons,
skunks, possums, owls—seek out
the smaller animals and barnyard fowl.
It means limiting the animals’ freedom
and we always wait until the last possible moment
to do that—
or past the last possible moment.

All the guineas are now in the barn
and it may be a few days—
until further winter security measures
can be taken—
before the fowl can be let out again
to free range.
We will have to keep a close eye
on them when they are out of the barn—
and shut the barn door
as soon as they go in for the night.
There is nothing we can do
to protect the barnyard cats.

I’m not sure why the larger animals
are so soon hungry.
But, come to think of it,
we haven’t seen many wild rabbits
or mice
along the roadways all summer.
And, glad as we’ve been
for more rain than recent summers,
we are still in a drought.
How soon has come
this change of seasons…
how slow we are to face
the winter ways of,
and our place in,
the great web of life.