The Night Our Sheep Scared Away Coyotes

Welcome to the Farm!
Day 1: Welcome to the Farm! All 60 of you.

The Night Our Sheep Scared Away the Coyotes. All of them.

One cold morning in early Spring, Ed “the Sheep Guy” brought 60 sheep here to Annadel. 30 Lambs and 30 Mamas (approximately).  We gathered friends with wee Littles and toasted these babies and mommies with chilled bubbles as they lept from Ed’s trailer into our hibernating Merlot & Cabernet blocks.

Sheep are INCREDIBLE when you grow organic wine grapes. They eat weeds down to the teensiest nub, minimize any unwanted growths, aerate the soil with their sharp hooves, and fertilize literally everything (vines and later, legumes and mustards crop covers) with copious poop.  We move the sheep from area to area on the farm in a systematic rotation to grow our crops as cleanly as possible. Olives included. But for cold spring and summer months, we lend our overgrowth to Ed’s sheep (plus a small management fee). In return, we get one full beautifully butchered lamb for our freezer.

Insert a bit of Farm Humor: On this gorgeous Spring day, my acupuncturist and her family were here to welcome the baby lambs. Jennifer asked my husband what kind of Sheep these were. And Dean replied, “Meat.”  (He is so cheeky).  She paled rather considerably… But to her credit, she still talks to us.


The Day After: Grazing happily behind the Electric Fence.
The Day After: Grazing happily behind the electric fence.

That night, a storm moved in. Blowing cold spring rains into our part of Sonoma Valley. Any other chilly rainy night, I’d slip on my horrendously frumpy “mom” socks — hand knitted by a hippie in Cloverdale and SO warm — then snuggle under downy covers and Pendleton blankets with my hubby and likely our kids. Because they run in and sleep with us by 3am most nights… But on this night? I worried about our baby lambs. Were they warm enough? What if the one limping got a hoof infection? What if they ate too much of the vines? What if the mountain lion practically stepped over the fence and FEASTED? This being their first time here with us and all.

And then? All of that flew smack out the window. Because that loud coyote pack descended out of the rainy silence and systematically cat-called each other across the Valley and then into smaller and smaller… and smaller… And smaller… radius around the penned-in sheep.

I should mention that at this point, we had a rather fearless pack of coyotes hunting the property at night. Most nights. They’d cleaned out our chickens… even in the daylight hours!  Mostly because Annadel was abandoned and neglected for a good 15 years before us. The wilderness had moved in. And those assh*les were brazen! But now we have two rifles and an enormous farm dog. But I digress.

Back to that rainy night: When we heard those high-pitched eerie bitches cackle to each other and close ranks around our Merlot blocks out in the vineyard? We assumed the worst. And when the wails went higher?  The lambs kept crying. The coyote pitches answered more feverishly! The very, very Worst. Like the banshees themselves had swooped in from Emerald Isles to devour our innocent little lambs — well, before we did.

Such a horrific AWFUL night. We assumed the worst. No one slept.  Dean woke early with a heavy heart. Me, with him. Certain of carnage. And lumbered out into the early dawn to asses the damage. And what did he find?  Matted blood and swaths of fleshy fur… Stuck into the *exterior* wiring of the electrical fence. Those Brimstone dogs had scorched and scalded themselves by voltage trying to get at our Sheep.  And every single one of our gorgeous sheep? Happily alive, unscathed, and 100% accounted for. Practically skipping… If I didn’t know better.

And we have never seen another coyote since.


Abi’s Farmhouse Kitchen is written by Me. Former NASA and LA City Hall wonk turned wine rat, artist, and cook after a midlife crisis at 30. Seven years later, add Mom to two, wife to one feisty Winemaker making Gold & Best in Class Wines, loving life, and growing food at Annadel Estate Winery in Sonoma Valley!

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