Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A gang of geese

I have been thinking a lot, this winter, about geese.

That's geese. more than one. As in gangs. Groups. Clans. Tribes.

That's it. Tribes. Tribes of geese.

Or maybe it is gangs.

Anyway, there's this thing about geese. The way they act, the way they hang out.

They hang out in groups. But not just any group. You, meaning a goose, can't just go up to any group of geese and say "Hey, I want to join up. I want to be part of the group."

It doesn't work that way. Won't happen.

I've been watching.

As most of the long time shareholders out there know we've had a gang of geese for a number of years now. What? Four? Five? Six years now. I bought a dozen day old goslings that came in the mail from a hatchery out in Texas.

And raised them. And excluding the two that got themselves eaten by wild critters (a fox) as they grew, and the one that was made into a family Christmas meal by some shareholders a couple years back, they've grown into a marauding gang.

A group of birds that tour the farm in lock step.


Never leaving each others company. Never being separated by more than a couple yards at a time.

Never. Ever.

And then, several years ago, one of my neighbors, Richard, drove up. And in the back of his truck was a goose. A large African goose. His pet (or maybe it was his wife's pet) goose.

You would think, and I guess this was Richard's idea, that his lone goose (I think the others that he had raised to live on his pond had died, victims to that same, or maybe another fox) would be happier if it hung out with my gang of geese.

I would have thought that.

But that's not the way it works. Or, at least, that's not the way it seems to work from the outside as observed by a human.

It's been several years now and Richard's goose follows the other geese around. They walk up the hill. He walks up the hill behind them.

They walk down the hill. He walks down the hill behind them.

They stop to eat, he walks over to eat with them.

And they turn and immediately start attacking. Biting him around the neck. Pecking at his wings, pushing him to the ground, plucking his feathers.

It's all rather violent. As bad as any TV gang you are going to see. (without, of course, switchblades and handguns. But I'm sure, if we didn't, on the farm, have strict gun control for geese, I'm sure we'd see that too).

And its not just a one time event, either. It's every time. Every time Richard's goose steps too close to the gang. POP! BANG! ZAP! The gang's on him.

And sometimes he doesn't even have to provoke a fight. Sometimes the goose gang's biggest thugs will just, for no discernible reason at all, turn around and jump him.

Start a fight. Gang up on him. Beat him up bad.

It got so violent, recently, that the lone goose was hobbling and limping as he tried vainly to keep up with the others.

That's when Wenonah told me to do something.

"Are you going to do something about that goose or not? It's cruel to let them go on beating him up like that."

So, I did. I ran him down, caught him, picked him up and gently carried him down the road to the chicken pasture where I put him safely inside the fence.

That was almost two weeks ago now. For two weeks now he's sat inside the chicken fence, rehabbing. Getting well.

And you would think he's be happy. Away from the bullies. In with all of those relatively mild mannered chickens and turkeys. (well, not quite, turkey's are actually almost as bad a geese, only .. well we'll talk about turkeys some other time).

But no. Instead of being happy our lone goose spends most of his days sitting by the fence, looking through the wire, hoping, I imagine, to get a glimpse of that gang of geese as they march by.

Leigh Hauter

Friday, January 05, 2007

Fire! (2)

So I’m back up the hill.

Up by the water tanks, and yes there were several hoses. I had left sprinklers sitting in the asparagus bed (1500 asparagus plants) with the hoses still attached, so it was just a matter of disconnecting the hoses, dragging them down the hill and reconnecting them to the faucet sticking out of the ground in the front yard. Fifty some feet from the fire.

And then, or is it by then, the pvc pipe that comes down from the tanks goes under field, under the front yard, under the house and comes up again over in the greenhouse had melted where it sticks out in the greenhouse and the water was running out on the ground.

Fortunately I had put in a cut off valve down hill from the front yard faucet so I shut off the water running on the ground and after hooking up the hose turned on the faucet.

Then I walked the hose toward the fire.

It was hot and it was just a garden hose. I sprayed some water on the end of the house but all the while those tanks, those propane tanks were exploding and it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t going to make much of a difference putting out that fire with a garden hose.

I dropped the end of the hose on the ground between the fire and the house and walked back up the hill again. Back up toward the tanks.

With those propane tanks going off, shooting flames into the sky, I didn't really think it was all that smart ot be standing there. And besided, what good was I doing.

When I back up the hill I did hear a siren. It seemed to be down on the bottom road. Maybe past the turn off toward our house. Were they lost? I looked down the driveway and didn’t see anything.

So I stood on the hill and watched, and waited.

And right about then things started happening.

First, here came a pick up truck. A little red one.

It pulled up next to me, parked off the road and this guy, a guy I recognized as someone who hunted on property across the road. He got out and walked over and looked down at the house.

“Some fire you have there. I heard the explosions and though someone was up here hunting. It sounded like a rifle shot. Is there anything I can do?”

Then came a ATV. One of those little carts with huge tires. Riding it was neighbor. The one that lived all the way at the end of the valley.

He parked his vehicle too. Came up to me, said hello to the hunter and then looked down to the fire.

“Is there anything I can do".

Then the first fire truck. it didn’t come roaring up the drive and one might have expected. Instead it came down the road at a creep. A firefighter walking in front, carrying a long pole, pushing the overhanging treelimbs out of the way. As though he was pulling back the limbs from the trees and bushes along the way. Protecting the fire truck from any scratches it might get.

The truck stopped down by the chickens, still a good thousand feet away from the fire, and several fire fighters climbed out of the back. kids all dressed up in their firefighting gear and they began unrolling long sections of fire house from the truck and placing it along the roadside.

The limb mover left the truck and walked up to us, taking off his helmet.

"Is this where the fire is?" he asked.

Then a truck from a fire company over in the next county. A tanker truck. Another fire truck. Then the command vehicle from the county we live in and about then I lost count. There were fire trucks and fire fighters everywhere. Parked out in the field. Hose every where. Thousands of feet of it. Running down the road. Across the fields.

A group of young firefighters had a hose down by the fire, connected up to the tanker truck and they let go with a steady stream of water. 5000 gallons just like that.

And there wasn't any watet left.

"We're trying to get some more back here.

That's when I told someone in charge about the water in my irrigation tanks and we were walking up tyhe hill, half a dozen of us and we were unrolling my irrigation hose and connecting it up to the tanks and running the hose down to the tanker truck and running that water down the hill.

The sun had set. It was rapidly getting dark out.

More was being sprayed on the fire and all the time the propane tanks were still going off like roman candles. One, two, three.

By then there were other tanker trucks with water being pumped down the road through hundreds, probably thousands of feet of hose and more was being sprayed on the fire. Five thousand, ten thousand, twenty thousand. And I was going through the house with a couple firefighters, a boy and a girl (when you get to be my age humans barely out of their teens are still boys and girls) and we were turning off breaker boxes and feeling the heat on the south wall, looking at the cracked glass and signs that the house had already caught. That there was fire in the walls.

”I think the house is going to go up,” one of them said to the other.

I grabbed my rechargeable flashlight from the wall and we were outside again and there was more water being sprayed on the fire and the gas tanks were still popping, one, two, three but maybe not as high as before.

I walked around and there were kids holding a hose out in the field where I’d grown garlic last year and the first firefighter, the one holding the nozzle couldn’t been more than half a dozen feet away from the burning tanks and more water was going on the fire.

Someone was asking if the gas company had been contacted yet.

“We need someone that knows how to cap those tanks.”

I asked one of my neighbors who was running around what time it was. I have to leave in an hour to pick Wenonah up at the train station.

I’m standing out in the middle of a field with a firefighter. “I think it’s going. It’s so hot over there.”

“My house?”

“The house.”

“If that’s going to happen I need to go in and get my computer. I have ten years of manuscripts that are only on those computers.”

“No one is going to let you in there. Now now. It’s too dangerous.”

I just looked at him thinking that to let the manuscripts burn would be worst than anything I could think of.

Several firefighters were now right up against those gas tanks. If they reached out they could touch them, with the huge flames going into the air. This time they were spraying chemicals. A foam. Right on the burning tanks. If something went wrong they would stop existing.

My water tanks on the hill were empty. I was up on the hill closing the valves.

It was getting close to the time to drive and pick Wenonah up from the train. I should call her I was thinking. I needed a phone, but it was in the house.

Back down at the house, inside with the same male/female team. We’re in the unfinished kitchen and I turn on my flashlight and it strikes a box of found objects I had collected over the many years. Strange rocks, antlers, turtle shells. There’s a ram’s skull with a huge set of curled horns I had picked up while hiking on one of the Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara.

“Look at that,” the woman exclaimed. “That’s really neat. Where did you find it?”

I told her the story of stuffing it in my pack while hiking down a dried creek bed on the island, thinking as I did that she is showing her country roots. That and she’s the sort of woman who would want to be a volunteer fire fighter. I smiled and felt good about her. She reminded me of some of the kids I used to teach when I high school over in the valley. The sort of girl that skipped school along with the boys on the first day of hunting season.

Her companion told me that he thought the danger of the house bursting into flames had passed.

“It makes me wonder, though, what would have happened if you didn’t have the outside of the house stuccoed. Stucco and a metal roof is probably what saved the house.”

Outside I met one of my neighbors and I told him about my problem picking up Wenonah. “I don’t think I can get my car out the driveway. I hear there are more fire trucks down at the creek blocking the road.”

He offered to call up his wife to see if she could drop by the train station on the way home from work.

“It’s not out of her way. She’d be happy to do it.” We walked back u the hill, back to the tanks where you can get reception for a cell phone.

The fire chief asked me to come over to one of the trucks. “I have forms to fill out. Could you give me some information.”

He asked me the address. “Phone number? And what do you think the damage is?”

I just looked at him.

“Damage?” And shook my head. “I don’t even want to think about that.”

“I need to know for my report. $100,000?”

“I have no idea. What do you think?”

“About $100,000 you can tell me different later.

The fire was out of the tanks. They had foamed them and were spraying water, I guessed to cool them down. The guy who had me over to the truck asking questions and another officer looking type were down at the tanks looking at them. Standing right there. Gas was still coming out of the relief valve. I wondered what it would have been like if they had actually exploded instead of releasing gas through the relief valve. Even now there was a lot of gas coming out.

He called several of the kids over and they pushed over the first tank and rolled it down the hill.

“And let’s get this one to,” he said to the group of firefighters standing around. “Let’s roll it over there.”

And they did. Turned it over and rolled it down the hill. gas still shooting out of the valve.

The third tank was still standing, This one looked like it had suffered a lot of damage. The sides were all bent out as though something was inside trying to get out. Looking all the world like those pictures of snake eggs, the shell soft and pliable and the infant snake inside pushing and jabbing, attempting to break out to freedom.

When I finished watching the tanks being moved they were rolling up hose. Hundreds of feet of it. Kids were out on the driveway pulling in the hose that went all the way out the drive.

A pick up truck was coming in the driveway, slowly, avoiding the firefighters. It drove up in front of the house. Two men wearing slacks and polo shirts got out. On the side of the truck was the gas company’s logo.

I was again talking to the fire chief.

We were looking at the smokey pile of charred firewood. What had been ten cords was now a five foot tall pile of charcoal. There was still small flames flickering out of it here and there.

“We’ll be pulling out. With all the water we dumped out I don’t think anything is going anywhere.”

I looked at the flames with skepticism but he was right. The ground was soaked. We were standing in mud. In the greenhouse the bails of potting soild were smoking. Some of them burning. The men with the pol shirts were down playing with the gas tanks. We were standing too far away to here what they were saying but they had some tools out. I couldn’t hear the gas escaping any longer.

“If you have any questions just call me.”

I could see the fire trucks leaving. There were only two left but even now, most of the hoses had disappeared, having been rolled up and carefully stacked in the trucks.

A car was coming in the driveway. The neighbors wife. I hadn’t told Wenonah about the fire. I had just sent the neighbor. She probably did. But what did she know?

They had the truck down in the field and were rolling the tanks up on the tailgate and from then up on the truckbed. I was walking past where the tanks had been. Where there was a fire, where the smoking wood and small fires still remained

As I walked by the house I looked up. The windows were cracked. The insulation had melted and was on the ground. Wenonah was coming in the gate. I was thinking that I needed to do something about the heat. There wouldn’t be any heat in the house.

And what about water. I needed to work on the water.


It was the Tuesday before Christmas. I was out on the tractor, down on the road. There were pot holes to fill and I had been postponing the chore for days.

I don’t know how it started. The fire, that is. A spark from a chimney? I suppose, though there's no evidence of that. However, nothing else comes to mind. I did notice the day after the fire that a back fence had been cut, someone had been trespassing and had taken cutters to the anti-deer fence so they could get through. But that could have been anything. And I don’t really want to go down that path. A poacher cutting across a field? One of my neighbors coming up to see what had happened without wanting to bother with actually visiting?

As I said, I don’t know much, so it was probably a spark from a chimney landing on some kindling and quickly spreading to a stack of fire wood.

The rest of the story goes something like this...

After spending the morning up in my office, looking through seed catalogues and planning for the coming growing season I went downstairs, put on my boots and slipped out the back door.

Out along the walk that runs over past the greenhouse I saw the mother peahen and her chick pecking around in the grass, I guess looking for seeds in the grass. When they saw me coming, however, they turned and ran back through the greenhouse door, jumped up on a growing table and stood there watching me suspiciously.

I didn’t follow them in. Instead I took the path around the edge of the greenhouse and past those three large propane tanks, three hundred gallons of propane, that had just been topped off the day before. I walked past the tanks and over to the boiler house.

It was a warm day. The temperatures well above 50 degrees.

All of you that have been out to the farm and have gone on the standard farm tour have seen my wood boiler. It’s right by the greenhouse. That large, very industrial looking, state of the art, wood gasification boiler that took firewood, burned it, and then burned the gases, in a configuration that is extremely efficient. It is so efficient that when you look up at the chimney there isn’t very much smoke at all going into the air.

I opened the boiler door and looked inside.

Since it was a warm day it didn’t take much of a fire to heat the hot water that runs through the radiators and radiant floor heat inside our house. In fact, when I looked inside the boiler the thermostat had flipped the switch and shut down the fan that allows the fire to burn. The water in the boiler was hot enough that it didn’t need a fire and had turned itself off.

I went over to the wood pile anyway and returned with a couple logs and threw them inside, just in case it needed more wood later.

I closed the boiler door, looked around, didn’t see anything out of the normal, put on my work gloves, picked up my earmuffs (the ones that protect ears from the loud sound put out by noisy farm equipment) from where I’d left them on top of the wood splitter from where I’d finished splitting the last of a dozen cords of wood the day before.

Then I walked out in the field where I’d left our larger tractor (the smaller one I left right by the boiler house, with the log splitter still hooked to it), climbed up on the tractor, put on the earphones, and started the diesel engine and finally put it in gear and headed down the drive, down to the creek and the bottom road with its pot holes.

I was down on the bottom road for an hour. Maybe two. Using the bucket on the front of the tractor to pick up gravel and push it into the pot holes. Occasionally getting off the tractor with my shovel to toss a load or two of gravel into a hole.

It didn’t take long and when I finished I drove the tractor back up the hill. But I wasn’t in a hurry.

When I got to the chicken pasture I put on the brake, climbed down and walked over to the chickens, jumped over the electric fence keeping them in and went in the hen house to collect eggs.

There were almost a dozen.

Then I opened up the feed storage boxes and took out two fifty pound bags of feed and filled up the chicken’s feeders before jumping the fence again and climbing back up on the tractor.

I released the brake and careful not to drop the eggs, slowly drove the tractor back toward the house.

It was a nice day and as the tractor slowly rolled down the drive I was looking off into the forest. There were two squirrels chasing each other back and forth between several trees and some crows sitting up on a pine tree.

Finally, when I got to the top of the hill, where the driveway breaks through the trees and you can look down, across the field, and toward the house I saw, coming from the boiler house, smoke.

I stopped and looked. Not thinking fire. Thinking, thinking it looks like the wind was blowing the smoke from the boiler’s chimney back down toward the house.

Only that boiler doesn’t produce that much smoke. Then I noticed the sunlight. Or at least what I thought was sunlight.

It was like bright orange sunbeams breaking through the trees. Bright orange sunbeams lighting up the old holly tree that Wenonah’s father had planted over 50 years ago now.

Just sunlight and smoke.

And then I realized it wasn’t sunlight at all. The orange was flickering.


I hit the accelerator, racing the tractor down the hill.

At the house I didn’t even bother to pull the brake, just dropped the front end loader and jumped off, running through the gate in the stone wall, seeing that the woodshed was already up in flames and the fire was starting to spread to the greenhouse. I ran toward the fire thinking, thinking can I put it out myself. Hook up the large irrigation hose to the 5000 gallons of water in the tanks up the hill. The tanks I use for irrigation. I could run the water through the two inch irrigation hose down the hill to the greenhouse.

I’d have enough pressure.

As I rounded the corner of the house, even fifty feet away, I could feel the heat on my face. It was like the fire was reaching out to melt our house.

I stopped and watched as the plastic covering to the greenhouse burst into flames. One large sheet floated up in the air, on fire, and then came down on the tanks.

The propane tanks. Full to the top. Topped off just last week.

And the fire burning all around the tanks. I remembered reading somewhere that a gallon of propane was more explosive than a dozen sticks of dynamite.

And I had three hundred gallons. More than thirty-six hundred sticks of dynamite.

The thought almost paralyzed me. The heat on my face. The greenhouse in flames. The wood shed burning. And all that heat.

I started to back up from the heat, from the hire and turned and went into the house. Even inside I could hear it. The flames crackling and feel how the insides of the house had already started to heat up.

What would it take for the fire to spread to the house?

I looked around. Was there anyone inside? Animals? Cats? Where were the geese? What about the peahen and chick that had backed into the greenhouse? By then I had the phone in my hand but I had no idea what number to call. Emergency numbers? The phone book was upstairs somewhere. I thought about running upstairs and looking for it but didn’t. I dialed 911.

And that’s when the first propane tank went up. It sounded like an explosion. In fact, when I heard it I thought that’s what it was. The propane tank exploding. Sounding like a missile igniting followed by the long whining sound I remember so well from Vietnam.

Incoming rockets. Mortar shells screaming from above..

The phone was ringing. The thought went through my mind that there wasn’t anyone answering the emergency line. Does that happen? Do those lines go unanswered? I only half listened to the phone while with the other part of my mind was thinking. What should I be doing? Where were the cats?

Then there was a voice on the other end of the line.

And another explosion.

It was getting hot in the house. I told her there was a fire. “My house is on fire.” I said. “I mean, not my house. The shed outside my house. It’s burning. And the propane. It just exploded.”

I didn’t see the cats. Surely they wouldn’t still be inside. I was looking out the front door and yelling into the phone that there was a fire. I’m sure I sounded confused and jumbled but the woman on the other end of the line must have had a check list.

“Is anyone hurt?” “Is everyone accounted for?” “What is your address?” Then there was yet another explosion. I could see the flame shooting up in the air sort of like a roman candle coming right out of the top of one of the propane tanks. The woman on the phone was talking to me.

“You better get out of the house now. Run.”

And I did. Or at least I went outside. I put the phone down on the floor just inside the door and as soon as I stepped outside I could feel the heat.

I looked over toward the greenhouse only to see it on fire and another roman candle igniting from the next tank. They must not be exploding, I thought to myself. it must be gas escaping from a valve, causing it to shoot up in the air like that. Sort of like a torch. Shooting up in the air at first maybe twenty feet, then fifty. Then seventy-five feet.

It stayed that high. The flame, just roaring a torch seventy five feet up and then slowly burning back, dropping down. Fifty, forty, thirty, twenty.

And the tank next to it went off.

A flame shooting up in the air.

I stood there with my mouth open in wonder, realizing that the tanks weren’t actually exploding, instead they were just releasing through the pressure value. The tanks were getting hot, the gas inside expanding and just as they were built to do, the pressure valve released pressure from the tank. Released gas through the value in the top of the tank.

And when it did, it went up in flames. And up into the air.

The third tank started releasing. Then there was the first. Sort of like a pipe organ.

I wondered how long it would take the fire trucks to arrive. The fire was only twenty five feet from the house. A mighty flame and plenty of heat. I decided I better get some water and cool off the south end of the house, the end closest to the fire.

But where were the hoses.

And it was then that I remembered storing some of them inside the greenhouse. thirty hoses laid out from one end of the greenhouse to the other. Thirty 100 foot long hoses.

I circled the fire, circling the burning boiler house. The burning wood shed. The melting greenhouse. The exploding propane tank, the burning log splitter. Even our hot tub, or is that hot spring tub.

(if you have seen this thing it is a huge pond made out of large pieces of flagstone, The bottom stone is a flag something like ten feet by ten feet and the sides are made out of flagstones, three and four foot square piece set on end. I quarried the stones from the side of our mountain over a decade ago. The water is the water coming down from the spring, but heated by the wood boiler, therefore hot spring water. or a ‘hot spring.’ Anyway, several days after the fire I was walking around looking at the damage, trying to imagine how it started. You know, feeling pretty ill from looking at all of that work, those months and years melted and burnt and charred away when I saw the tub. Under the intense heat the rocks, the large flags had cracked and shattered, ruining the hot tub. Oh well).

I slipped around the fire and made it into the far end of the greenhouse and opened the door.

The greenhouse was built on a hill. The end closest to the house was the up hill side. That was the end on fire while the downhill side hadn’t yet caught fire. But as I went in the door I knew it wouldn’t be for long.

It was awfully hot inside, though with very little smoke. it was hotter than it gets inside during the summer with the doors shut. Then it gets up over 130 degrees, hot enough that you only want to spend a couple seconds inside.

It was that bad now. Maybe worst.

And the hoses. I started pulling on one but I saw right away it wasn’t going to do any good. The far ends of the various hoses, the ones up by the fire had already either melted or burned. I pulled one down but got only half of it. The other half was gone. Burning.

I turned and left the greenhouse, leaving the heat as fast as possible. As I got back out in the cooler air I remembered that there might be a hose or two up on the top field. Up by the water tanks. I think I had left some up there. So I started back up the hill again.

You would have thought that by now there would have been a fire truck. I mean, it sure seemed like half an hour now since I’d had called the emergency number.

But they still weren’t there. And none coming down the drive.

I thought though, as I ran up the hill, that I could hear a siren somewhere off in the distance.

(I'll try to finish the next part tomorrow -- Leigh)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

hawk and crows

This morning I walked around our upper field with a neighbor who does grading and bulldozer work for a living. We were looking at the site where I wanted to put up the new greenhouse. A new greenhouse to replace the one that was destroyed in the fire.

Did I mention we had a fire? One with exploding propane tanks, flames shooting 100 feet in the air, smoke so thick and so black that it was seen over ten miles away. You know, that sort of fire. A hot ugly fire.

It was the Tuesday before Christmas and since then I’ve been trying to think of a way to tell a fire story as a happy holiday tale, but even though I've spent a lot of time thinking about it. I just can't do it.

Fires aren't fun and they aren't nice, so instead of dwelling on it, let me tell you a story about the hawk I saw this morning. A huge white hawk and its nemesis, an extended family of determined crows.

So, that leaves Philip and me walking around the upper field this morning looking at the place where I had staked out my proposed greenhouse site.

When Wenonah and I measured the spot off the day before, taking tomato stakes and twine to mark out the boundary it had seemed like a good site. The new greenhouse needs to be as large as the old one which was 30 feet wide and 96 feet long. So the place we found looked good. It was land too steep to use for anything else. To step to grow vegetables on. But still, a site close to electricity, Close to water. No trees to block out the sunlight. In fact it even had good sunlight.

A location that was far enough removed that it wouldn’t be an eye sore (a major concern of Wenonah's) but still, close enough to the house that I could make a quick midnight run from the house to the greenhouse in case of a crisis.

Philip, though, was shaking his head. I could tell he didn’t see it the same way I had.

“What are you going to do when it rains?” he asked. “You get a good thunderstorm and its going to come down off that hillside and wash you away.”

Not wanting to letting him know I hadn’t considered what a rain storm would do, I just nodded and replied:

“Maybe I could ditch it on the uphill side or put in some drain tile.”

He wasn’t mollified.

“And there’s likely to be a good amount of rock. What do you want me to do with all the rocks I dig up?” and to accent his point he reached down and picked up a fist sized rock, looked at it for a moment and then tossed it down the hill.

I told him he was no doubt right there too. “I guess, though, that we’ll just have to do the best we can, right?”

Anyway, there we were, standing on the side of the mountain looking at the fields and thinking about the lay of the land. Trying to get a sense for it. A feel for what would be best, if we could organize the mountain side. The fields, the buildings, forest, fruit trees, beehives. If we could put it all in an order that had a sense of harmony and rightness what would it look like.

We were standing there sort of quietly meditating on the land when out of no where, up above us was a racket.


And a hawk.

Large, but white. Philip looked up and said, “Red tail, huh?”

And me, thinking that I was the educated one. The one with degrees and books. The one that reads and so naturally should know those things. That I should know more about birds than Philip, I spoke out and gave my opinion as though it was worth more than his “I don’t think so. Red tails aren’t white like that.”

And I went on to tell a story about a rare bird that had appeared half a dozen years ago. A large white bird that had swooped down one winter and plucked a chicken out of a field and hauled it off to a tree where it methodically plucked and made a meal of my chicken.

(And, of course, when I got home, and looked through my bird book, I realized I had been wrong. Of course Philip knew exactly what he was talking about. He knew what type of hawk that was. He just let me go on talking without correcting me. In both of my bird books there were clear pictures of that hawk, the one overhead. A red tail flying high overhead, often looks all white. A sort of rough white coloring. Especially if they are young).

“And after all,” I finished my story. “I don’t see any red on that one.”

Phil continued to look up at the birds. “See how those crows,” he added. “Will chase it clear out of the country.”

And they were. Behind the hawk. In fact all around the hawk, flanking it, behind it, even up above it, was a family of crows. Aunts, Uncles. Brothers, Sisters.

They were busy pestering the hawk. Chasing it right across the sky.

We stood there and watched as the hawk, chased by the family of crows, it looked to be the same dozen crows that spent their morning picking at the vegetables growing in my fields, chased the hawk right overhead and then up along the side of the mountain until finally they crossed over Highpoint’s peak and disappeared over to the other side.

We stood there a moment longer looking at where the birds, the hawk and the family of crows, had been before finally Philip turned to me.

“Well, I guess I can try it. I’ll bring my dozer up here tomorrow morning and see what I can do. And if I can’t do it, if there are too many rock then you think of a back up location. OK?”

And that’s where we left it. A new location for a new greenhouse.

And the old one? I didn’t know that metal could melt like that. But it did.