Saturday, June 09, 2007

Bears and Pac Choi

That was sure a lot of pac choi. Right?

At least that's what I think the bear was saying last night when it broke into the van and ransacked the vegetables left over from Thursday's delivery.

I would have missed the event but our dog started barking right under our window.

That was at about 3 Am.

And she wouldn't let up.

And wouldn't leave the safety of standing right below where she knew we were sleeping.

Finally I had to get up. I looked at the clock and would have said that 'the clock had just struck 3' but, since its one of those electronic things that the instructions claim is always in touch with some sort of master clock out in Colorado I think its more like 'the clock just transmitted 0300 hours.'

Anyway, looking at the clock and not able to ignore the insistent ('hey folks, there's something out here that needs your attention right now') barking.

I quickly put on some shorts, stumbled down the stairs found our huge, rechargeable, spotlight and without collecting the shotgun or shoes, went out into the night.

Barefoot and unarmed.

Now, if you are going to chase something down in the dark its always smart to wear something on your feet. Who knows what you are going to step on. In the city it could be a broken bottle out here it could be, well, how about a rattlesnake.

But I went out anyway and in front of the house flipped on the searchlight.

Instant day. (at least where I was pointing it).

And Andorra, our intrepid Great Pyrenees followed me a few steps away from the safety of the house, but not without caution.

Barking all the way.

Nothing in the field to the left.

The field to the right seemed fine.

I let the light play across the beehives on the edge of the field in front of the house.

(my suspicions went something like this: what would it be that is scary enough to intimidate a 150 pound dog? Certainly not a groundhog, a raccoon, fox or possum. Recently I picked up the images of several larger animals on one of my wildlife cameras. A pair of dogs, my neighbors, a shepherd and pit bull, still not enough to worry our GP. But there were also several images of what looked to by coyotes).

While I don't think a coyote would be enough to bother Andorra.

Which only left one other animal out there. One that last week took out another beehive.

A bear. I flashed the spotlight up the hill where the bear had thrown around a hive several weeks ago.

And couldn't see anything. No bear. No beehive either.

And that's when I heard the hissing.

Something was on the other side of the van. I'm sure it was the other side of the van. But it might have been around the tractor which was parked right there too.

An Andorra wouldn't come any further from the house.

Barking intently. Seriously barking. Her legs spread as if she were expecting an attack at any moment.

A stack of vegetable boxes, those yellow things I use to bring the vegetables in to the pick up locations, was suddenly pushed over.

In the dark.

Andorra backed up a dozen or so steps but kept on barking.

And I flashed the light back and forth feeling somewhat vulnerable, barefoot, wearing only shorts and armed only with a spotlight.

More hissing, or was it growling. Anyway, there was more of it and something else was turned over.

'Maybe,' I said to myself. "maybe I should go back to the house and get some boots on."

And lets stop there and go over this week's farm news.

Number one on the list of the farm news is definitely pac choi.

Pac Choi and the first week of vegetable delivery.

There was sure a lot of Pac Choi in the first week's share. That wasn't planned.

I had planned for only one head of pc and one head of broccoli. But, with farming, that's how things go. The broccoli grew slower than expected (it should be ready next week) and next week's pc grew faster.

In case that was daunting, in the future, go too our webpage. We have several hundred pretty good recipes covering, I think, ever vegetable we grow.

The second item of farm news is the content of the shares. June around here, means greens. That's how it's going to be for much of this month. Lettuces and mustards. Mustards and lettuces. We had a few squash in Thursday's share but that's some what of a fluke. What might be call traditional American vegetables' (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, squash) don't start ripening up until the end of June and really, not until the second week of July.

June, locally, is the month of greens.

Next, I need to mention the drought. It's hard to think that we ever had a drought but this May was, someone said, the driest May around here in recorded history. Out here on the farm we got .71 hundreds of an inch. That's significantly less than the inch a week we need. I was using our springs to put over 15,000 gallons of water on our fields a day (imagine how much that would cost if you were being metered?) and that wasn't enough. I just ordered another 2500 tank and a pump, sprinklers pipes, connections etc. to start tapping the lower spring. I'd just spend several thousand dollars when the rain came.

Hopefully we'll have regular rains from here on out.

And finally, a dozen queen honey bees come in the mail yesterday. This weekend I'm going to be making splits from my hives. Taking those mail order queens and using them to split hives that I have. If you are interested in coming out and helping, drop me an e-mail.

A note on the first week's vegetable deliveries. Even though it was sure hectic, mostly it came out fine. If you are unsure about anything, pick up site, time, place, types of vegetables, share size. drop me a note and we'll try to straighten it out before next delivery. Our aim is to attempt to make everybody happy.

Which is not how I felt when I came back out of the house this morning, now about 3:30, this time with boots on my feet, our shotgun under my arm, and a pocket full of shells loaded with bird shot.

The spotlight still in hand.

I quickly walked up to the delivery van and flipped on the spotlight.


And then the hissing.

Whatever it is, it was on the other side of the van or tractors. maybe in between them, Under one of the vehicles?

I flashed the light through the van, thinking whatever it was had made it inside and was eating left over vegetables.


I stepped back a little. I didn't want to walk around the corner of a vehicle and run smack into a bear.

It's better seeing a bear at a distance, and even then, bears sure can run fast, especially at short distances.

When wenonah and I were first dating more than a couple decades ago we were hiking up in the park and something made us look down off the side of the trail where a momma bear and her cub were fishing in the stream (well, actually, mother was looking for food while baby was playing in the water).

We stood there and watched for what seemed like several minutes when suddenly the mother must have sensed us.

She looked up.

Saw us.

And almost instantly had her child running up the side of the mountain, on the other side of the stream.

Those two bears sprinted up the mountain faster than I could go down it.

It put real respect in me for a bear's speed and lung capacity.

So, instead of walking close up around the corner of the van I stepped back, walking away from the van by several dozen yards and then

And then...

By now he sound wasn't coming from the van any longer. It had moved. Now It was over by the storehouse. The storehouse door, the front door, while I really couldn't see it well, was wide open.

Inside, the light was on. (I don't remember that from when I looked around the farm before going to bed).

The sound of breaking glass, as though a case of canning jars were shoved off of a shelf.

I let out a yell. A sort of a holler.

And was answered by that strange hissing. A sound I couldn't identify. I had been holding the light in my right hand and the shotgun in my left.

I switched hands, looking down to put a shell in the breech, snapping it closed.

And then looking up again.

I walked closer so I could get a clear sight of the door. For a moment I imagined I could see shadows, lit up from the light inside, dancing on the wall.

And then there weren't any shadows. Only silence.

I crept closer.

And closer.

And then there was that sound again. The hissing, a big animal moving. Sounded like it was dragging something.


Only it wasn't in the house now but doing down the trail beside the house. A trail that went off into the woods, down to a gate in the deer fence. A gate where a bear had knocked down the fence only a couple of weeks ago when it destroyed a bee hive.

I listened as the sound moved down the trail, dragging, what ever it was hauling off, further and further into the woods until finally, it disappeared.

Last week a long-time local friend was over for dinner and the conversation got on to the subject of the bears (one of the new neighbors, in one of the new houses built down on the end of our road, had just accused me of 'bringing bears into the valley' The occasion was me picking up a hive a bear had recently destroyed. She was standing back watching. I didn't verbally answer her but instead thought a reply. thinking that bears have been around here long before her new house was built and long before the woods on the other side of the mountain were bulldozed and stripped -- something like 15 square miles of trees -- in order to build a 'gated community' as though it isn't safe enough moving out into what had been the country, but now they needed to put guards and walls around their newly built up-scale housing project).

Anyway, over dinner, I said I thought the bears had been living is in those woods but now I didn't know. 'Before they built all of that bears weren't much of a problem. There was plenty of natural habitat for them.

'They've probably moved into the other end of the valley now. There's still a couple square miles of trees without humans everywhere you look.'

'Maybe,' my friend answered. 'But there's not many places left for empty enough for bears. Not with all the humans that are moving out this way.'

* Bears, someone wrote after reading about the bear, make a nasal sound that can be interpreted as a sort of hiss when they are in a defensive or even aggressive mode. I guess I made the right decision when going back to the house for boots.

Leigh Hauter


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