Thursday, October 18, 2007

bear at gate directing traffic

I guess the bear came down from the mountain just to meet the pumpkin pickers.

I can't think of any other reason.

We haven't seen hide nor hair of the beers since early summer, and then this weekend, there he was, standing outside the gate, in broad daylight, I guess waving hello's to shareholders as they came in to get their pumpkins.

Since several carloads of visitors showed pictures of the same bear standing out in our driveway I guess they weren't telling stories.

A young black bear, maybe 150 pounds right outside the gate.

Later in the day, early in the afternoon, my neighbors came over with their daughter and there the bear was again. This time he had slipped in through the open gate and was intently examining the half dozen beehives by the driveway.

I guess trying to figure out how to get to the yummy honey inside the hives without getting stung by the bees flying in a cloud around the outside.

I guess he didn't figure it out because the hives remained intact, though, apparently, he did give one of the larger hives a shove.

Almost knocking it off its stand.

But that was it. Not enough of a shove to knock it over. Just enough, probably, to irritate the hives defensive forces that they came out and stung him, in mass, on his tender nose.

The young bear, apparently, was convinced that getting stung wasn't worth the pleasure of eating several combs full of honey..

Actually, that's a bear's usual of attack. To push the different hives , one at a time, trying to figure out which one is the easiest picking. A bear will spend sometimes a week gradually wearing down a hive. First knocking the hive over, then coming back and spreading the boxes apart and finally coming back a third and maybe fourth night throwing the hive boxes even further apart until finally the bees give up and the honey is just there for the taking.

Wenonah, of course, was upset about the bear. She was upset she didn't get to see it bear.

Here she has grown up on our farm, and all that time, as a little girl climbing all over the valley, up to the cliffs, into the rock caves, down the valley, along the creek. Looking through the old falling down homesteads. Never seeing a bear. Even now for the past 20 years since we moved back, she has not once seen a bear. And now, first time visitors from the city are stopped on the driveway by a visiting baby bear.

For the last week Wenonah has been out every morning and evening looking for the bear. Walking down the driveway with a camera, visiting all the bee hives. But still, no sightings.

I even set out a couple dozen apples at his last known location and set a wildlife camera to take his photo of him just for her, with no luck.

Maybe, though, he'll come back, just to tweak Wenonah. Maybe this weekend he'll be around for the gleaning.

What do you think?

Here's the farm news. The last farm news for the season.

1. So, another season coming to a close. This is the last week of vegetable delivery.

2. We're taking early sign up's for the 08 season. If you want to reserve a share for next year at this year's price e-mail me and send a check for half the cost by the end of the month. Pay $225 now and the rest in the spring for a two person, and $172 for the one person.

3. Gleaning, which I'm sure you know means in our case to search the fields for left over produce, is this Saturday, starting at 10 am. The vegetables for the shareholders that usually pick up one Saturdays will be set out separately. Right now, I think there will be still in the fields a collection of string beans, Italian basil, Thai basil, parsley, winter squash, bells, hot peppers, eggplant, sorrel, various salad greens, mustards, tomatoes celosia (I'm putting the zinnias off limits so they can brighten our tables), luffas, summer squash, and maybe a cucumber or two out in the fields. There has been a request for apple cider so when I go out to the orchards tomorrow to get apples for the remaining days of the week I'll pick up a few dozen gallons.

Gleaning rules. This is really an activity for shareholders. So you need to be a current shareholder. (or if you have already signed up for the 08 season). Please try to keep it in proportion. Meaning, if you are the first one out to find the pumpkins, take one or two and leave the others to other gleaners. Yes, technically one person could possibly find a use for half a dozen pumpkins, however...

Also please stay in the fields. Don't go searching through our outbuildings or greenhouses or home. And if there is rye (looks like grass) planted in the field, try to stay off of it. We've just planted several of our fields with rye as a winter cover crop. There aren't any vegetables there, and since it just came up its pretty tender.

But, so much for rules and lecturing. Thank you very much for being a shareholder during a rather rough and tough season. We survived it without too much hardship. And hopefully this drought, a drought that looks something like one in a hundred, will be ending soon

I hope you have a really bodacious winter, and if you want you are invited to come out and visit.

(I will be continuing these newsletter during the winter, only probably not as frequently. I you want to be taken off the list, tell me.)

Thanks for being part of our farm.

Leigh Hauter

Friday, October 12, 2007

Pest attack!

We have a pest problem. One that's invaded our home.

Bigger than a squirrel but smaller than a coyote.

There's a dozen of them hanging around the house, But I can tolerate that, I mean, I can stand them being outside.

But not inside the house.

It's the ones that have moved into the house that are the problem.

Yesterday, when I came in from picking vegetables, there was one at home on the dining room table.

And today I came in from the tomato patch and there was another one, This time up on the kitchen counter.

She didn't even bother to move when I yelled at her.

But when I tried to catch her there was a squawk. and she ran.

First across the kitchen counters, then into the dining room where we circled the table four times before she found the door to the living room.

There we stared at each other from different sides of the coffee table before she made a mad dash for the french doors. Colliding with the glass (no one, apparently, had briefed her on the concept of transparency) and flying from one window to the next struck each pane with a loud thunk.

Feathers filling the air.

Then, finally, she made a dash up the stairs. Down the upstairs hall, past my office the bedroom, back down the steps and finally found the open window she must have originally entered by.

After I closed the window and returned to the kitchen to fix my lunch I found the nest. She had dismembered a bouquet of dried flowers and placing each flower separately on the counter had constructed a nest.

In the middle of the nest was a single egg. A chicken egg.

I could have used it for a lunchtime omelet.

I'm surprised that the hen and her partners (half a dozen of them are running loose in our yard) are still alive. They escaped from the chicken yard over a week ago. Slid under the electrified netting that was set up to protect them, and had been exploring our yard.

Looking for special treats.

But, as I said, they are lucky to still be alive.

Just this morning as I was driving out the driveway I saw a gray fox. It ran across the cemetery field, down the drive and slipped under the gate before disappearing off into the forest. I don't know what she was doing in our fields but I'm sure she would like nothing better than to catch a hen sitting on a nest of eggs.

But speaking of gray foxes, until recently I seldom saw one around here. Plenty of red fox but I seldom caught a glimpse of a gray.

Why is that?

To show how prejudices go, since the red fox is the one usually painted in pictures with a passel of hounds and tuxedo wearing gentry on horses in hot pursuit I always assumed it was an invasive species brought here by the English so they could indulge their desire to fox hunt. I always assumed the red fox was an invasive species that was pushing the native gray fox out of its historical habitat.

My mistake.

Of course that's not true. While the English did inflict the red fox on Australia the truth is that both the red and gray fox are native to North America.

Though I can't rightly account for why, suddenly, I'm seeing more gray fox than in the past. It might possibly be because their local habitat (woodlands and not pastures) is disappearing. And while this change can't be pinned on the red fox it can be blamed on another invasive species.

Over the past five or so years the woodlands just to the east of us have been steadily leveled, the trees bulldozed, chipped and hauled off (probably to garden centers) and in its place have appeared gated communities, golf courses and what looks to be an elaborate network of strip malls.

But, before I go of the deep end with a rant about encroaching development and way too many people, lets hold that picture for just a little longer. The picture of hens running around the inside of the house, foxes trying to get into the hen yard and a nest with one egg right up there on the kitchen counter.

And then, lets go through this week's farm news.

1. End of season. The big news, of course, is the end of the vegetable season. This is week 19 coming to an end which means that next week it the last of the vegetables for the season. Usually, or at least half a dozen years ago, instead of the record breaking 90 something degrees we had earlier this week, this time of the year we usually have the first frost of the season. Even though its cooled off some it doesn't look like we're going to have a frost any time soon.

2. Reserving a 2008 share. If you are interested in reserving a share for next year at this year's price you need to send me an e-mail now and get me a check for half the share price by the end of the month. Our regular subscription drive starts in February and you can sign up then but you will have to pay the higher price then (if our share prices go up).

3. The week's rainfall update.
We received a grand total of 1/100th of an inch of rain Tuesday night making that the total rainfall so far for this month. If we don't get rain tonight (a 20% chance of a shower) none is predicted for the next week. The average rainfall for this much of October is 1.45 inches. That means we have received about 16 inches this year where the average is over 34 inches. It would appear that something catastrophic is in the process of happening climate wise.

4. Trees This drought is now so sever that many trees appear to be dead or dying. Let's hope real winter comes on soon so everything can go into dormancy and hopefully wake up in the spring with plenty of rain.

While I was writing the rough draft of this on Thursday afternoon I took a break and went out to give several shareholders who had just driven up their vegetables. One of the women said she saw a red fox on the driveway. "I chased it out the gate," she said. "But it's likely to come back in. Do you want me to close the gate when I leave?"

I told her about see the gray fox slide right under it. "I don't think that gate is going to keep a fox out. It's too high off the ground. I think they hear the chickens and are trying to get closer for a better look. What it means is I better start locking the hens up at night or we aren't going to have eggs for next year."

Leigh Hauter

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Rural Juvenile delinquency!

I guess the title for this story should be something like:
'Unwed teen mother of two apprehended stealing lettuce from farmer.'

Does that sound catchy enough?

Or we could have it something like: 'Illegitimate twins stand idly by as mother is caught shoplifting.'

I don't know. How about: 'Teen mother leads children down road to life of crime.'

Anyway, it would be a good follow up to last week's newsletter, the one where I was asked by over a dozen people, 'Sure, no one has the heart to shoot cute little Bambi, but how much does Bambi have to grow until you decide she's a worthless varmint?"

To which I answered. "Good question."

And so before we talk about the crime wave out here in the lettuce field and how Bambi was captured, alive, and what we did with her, let's go through this week's farm news.

1. As the season winds down (two more weeks of deliveries after this week) we're having early sign up. This means, if you want to reserve a space for the 2008 season at this year's price you can do so now. If you are interested what you need to do is write me back saying you want to sign up for 2008 (I'm only taking vegetable reservations now. Anyone that signs up now gets first dibs on fruit and egg shares). Then, by the end of October send me a check for half the share price now (1 person cost $345 so send $172, 2 person cost $450 so send $225). Pay the other half in the spring.

2. If you aren't sure if you want to sign up you can wait until February when I start our regular subscription drive. I'll contact this year's subscribers and the people on our waiting list then. If I raise the share price you will pay the new rate.

3. Filling in wet land. I notice as you come down the road to get to our farm, just next to the boy scout camp. There is a field that during wet years is mostly a bog. This field, maybe 50 or so acres is usually so wet that nothing much ever grows there. Just cattails and grass that likes wet feet. In fact when it is dry they are lucky to get hay off of half that land.

Well, sometime when no one was looking a developer bought this bog and out by the road put up several signs advertising luxury houses.

When I saw the signs I thought they were just joking. This land doesn't perk. You are hard pressed to put a septic on that land. Someone built houses just on the other side of it and they had to put those really smelly sewage disposal systems in the front yards. You know those things. They look sort of like burial mounds, maybe ten or fifteen feet high with a pipe or two coming out of the top to vent the swamp gas. What I imagine is all the home's waste is pumped up into that thing, into a tank under the burial mound and every once in a while a truck has to come by and pump it out and haul all the waste away somewhere.

Not a very satisfactory means of waste disposal. So I figured that bog land was free from development.

But here they are, the developer has waited for a drought that has been setting all sorts of records and they moved in huge earth moving equipment and all week they have been hauling in fill dirt and have been covering the bog five or so feet deep in fill.

Isn't progress wonderful.

4. Log home for sale. I told my neighbor I'd mention that they had their house on the market. So here it is: down our driveway another mile is a big log house with four bedrooms, a slew of bathrooms and a stand alone garage that I've always thought could be a house in its own right. It sits on 13 heavily wooded acres.

But that's not where we let Bambi go.

What happened is this morning when we started picking at 7:am the three of us spread out. One picking basil, another squash (me) and Luis was walking down to start on the lettuce. Instead of taking the path along the edge of the field he walked down the trail behind the storehouse, through the woods and just at the edge of the field, there she was.


Actually, this is mommy Bambi, the teenage mother I talked about seeing last week. She was nestled down in some tall grass, sort of dozing while her two fawns were out in the lettuce dancing and doing what fawns do.

Before she had the chance to react. I mean, before she had the chance to even realize that a human had walked up behind her, Luis jumped, jumped at her without a seconds hesitation and caught one of her back leg.


But it was too late. He grabbed her other back leg.


Flipped her over. And pulled a roll of twine out of his back pocket.


Hogtied her.

Tied her back legs together, her front legs together and both set of lets tied to each other. Bound her up so she couldn't escape and she couldn't hurt herself trying to escape.

And the fawns. They stopped playing for just a moment. First running toward their mother and then away, and then toward her again.

There was another baa or two while we got the wheel barrrow down to her, got her in the barrow and carried her up the hill.

What should we do with her?

Is young deer sort of like veal? Or is it like kid goat? (who wants to eat an old goat anyway)

Wait, edit that. I can hear Wenonah right now. 'don't even think that thought, and especially don't put it in your newsletter."

To late. What we did, though, is we first hauled mommy Bambi out the gate, to the other side of the anti-deer fence. We took her there and keeping her tied up we sat her gently down in the shade.

The idea being that her twins would follow.,

And they did. It took about an hour but bouncing and skipping like baby Bambis do and seeing mommy on the other side of the fence they made their way along the edge of the fields and out the gate.

That's when we closed the gate.

Brought the truck through, picked up our teenage mother, drove her out to the end of our road, untied her and.

And she was gone. bounding off into the woods and quickly out of sight.


Leigh Hauter