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


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