Friday, October 31, 2008

a kite

They should know that the fence/wire/net they're using to protect their pansies won't work.

I mean, after all, they are supposed to be professionals and they should know by now that what they are doing won’t work.

If they had asked me I could have told them and they wouldn't have had to waste all that money.

Not that there is really an alternative.

I remember being desperate and trying everything, just like they must have done. I even did something like they’ve done. It must have been, maybe a decade or so ago.

It didn't work then and I don’t suppose it will work now.

I mean, after all, no matter what people think, deer might be a lot of thiinks but one thing they aren’t is dumb.

Or maybe what it is, is that hunger makes every creature reach down to the bottom of their intelligence barrel and dig up their best ideas.

In my case (and I guess that means my deers’ case) is that one year I had a big planting of sweet potatoes out in that field where the barn is now and the deer would come out with the dusk and start eating.

It turns out they really have a taste for sweet potato vines and leaves.

So, after trying just about everything and none of it working I had this really bright idea.

I would take row cover, that's this white fabric you use to protect your crops from insects and light frosts, its very thin, light weight, but sturdy and you take a roll of it and unfurl it over your plants.

Think of a roll of white material 16 feet wide and as long as the field. In that fields case, 300 feet.

You would think that it would work. A huge white piece of material laid out on top of all those sweet potato vines.

HOWEVER.... the deer would get in the field, just like they did before I put down the row cover. And they could smell those tasty vines. At first they would go around the edges and with their noses lift it up, push it back. Until the edge of the sweet potatoes were exposed.

And they would start eating.

After I saw what they were doing I started taking rocks and putting boulders over the edge of the material, surrounding the sweet potato patch, holding the material down.

That didn’t work for long.

It didn’t take the deer long to realize they could rip the row cover. They would walk out into the middle of the field and start pawing the material until they'd ripped it and then they would eat the leaves underneath. then when the leaves and vines were eaten in that spot they would move on, rip another hole and do the same thing.

After a while my sheets of row cover were starting to look rather frayed and bedraggled. Instead of one long piece of material, really long strands of rags.

And then early one morning a large buck went in the field and was eating the leaves using this maneuver, only his antlers got stuck in the row cover. We are talking about a piece of material 300 feet long and 16 feet wide.

He's got his head through the hole and the material stuck on his antlers.

He freaks!

And starts running, pulling up all of that material. Shaking it loose from all those rocks.

Did I mention the weather?

It's a frosty windy morning. I mean the wind is blowing something like 20 miles an hour. So here is this huge buck running from one end of the field to the other with this 300 foot long piece of white material (its real light weight) flying in the air like a kite, like a kite tail.

this is back when I had woven wire fences around the fields because I had goats. Woven wire with a strand of barbed wire on top.

He runs from one end of the field to the other. Reaches teh next fence and turns, looks around and runs back toward the other end, the material way up in the air, just like a kite ( I remember back when I was a teenager, we would attach half a dozen kites to the same string. Each kite used to hoist the string higher for the one before it. So finally, the first kite would be, maybe, a mile up in the air) this is like the deer.

So after making several rounds with this huge kite chasing him he decides he has to do something. He has to escape.

He turns a corner of the field, sees the distant fence and begins to charge it.

At first it's maybe 150 yards away. He's getting up steam. Going faster. Straight for the fence.

Getting up more speed. Actually he can't see all that well, what with the material wrapped around his head.

But he charges.

150 yards.


He's getting up speed. Going faster and faster. Closing on the fence. 70 yards. 40 20 10.

and he jumps.

Flies through the air.

And some how the row cover, his long white kite, catches on the fence, around his legs. over his head.

He flies through the air.

And suddenly...

He lands just on the other side of the fence.


Here's this big old buck all wrapped up in white material. And up in the air more of this white stuff, flying like some sort of a Chinese kite.

Long, dramatic. 20 mile per hour winds. Way up in the air.

Waving field, the far end of the material catching on a tree branch.

Maybe a hundred feet up in the air.

And on the ground, there's the buck, struggling, struggling to get to his feet.

To see out of the material.

Finally he does stand up, shakes his head, Gets his head free. Pulls away from the fence. Rips the material more. A long gash. Some of it hanging from his antlers, some hanging from the barbed wire.

And the buck turns, More ripping, and runs away, trailing a ten foot piece of row cover.

The remainder caught on one end on the barbed wire, the rest flowing, flying through the air from the fence up higher and higher until the far end is stuck on that branch a hundred feet up.

The deer runs up the hill. Gets to the driveway and springs down the driveway until he turns again, into the forest and up the mountain.

And leaving the material behind, Material, like a kite.

And even today, a decade later, if you look, there are pieces of row cover fluttering from a branch way up on the tree.

And if you ever ask yourself. "How did that get there?" you now know.

Leigh Hauter

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Brown-tailed Hawk (and a sweet little rabbit)

Today, as I was driving over the creek, a brown-tailed hawk swept by just missing my windshield.

Dangling from the hawk’s talons was a rabbit. Its cute little feet kicking desperately in the air.

Right here, in my first several drafts of this blog, for some reason I got off subject, and instead of giving you the picture of the hawk, holding on to that rabbit, flying off into the woods until it disappeared from sight, I instead slipped off topic and hurriedly began running down the road that compares that rabbit to the chicken that we take on faith is the meat part of a Chicken McNugget.

Apparently the connection in my mind was the thought, the comparison, between eating rabbit and eating the contents of an order of Chicken McNuggets.

Particularly, chicken McNuggets bought at the Union Station McDonalds.

This isn’t the McDonalds downstairs in the food court (if there is one downstairs in the food court) This is the McDonalds up by the trains because, I think it was about a year ago when I was waiting for Wenonah to come in on a train from NYC, it was late at night and the other shops were closing so I walked down past the trains to that dead end corner and stood in line.

And there, past the cash register, was this guy dressed in whites, opening a package of frozen hamburger paddies and I got to thinking that those things were probably from the same factory as the ones being thrown on the grease in McDonalds located all over the world.

Any of the ones in Winchester, Culpeper, Glenwood Springs, Barstow (is there one in Barstow?).

Or maybe even the one located down by the ferry landing in Hong Kong. (I was once desperate enough for something that approximated an American breakfast after traveling in Asia for a month that I bought and ate two egg McMuffins while waiting for the ferry).

But really, the idea here is not food as a living, breathing animal that we (or the hawk) kills and eats to keep our bodies alive, but instead food as just something made in a factory like a ball point pen, sock or tennis ball.

Sort of food as a manufactured product. Manufactured at a factory that could be located just about anywhere from material that could come from just about anything.

I could go on and describe the little piece of rabbit fur Wenonah and I found down in the corner of the hoophouse (sort of like a greenhouse, only with a hoophouse you grow your crops directly in to the dirt).

We had been in the hoophouse picking eggplant. Italian eggplant we intended to slice and cook on the grill that night.

And we had come across the rabbit coat and a little bit of its innards and we stood there for a moment, looking and wondering what had caught the rabbit and rested here to make a meal of it.

So, I think the point here, the one that was sort of bubbling up from somewhere was about the nature of food.

Whether food is a relationship, sometimes a brutal one like that one between the hawk and that rabbit. or, I guess the relationship between those bears and our bees’ honey. Even the eggplant that we so carefully started in the spring, putting one seed into a little tiny dab of dirt where it was watered and protected from the cold, given water and nutrients and finally taken out and carefully put in the ground.
Again protected from the elements, watered, fed, defended from various predators, (potato bugs, flea beetles, deer, ground hogs) and finally harvested the fruit ( and I’ve often wondered what that relationship was, symbiotic or ruthless exploitation) until finally the seasons change and the earth’s natural cycle turns the ground cold and bleak.

Whether food is a relationship between two beings. One being eaten (the rabbit) and the one doing the eating (the hawk).

Or is food just another product like tennis balls. Another piece of a commercial enterprise.

Or does it even matter.

Leigh Hauter

Sunday, October 26, 2008


What’s that song about blue birds?

(I’ll give you a moment here to remember it, if possible you are given permission to sing a line or two before continuing... How does it go... ‘there’s a...”)

Anyway, we have a lot of bluebirds out here. During the summer you can look at that electric line that crosses the field over by the barn and at any one time there are going to be four or so blue birds perched on it looking down for a tasty morsel.

And then I do have, I don’t know, half a dozen or so blue bird houses. But really, these were an after thought.

I put up my first blue bird house after I fixed the hole in the side of our house, the place under the eve in the kitchen I added on to the house twenty-five years ago. The place where with my expert English teacher carpentry I had left a hole big enough for a pair of bluebirds to claim as the site for a nest.

And they, or is it their descendants had been nesting there year after year ever since.

Or at least until we built a new kitchen

So when it came time for us to build a new kitchen the nesting spot was closed up, the kitchen turned into a utility room and the bluebirds forced to move on.

Which means I felt pretty guilty.

And I had come to enjoy watching the bluebirds comeback each spring, discover the hole in the house each year. Clean it out, collect new nesting material and begin the process anew of raising the next generation.

I don’t know how this thing works with bluebirds, whether it’s the same couple that returns each year and uses the same nesting site or whether the old couple has died from a fatal encounter with some neighborhood cat or out here a hawk or owl or clever bobcat.

But I was left to wonder if it is now the children raising a family, sort of like the couple in a small town growing old and eventually willing their home to their children who move in raise a family, grow old, etc, etc.

So what I did is planted a locust post out from the house right at the corner where the stone wall turns and after shopping around for bluebird houses nailed one on the post facing my office window.

(yes, I know, the book says the nest should face the open field. ‘Bluebirds like their nest boxes to face the field.’ They like to get up in the morning and look out across a field, sort of like humans that like to build their houses on the edge of lakes, or the ocean, so they can get up in the morning and look out across that expanse of water).

But I put the box facing the house so I coulde watch them, watch the male land on top of the post and then drop down into the nest box, at firs carrying a twig or leaf and then, once the babies had hatched with meal for the young ones.

But, I’m sorry this isn’t what I intended to write about at all. My intention when I first sat down had nothing to do with bluebird houses and nests.

Instead, what I wanted to tell you about was the fairly remarkable sight I saw this week.

This last week I was looking out my office window, taking a brake from my intention of catching up on my paper work when right there, just past my collection of bird feeders and the daytime population of finches and tit mice must have been 50, maybe 60 blue birds.

Blue birds up on top of the empty swallow house.

Blue birds bouncing up and down on the short wave antenna, actually a wire that runs from the house out to the old black walnut tree.

Blue birds on the ground.

Flying in short circles around the field.

A regular party of blue birds.

Which made me scramble for my copy of Sibley’ Guide to Bird Life and 
Behavior, thinking, Hmm-mm. this is a group of birds migrating south.

Only, when I finally found the applicable paragraph it said that blue birds aren’t much interested in migrating., especially in such a rather southerly location at Northern Virginia.

And then it occurred to me.

These aren’t my bluebirds. These aren’t the couple dozen birds that summer in our fields and winter here.

This is a group of snowbirds.

Blue birds from Western Pennsylvania and New York. These are a bunch of Canadians that are heading south looking for a more pleasant climate to spend the cruel winter months.

Now, here it is a week after the passing of the great bluebird flight and I haven’t noticed any bluebirds out on the wire. Did our local birds join the passing flight and following the mountain range south toward a warmer climate?

We’ll see. Unlike most winters I’ll keep an eye out for bluebirds. I’ll look to see if there are bluebirds around during the winter months (the map in Peterson Field Guide says were on the northern fringe of the ‘year round’ range).

Let’s see if that’s true.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

one more (or so) bears

No bear sightings since last weekend when a mother and her two year cub tore up the hive on the hill on the right just as you come in the gate. They had turned it over a couple nights before but when I drove up on the tractor around 4 pm there they were.

They quickly ran to the gate. the mother climbed over it and her cub scooted on the ground and under.

From there, they quickly disappeared in to the forest where I could hear them noisily climb the hillside.

So, right then I spent almost an hour putting the hive back together and stacking it up. The idea was that I would put it on the tractor bucket after dark when the bees had stopped flying and move it down to the hives along the bottom road.

My intention was to put it somewhere where I could better defend it. A lone hive standing by itself is harder to put an electric fence around than ten hives sitting in a row.

So I finished it up, left the tractor sitting there and walked back to the house to get some more bee equipment, a bottom board, inside top and a new outer top.

I was gone no more than a half an hour but when I got back the hive had been torn apart again. This time another super full of honey had been grabbed and hauled up into the woods leaving one emptied frame after another.

A sort of honey trail.

In the escape the bears had knocked down the deer fence just above the hive. Throwing the box into the woods and taking a couple more frames up higher, licking them clean and then too throwing them off into the brush.

I followed picking up the mess. When I got to the fence and attempted to put it back up my hands got sticky. In other words, whoever had knocked down the fence (momma bear?) had sticky paws when she did it.

It took me an hour this time to pick up the mess and put everything back together. This time I put the hive on the tractor bucket, leaving only one box behind for the 'lost' bees to gather in and immediately drove the hive down the road and to its new home.

All went well, no sign of bears.

When I returned however, going through the gate, I flashed my light up at the 'pick up' box.

The box was no longer on its stand. While I had been gone someone had returned. Taken the box and scattered the pieces. The frames had been broken and thrown in all directions. And, what honey I had left behind for the poor traumatized bees and been eaten, with long bear paw scratches left in the wax.

Since then no sign of bears. I think a new berry has ripened. These aren't berries that humans even try to eat but then a bear's fall digestive tract is no doubt a lot hardier, needing to quickly put on a lot more winter weight, than ours.

Leigh Hauter

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Breeding bear resistant honeybees

Should I keep on telling bear stories? (I sure have enough of them).

The other night a mother bear and her 150 pound cub knocked over a lone hive that sits by itself on a little knoll.

(The reason why I have these lone beehives sitting all by themselves around the farm is a convoluted story that in part is due to... parasitic mites.

Particularly varroa mites.

Varroa mites are rather new and particularly deadly to the honey bees that, for the most part, populate North America. These mites were introduced, by accident of course, only two decades ago. Sailing to our continent in the hold of a ship. A boat, I understand, that first docked somewhere in Florida.

And within months of this event had prospered greatly, quickly spreading to most of the honey bees all the way across the United States of America

Back then, back when my bees first came in contact with mites I had almost 100 beehives. The next spring only 48 of those hives were alive. (normally, back then, I would have expected no more than 5 to have died over the winter). The next year my losses put us down to 24. Then 14. 6. And finally the last two died.

Commercial beekeepers, and we are talking about people that have hundreds if not thousands of hives, people that predominately make their living from driving tractor trailers loaded with beehives from one corner of our country to the other, getting paid for renting out their hives to the owners of orchards, apples, peaches, almonds. Farmers of vegetables and flowers.

The commercial beekeepers went into a panic. They couldn’t afford to stand by while their hives died (at the time I made my living by teaching school).

So quickly the pharmaceutical industry came up with a mitacide that didn’t out and out kill the bees and wasn’t supposed to contaminate the honey.

To worked to kill only the mites, sort of.

Until after a few years the mites became resistant to the drug, however, by then there was another mitacide. (which of course the mites soon became resistant too)

I never made the chemical plunge. Never treated my bees with chemicals.

(Do you think for a moment that if you put a chemical in a beehive with tens of thousands of insects walking around from one end of the hive to the other that the chemical won't sooner or later get in to the honey? I didn't).

What I did do, though, was replenishing my missing empty bee boxes with bees that were thought to be somewhat tolerant to the mites.

During this time the US Department of Agriculture had sent out researchers far and wide looking for bees that could coexist with the mites. After all, such a thing must exist. It stood to reason, with natural selection, bees adapt to the mites. Instead of waiting for it to happen with our bees, why not find that bee and bring it to us.

And, after looking, several bees were found. One of them, the Russia honey bee had been living with mites for little ill effect for decades, if not centuries.

The researchers brought them back to the US and after a few years rthey became available.

When they did, I bought some.

And then there was a professor out in, I believe, Ohio. who bred for a mite tolerant bee.

I bought some of those.

And there’s others.

Besides the store bought bees I found a swarm of honey bees living up in the forest.

And that’s where the bees on the hill come about.

When I got a batch of mite resistant bees I would put them somewhere on the farm, away from other bees. Instead of having one large apiary I had a dozen.

Not all of these 'mite resistant' bees lived. or where good for producing honey. Some of them were very hot (they poured out of their hives and attempted to sting you in mass).

And a number of them eventually died off. But after a while I was collecting a number of mite resistants bees.

That was until the year of the bear.


Now, though, here in our valley bears are becoming just as deadly to the bees as the mite was.

What do you think I should do to protect the bees? Should I set out, as some have suggested, to kill off the bears?

Or, should I follow the same path I followed with the mites. Should I work to breed a bear resistant bee? And if I do. what characteristics would you suppose those bees would have?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The bear and I, (continued)

Just checked. (will try to clean one up and then post it) They aren't great pictures but its definitely a bear. Up the tree. About the size of one of my dogs. Maybe a little larger. 150 pounds. Maybe 200.

In the picture he's looking at me from about 10, twenty yards away.

I'm yelling at him. Telling him to go home. "I'm tired." "leave me alone."
"Leave my beehives alone.'

He doesn't listen, but it does look like he's coming down the tree. Is he going to chase after me. this is dumb I should go back to the house. I start back and he comes down all the way and is at the base of the tree.

There's a bushel of those hard winter apples. Ozark Blacks. So I pick up a couple and throw one.

I don't hit the bear (I don't think). But I hit the tree.

splat. and I turn around and start back toward the bear. What else am I going to do?

And I flash the light and instead of chasing me, the bear turns off and runs.

runs down the driveway. So I follow. In the dark. But not too far. There he is, Maybe another twenty yards away.

And I'm following with the torch and my apples as weapons. And I'm yelling at the top of my voice (my throat still hurts).

And he sees me and grudgingly turns and trots another twenty yards down the driveway. And stops. And I follow.

It's obvious he isn't going to take off running in fear. I think it is obvious he isn't afraid of me. Not much. But he stops and I keep on shinning my light and calling him names. Telling him to go home. Leave my vegetables alone. "The same goes for my bees." Its a felony to destroy a hive. You know that?"

Apparently he doesn't. Or doesn't care. He trots another twenty yards and I follow, and another twenty. Another. We're slowly moving down the driveway, toward the gate, a quarter mile away.

nd the dogs? The brave Great Pyrenees? They haven't followed. They aren't barking. It's just me and my light and the bear in the night.

Finally we get to the gate and the b ear slides on under and then disappears up the hill into the forest. I can hear him go. Not running. Not going far, just backtracking around me along the outside of the fence.

I think then that its probably a good idea to go back to the house. I probably would have been wise to bring the shotgun along with me. Even with bird shot to give3 the bear something to think about.

the bear and I -- Wednesday night

Well, so here's what happened.

I put on my boots, and a shirt (still wearing shorts) and got the powerful torch and went out side.

One dog is panting and barking outside the door.

The other dog is halfway up the driveway, Maybe a hundred feet from the house. And barking, but not going any further.

So, I do. I walk up the hill. I know somethings there. I'm making all sorts of noise, afraid that I'm going to walk in between a mother and her cubs. That's what the books always talk about as the time you get eaten by momma as she protects her babies.

So I walk up, flashing the light this way and that. The beehives in front of the house aren't touched.

And then I hear it. Or I hear something.

Its further up the driveway. A sort of scratching. Loud. Is it behind me. I turn around.

And walk back toward the house.

And for a second flick off the light

And its loud. The hiss and its up a tree.

The poplar on the hill.

I quickly turn around. Flash the light.

And there he is.

A bear.

Not large.

200 pounds.

The trees large so he's having a hard time. maybe 8 feet up. Hanging on at a crook in the tree.

So I grabbed that little camera and in the confusion try to take a picture. Let me see.

(next installment coming up)

Leigh Hauter

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Oil Shale

Since it looks like oil shale is in the news again I might as well tell my oil shale story.

In case you have missed this one, out west, actually mostly on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies and going over into Utah there is a lot of what is called oil shale. It’s actually a formation of shale that’s heavy with oil.

Not the sort of oil that you see in the movies. You know, somewhere in Oklahoma or Texas where the wildcatter drives well pipe down in the ground And suddenly strikes a huge pool of liquid oil under so much pressure that it comes gushing up through the pipe and soars up into the air, then dramatically gushing down to land all over the ecstatic oil man. Promising him and all of his descendants great wealth for ever and ever, amen.

This shale contains a sort of oil but its not in the liquid form. You could drill all year long and it would never come spouting out of the ground.

What it is, is a oil that’s tied in with the shale, a sort of rock like sand. So, to get this oil away from the sandy rock you are going to have to do something. The current technology mandates that heat it and wash it and eventually the two, the sand and the oil will be separated.

Only there is a problem and its not just the fuel that will be necessary to heat the rocks. You will also need water.


So here’s my story.

Once upon a time I graduated from college. I got my undergraduate literature degree out in Colorado. This was 1975.

Now a literature degree offers great possibilities, I’m sure you know. But most of them aren’t in the job area.

Actually my academic advisor told me, as I graduated, that I had just wasted four years of my life (actually it was three, I was going to school on the GI bill and rather than not have money in the summer I would go to school all year round, so I graduated in three years). And that my possibilities, my adviser informed me were number one, to go to graduate school, number 2. to go back to school and get a teaching degree, Number three. Move back to DC and try to get a job with the government.

He missed out on several possibilities, but you get the idea. He thought my future didn’t look all that hot. However, I should note that in his wisdom he missed one noteworthy career possibility.

He didn’t suggest that I pack up my belongings and drive my VW Beetle over the mountains to Colorado’s western slope and find a job on an oil rig.

But that’s what I did. I went out west to be a roughneck.

At that time I had several friends that had followed the same career path. These were Colorado boys and after getting their liberal arts degrees (on the GI Bill, they had moved home and were working the oil rigs.

Now working as a roughneck (that’s what a guy on a oil rig is called) is not the easiest (I think occupationally its one of the more dangerous jobs) or the cleanest (the local laundry mats have large signs saying DO NOT WASH YOUR GREASERS IN OUR MACHINES!) but it had one benefit. It paid well with lots of overtime.

So I loaded up my car and drove west and ended up renting an old movie theatre (but that’s another story) and got a job at first working the oil rigs and then putting in the pipelines that connected up the natural gas wells they were sinking up in the Book Cliff Mountains.

Beautiful countryside. Plenty of outdoor air. The only problem being finding a place to live. Rangely, this was the town where most of the rigs worked out of, really couldn’t house all the people that were moving into town with the oil industry.

The problem wasn’t the housing. New houses could always be built. Or if not stick built structures, trailers could be hauled in and rented out.

Or the Jobs.

The mid 70's was right after one of the Mideast wars. There was an oil crisis. Gas prices had jumped from below 30 cents a gallon to almost a dollar and everyone was screaming for something to be done. (Ms. Palin’s current chant is nothing new, many people were singing the same thing back then, over 30 years ago). The government was spending money like mad in the perennial cry to be 'energy self-sufficient.' or as the current Governor of Alaska so quaintly calls it, "Drill, Baby, Drill.'

And it wasn't just drilling for oil, or gas it was other energy sources. Potential energy like oil shale.

Only. Only,there was a small problem with western Colorado and Wyoming taking in all of the people that would be necessary to extra all of this oil and oil shale.

The problem was water.

Or the lack of it.

I'm not sure the people back east or up in Alaska had bothered to look, but Colorado, Wyoming and Utah are semi-arid.

There isn't much water.

And a case in point was the water supply for Rangely.

Rangely, back then, and I suspect today, got all of its water from the Rio Blanco River. (And yes the river did run white. Or at least there were white deposits from something the river ran through along its banks and the glasses you chose to drink it from.

But that wasn’t the only problem. the other problem was that there just wasn’t enough of this nasty tasting liquid.

When I moved to Rangely it had a population of, I recall, 1500 people. And I think with the oil boom of the 70’s the population jumped another thousand.

And the water? well what water there was in the Rio Blanco and there wasn’t much of it flowed into town and when it got to town and to the mouth of the intake pipe for the water system they built an earthen dam to collect it.

And all the water from the river went into the pipe.

And leaving the town the Rio Blanco was only an imaginary river. Banks and a bed but no water.

one day that we weren’t working some of us had the bright idea that we would go tubing down the river, so we got our tubes and drove a couple of trucks up the valley. Leaving one about ten miles above town and driving the other twenty miles up where we proceded to unload and dressed in our swim trunks and old tennis shoes walk down to the river. Only, there wasn’t any water. Or at least there wasn’t enough water to float a tube in.

Sure, we would find a pool every once in a while, and maybe it would be deep enough for the tube to float 25, 50 even a couple hundred feet down stream. but it turned out we ended up walking with our inner tubes as much as we floated. A rather educational experience).

Now, as I said, we were located on the edge of the oil shale land. Back then the government had decided that the factory for extracting the oil shale would be a town called Rifle. Rifle was located on the Colorado river but before the idea of extracting oil from the shale it was a town not as large as Rangely. Getting its water from streams flowing out of the Rockies.

(you know, of course, that all the water in the Colorado River is spoken for. Every gallon of that river is owned by someone somewhere down the line. Out west, in the western states, going to law school, you were just as likely to specialize in water rights as family Law. The answer here is no one was gong to take any of the water out of the Colorado that they didn’t own without decades of law suits first being filed, argued and settled).

Which brings us back to Rifle.

Anxious to do something about the energy crisis congress passed legislation and the president signed it mandating that thee oil shale be developed so Rifle went from a small cow town to a huge (by western slope standards) housing development in months.

A demonstration extraction plant was built. Workers started flowing into town. Houses were built. Roughneck bars were opened. Stores built. In fact, like the old westerns, it was almost time for the churches to be built.

And then an important fact was discovered.

There wasn’t enough water within hundreds, really thousands of miles to extract the oil shale.

Oil was there. But the water wasn't. In fact even back then the western slopes extra water had been bought up and piped over to the Eastern slope to water Denver and Colorado Springs and Boulder.

So, the workers were laid off, The houses were left empty. The stores closed. The bars went out of business and the churches. Well the churches were mostly left on the drawing board until another time and another president.

And that’s where we are now.

Yes, there is oil out there in the Western Colorado shale, but it isn’t going anywhere until technology or the basic laws of resources change.

Where are all the bears coming from?

Where are all the bears coming from?

Well, let’s see. On the way in the driveway yesterday I passed one of my neighbors and he stopped me to say, “Your beehives are sure taking a beating. this month.”

Of course he was talking about the beehive that someone took off its stand and threw out into the driveway twice this week.

Then, another neighbor sent me an e-mail about what happened when she went out walking her dog last week.

“We came to the top of a rise and I ducked to go under a fallen tree, and saw a black bear in the middle of the clearing ... It was probably the one John saw going through our trash can a couple of weeks ago.”

Then, this week, as I was in my bee suit picking up that hive in the driveway, the one that had been scattered in several directions, another neighbor stopped her car and rolled down the window. “I saw her do it. You would think she would be out at night but no, it was eleven in the morning. A big momma bear and her three cubs.”

And this isn’t counting the damage being inflicted on the hive up on the hill as you drive in to our farm. This is the location of the several year old picture on the webpage. The picture of the destroyed beehive and the snapshot taken by a hidden wildlife camera of a bear strolling down the road.

I thought I had cured the bears from attacking these hives by erecting an electric fence hooked up to a car battery. At least there hadn’t been any damage for several years.

Unfortunately, though, sometime over the last week some stalwart soul braved the electric fence, reached in through the electrified wire and grabbed a hive. Turned it over and then bravely absconded with the top box. (do you think that's what motherhood will do to you, make you strong willed enough to confront a nasty electric shock in order to feed your babies?)

I say bravely because this hive is loaded down with bees. Tens of thousands of angry workers. Every time I’ve tried to put the hive back together I’ve been assaulted in mass by battalions of bee warriors. Literally, inside the bee suit the sky turns black from the workers that fly out of their overturned hive to anxiously defend their home.

The marauding bear knocked over the entire hive and then stole off with only the top bee box. This one apparently containing few bees but as much as fifty pounds of honey.

She took it off into the woods where she methodically took it apart, gouging out the honey and eating it frame by frame.

After last week's newsletter where I commented on the open ice and pollution up on the north pole I was asked by several people why I didn't come out and state what they said was obvious. 'Global Warming!'

Well, I think a number of our shareholders know much more about just about everything than I do but since I was asked to draw conclusions I think I should make some about the bears.

Why are there more bears in your valley, Leigh, than ever before? And why are they sticking around later in the season? Usually, by now they have decided your valley doesn't provide enough habitat to winter in and they move on so what makes things different this year?

Well, my answer to this is, where are they going to move? You might not have noticed, not living out here, but what habitat there was in this direction is rapidly disappearing.

Our farm and valley is now on the edge of the DC suburbs. Just a couple years back there was a large block of wooded land to the east of us.

But that was then. Now its gone.

Today, it seems like just the day before yesterday when the huge development corporation began moving its equipment into the woods to the east of us. First the pairs of huge bulldozers connected by massive logging chains moving through the forest. The trees being uprooted by the chain as they passed.

Fifteen square miles of trees were leveled in a few short weeks.

The now dead trees were then pushed into huge chippers creating unbelievably large mountains of wood chip mulch.

Next came the survey teams, marking off sewers, roads and house lots. Followed by the landscapers which, with their heavy equipment pushed up hills and rerouted streams. Draining marsh land and putting in place a massive drainage system to keep the bogs and lowlands dry. 

After that, in quick secession came the paving crews, and framers, the roofers, bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, drywallers, finishing carpenters, painters, carpet layers, landscapers, and another dozen or so tradespeople.

And now what was wild critter habitat is a massive development of paved streets, chemicalized lawns and houses built using the same blue prints over and over and over again.

( and yes I know, a lot of us, the shareholders of our CSA, live in those houses, and it sure makes selling shares in our CSA easier with our customer base that much closer, however...)

However, when you ask why do we have bears hanging out in our valley, the answer is because there isn't anywhere else to go. Us humans seem to be trying to redefine habitat as fast as bacteria growing in a petri dish.

(which reminds me of another sad story about being a boy and finding the woods didn't go on forever and ever. However, rather than sticking it in the newsletter, as asked by that other group that wrote, the ones that didn't want to hear about pollution or global warming or anything else not strictly related to the vegetables, 'don't waste my valuable time except with information about the vegetables.' I'll put it on the blog.

Which does, though, brings us around to some other sad news.

We are coming up on our last week of vegetables.

Our last week will be October 12th through the 17th.

So sad.

However, to sweeten it up a little bit how about honey?

1. Next week the share will contain honey. Your share will be about a pound. However, to get your share of honey you need to bring a container. (Preferably a glass container with a top). A pound of honey fills 2/3 of a pint so if you bring a jar about the size of a pint canning jar that would work out fine. Of course you can bring a larger jar but I will still pour about a pound of honey into it.

2. Comb Honey. And speaking of honey if you want honey in the comb? I have a friend, a full time beekeeper who produces and sells comb honey. That’s honey still in the comb. Yummy stuff. If you want to buy some I’ll bring some with me for the last week of vegetable deliveries.

3. Pure beeswax candles. In addition to comb honey, his family also takes the excess bees wax and makes candles. Really high quality pure beeswax candles. A pair of ten inch long candles is $10. That’s a real deal. E-mail me if you want the candles or comb honey and I will pick them up before next week’s share.

4. Beef and pork. I already sent out the fact sheet on this year’s meat prices and dates to those who have expressed interest. The local pigs go to the butcher in November and the cows in January. One cow will be ready by the end of this month. If you are interested in a quarter cow or half hog and haven’t got the information e-mail me and I’ll send it your way.

5. Waiting list. If you are interested in a 2009 share but not in the early sign up I will be contacting you in February when I open up our subscriptions. If you do it that way you will pay next year’s price.

6. Gleanings. At the end of every season we invite shareholders to come out and glean our fields. Shareholders can come out then and search the fields looking for that forgotten pumpkin, or those still growing peppers. A sort of vegetable easter egg hunt.

7. Sweet Potatoes and eggs. I am leaving a couple rows of sweet potatoes in the ground so the more industrious can dig potatoes. And, by then, the egg share will be over so people can come out and collect eggs. Though, unfortunately, each day, with the shortening days, the chickens are laying fewer and fewer eggs. By Christmas the chickens usually stop laying all together (commercial egg operations put lights on their chickens to confuse their biological clock and keep them laying eggs just like it was mid summer).

8. Pumpkin pick. We still have a few large pumpkins out in the field, which I will leave for gleaning. In all fairness, those will go one to a share.

And that’s about this week’s (and this seasons) news.

Except, except just as I was finishing this up a huge hawk came swooping down and made a grab at one of those misbehaving chickens that spend their days pecking and scratching in our front yard rather than in their hen pasture.

He grabbed her, feathers flying, and tried to lift off with her in his talons, only the other hens started making such a racket the Great Pyrenees jumped up from their afternoon nap, started running, barking and the hawk sensing her attempt at an early supper might end in disaster, flew off, right past my office window.

I have to go deliver todays vegetables before anything else happens.