Thursday, February 26, 2009

pigeons

I was going to write about pigeons. 

Not those street wise ones you find in the city, but homing pigeons.

Every ten or twenty years I get an urge to build a loft, you know, a pigeon house, up on the roof, then go out and find some full fledged homing pigeons, and start raising pigeons that home.

I suspect I can blame this, the urge, on television. 

It must have been a television show back in the 1950’s. Someone, maybe it was Disney, must have had a show about a couple boys sending secret messages back and forth, half way around the world, or is that on the other side of the county?, top secret boy messages attached to the legs of their special pigeons.

(there was never a discussion on how more than a word or two could be written on any note that a pigeon could possibly carry).

I say Disney because I have evidence that it had, in other ways, a malicious influence on my early life. 

I think I was in third grade over at Janney Elementary when I convinced my father I really did want him to cut my hair just like the Disney actor playing a Mohawk, or was it some other Native American.

And then there was that alleged beaver skin hat I just had to have. I think it was Disney's Daniel Boone this time.

So the pigeons must have been the results of another equally influential Disney show (I just can't remember which one).

Fortunately, the older I get the weaker these cravings and I had almost completely forgotten the recent desire for a pigeon loft when the UPS guy drove up with half a dozen book.

Homing pigeon books.

(I must have ordered them while under the influence).

Anyway, this got me thinking, not about pigeons, but about another problem we've been having out here on the farm.

Predators!

Hawks and Owls.

I could see half a dozen brown tailed hawks surrounding my pigeon loft, perched on every tree. Waiting. just waiting for that brave pigeon, homing in on my loft carrying her top secret message.

When suddenly...

I don't even want to think about it

How many predators out here on the farm enjoy a squab meal?

I know they have a taste for gosling.

Last fall it was the screech owls.

Last summer, just as it turned dark what sounded like a dozen would start serenading the farm house. singing their distinctive chorus from the surrounding forest.

It was weird, sort of pleasant and spooky at the same time.

but why had they moved so close to the house?

This was the time when I was raising the dozen Giant Chinese geese (so cute, about a foot, foot and a half tall. pure white. running around the yard in a group as if the dozen of them had only one mind. One would turn left, they all would turn left. One would run across the yard, they all would run across the yard. Stop, turn, bark. All together now.

And then I moved them away from the house and the protective oversight of our guardian dogs.

I moved the geese up to the asparagus bed, just behind the greenhouse, so they could eat the weeds.

And it only took one night. One night the geese were there and the next there were only feathers. 

Huge piles of fluffy white feathers.

Down drifting in the summer breeze.

And no geese.

So last night, I thought of my geese again. it was about midnight when I walked up the hill to look in on our seedlings (we are up to almost 20,000 seedlings now. The first planting of broccoli popped up out of the soil this afternoon).

As I loaded the boiler with wood I could hear them. A pair. Hooting just behind the greenhouse.

They must have heard that I was thinking about raising pigeons and were eagerly anticipating a meal.

And while I might try again with the geese I don't think I'll try pigeons.

Other farm news?

Pick your own eggs? 
The nights are getting shorter (you would hardly know it) and the days are getting longer. Which means? The chickens are again laying eggs We are getting several dozen eggs a day. Which means, 2009 shareholders, are invited out to get free eggs. I have about a dozen dozens sitting in our spare refrigerator. Tell me first, but come out and collect your own.

Shares?
We are down to the last few dozen shares. If you want a 2009 share of our harvest and haven’t signed up yet, you better do it soon. Check the webpage for instructions on signing up.

Egg shares?
We still have 40 egg shares left.

Fruit shares?
And plenty of fruit share (I can always expand the number of fruit shares since the fruit comes from several different orchards).

Our own orchard?
We have eighty fruit trees, mostly apples with a few pears and cherries mixed in. I am considering doubling the size of the orchard this year. So far I've bought figs, persimmons, quinces, pomegranates and pawpaws.

Berries?
We have a smallish berry patch but its strictly for family use. I guess I could buy several hundred more berry bushes and have a shareholder pick your own area, but that’s a lot of upkeep. And last year, while some people availed themselves of the pick your own flowers, mostly people didn't.

Pick your own?
What do you think about us adding more pick your own as part of the shares? These would be things that are too labor intensive to pick to make it economical putting in the shares. Berries, flowers and more than a few string beans, lima beans and peas. (Beans are in the shares, only there are less of them than there would be if we could pick them faster).

To put more labor intensive things like raspberries in the shares would mean hiring more help which would mean raising the price of the share. We could grow them for u-pick if we thought shareholders would actually come out and pick. 

Seeds?
All of our seed orders are completed.

Hoophouse?
We bought a new 200 by 14 feet hoophouse that is due to arrive in two weeks. It will take about a week to assemble it. Any volunteers out there wanting to drive posts into the ground?

Chicken tractor?
and we are in the process of building a new chicken tractor to house this years' additional pullets. This one, instead of being built on a trailer, is built on skids. (I didn’t have an old trailer around and didn’t want to spend the thousand plus dollars a new one would cost.

More predators
I recently put up a wildlife camera down by the gate and got five shots of, I think, the same fox coming and going. A picture of her should appear soon on our website. I hope that beautiful glossy coat she has isn't the product of eating our chickens.

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