Friday, April 03, 2009

bear breaks hibernation

I think one of our bears has broken hibernation.

At least the other night the starved war orphan looking creature that caused such a ruckus on the back hill sure looked a lot like that bear I caught eating our vegetables out of the delivery van last fall.

Only. Only he looked a couple hundred pounds lighter.

The dogs saw him first. Or maybe they smelled him (what do you think a bear smells like after spending a winter all cooped up in a cave?)

It was a little after midnight and I was at my desk doing paperwork, when the dogs started up a storm behind the house.

At first I didn't pay it much attention.

A raccoon? Moonbeams racing through the forest?

And then the barking became serious. The terrified bark just before a dog bites.

Serious!

Not teenage boys pushing each other back and forth in a parking lot. Throwing names and insults but not throwing punches and kicks.

This sounded like... I don't know. The sound of townspeople picking up their hammers and hoes as barbarians breached their walls and beat in their gates (I was going to say, the sound of the fighting on that dock in the old Neil Young song if the boat had landed before the kid telling the story was shot).

I quickly got up, grabbed a flashlight and went out the back door.

And there they were. The bear on one side of the deer fence and the dogs on the other side.

They were moving back and forth along the fence. I recognized the bear right off. I have a picture of him when he climbed up in the tree last October. Only this time he looked like he was wearing a suit four or five sizes too big for him.

The dogs, Andorra and Marcus, with their teeth bared. Screaming out barks and then suddenly jumping in to bite.

Fortunately the fence kept both sides from getting hurt. The bear, even in his anorexia state looked just about as large as the two of them together.

If he got a hold of one of them....

I don't know what brought the bear was coming up the hill. This time of year it couldn't have been the bees. After a winter of fasting all of my remaining hives were living on subsistence and bare welfare. Most of their stores are depleted.

Probably the chickens.

I imagine if I was a hungry bear the sound of all our chickens clucking and a crowing would be enough to get me up from my winter's fast. I imagine a bear, if he could catch them, could chomp down on a dozen or so laying hens in a matter of minutes, Feathers, bones and all.

The fight went on for another3 minute.

I didn't go down the hill and intervene. I thought, 'it'll no doubt work its self out.'

And anyway, that's what the dogs are paid for. That's what Great Pyrenees are breed for.

That's why we have them.

And they're much better equipped to scare off a bear than I am.


At the end of another minute, or two, the bear disappeared back into the woods. The dogs switched from fighting off barbarians at the town gate tp the bark teenage boys in a parking lot.

And finally even that stopped. The dogs adrenaline rush fades as did their barks and finally they turned and with an occasional bark over their shoulders turned and came back toward the house.

Oh well. Another sign of spring. 

We're still several weeks, maybe a month away from the last frost. It's still too early for that bear to find much food, (unless, of course, unless it means eating our chickens.

It's even too early for the honeybees.

This last week I spent time out feeding our bees. 

Honey bees, around here, need to start building up their hives right about now. They need to start raising children. Increasing the hive population so when the nectar starts flowing there are enough workers to fly out and collect it.

That means making babies.

Which means having food to feed them.

And since there is hardly any nectar out there bring in and only a little bit of pollen from early bloomers like the skunk cabbage it means I have to get out there and give them food.

(another problem our honey bees are having, that is besides the new diseases and parasites they've been subjected to as a result of a side-effect of global trade, is the stress caused by the warming climate. 

It wasn't too long ago that honeybees would go into winter with a store of honey and come out in the spring with plenty of honey still saved to raise an overflowing hive full bees.

Now, with the warmer winters, instead of hibernating, all balled up for warmth in the deep recesses of the hive now there are many days were the temperature rises enough for the bees to leave their hibernation and to go out, to take out the trash, to carry out the bodies of their sisters who died over the winter. To go out to collect water. To look for food.

Only in January there isn't any food and instead of conserving energy and supplies the warm weather causes the bees metabolism to go up, to need more food.

Which means if I want my bees to survive the winter I now have to feeding them.

Which means mixing up sugar water. 1 part sugar to 1 part water. Mixing it up. Putting it into gallon glass jars with a few holes punched in the metal top. And putting the jar, upside down, inside the beehive.

This way the bees, on those warm days, can collect the sugar water and the queen can start laying eggs.

Not only that, but this past week a friend drove down to Georgia and came back with a truck load of bees.

I don't know how many he brought, the truck was full, but I bought 30 pounds from him. Thirty pounds of bees, separated into ten 3 pound packages, each package with its own queen.

The packages I opened and along with the queen, put into bee boxes. Creating ten new beehives.

Another 5 packages will be coming in the mail from Texas in about two weeks to make 15 new hives I'm adding this year to make up for the ones killed by the bears, killed by the accidentally imported mites, and ones that died from unknown causes, Maybe virus', maybe pesticides, maybe, I don't know.

Other farm news

Eggs. I talked to Susannah, the organic egg and chicken woman from the southern part of the county, and decided she would privide us with 50 dozen eggs a week. That means we have more egg shares available. If you want one, E-mail me, I might, also, sell some whole dozen egg shares but I haven't decided yet. I'll let you know, if I do, in about a month.

Vegetable shares. We are down to the last ten shares. I'll sell a few more to the Alexandria pick up and the rest to be picked up in Manassas or at the farm.

Payments. I misspoke in last week's newsletter. I forgot to mention those of you who signed up early last fall. If you renewed under the early sign up program your final payment should be sent within the next month. The people that signed up this year should look at their confirmation e-mail for the payment due date.

Free eggs/ Farm visits. It's supposed to rain this weekend but if you want to come out --- come out 11 to 1 on Saturday. We are flooded with eggs. the chickens are getting in shape for this summer's egg share so come out prepared to bring a dozen or two home with you.

Seedlings. the greenhouse is close to full with seedlings.. Almost all of our spring and summer plants are right now growing in the greenhouse. I think we're up to almost 60,000 seedlings.

Other plants -- suddenly we have too much work to do. 600 asparagus roots came this week and need putting in the ground. 300 raspberry brambles arrived. 100 horseradish roots.

Hoophouses. Our new hoop houses have arrived and needs erecting. Pipes hammered into the ground. The old hoophouses are without plastic. We took off the old and its time to put on the new.

Not this Saturday, its not fun to work with a cold drizzle falling, but next Saturday we might invite people to come out and help get the hoophouses ready for planting. Let's see, first, how much work we get done in that direction next week. I'll announce it in next week's newsletter.

Thanks to the people that stayed around last Saturday and helped. We sure picked up a lot of rocks and the help I got with the bees gave me enough free time to go for a hike down the valley.

And speaking of hikes, with spring coming on, think about coming out for a hike. I don't have one yet, but I'll make up a map marking the various trails.

Leigh Hauter

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