Thursday, October 20, 2011

Attack of the 7 ft tall 600 lb black bear.... Or protecting yourself with a flashlight a running shoe and a loud voice.

The attack of the seven foot tall, 600 pound black bear


Armed only with a flashlight, a pair of running shoes and a loud voice

How to protect your beehives from a large bear.

It was 3 in the morning when I finally woke up.  I think the dog had been barking for a while but in my sleep I had been ignoring him.

However, for the past five minutes  the barking had become more insistent  and more terrified.

So I was awake now, and dressed and looking around for my boots. which , of course weren't there, so I put the nearest things on my feet and was walking up the hill carrying a flashlight.

I went past the beehives, turned over and partly dismantled.  I could see bees flying around confused in the light and that's when I saw him.

Silhouetted by the flashlight.   A huge black bear.

Taller than I am. And heavy.  A lot heavier.  Maybe three times my weight.

A combination of the dog with is teeth bared and the shock of the flash light and the bear had run out of the apiary and was climbing an old oak tree --

I lost sight of him for a moment and was standing there, almost under the tree, shining the light up in the leaves and branches and for a moment, there he was, out on a limb,  about 20 feet up in the air.

and then,

there was a crash and something falling

 and standing their facing me, not ten feet away was the bear.

And how about I stop right there and talk about the farm news.

The first thing on the list is this weekend's gleaning.

Gleaning!   Starting at 10:30.  This is for 2011 shareholders only (now, if you want to sign up for 2012 I think we'll let you in, write me).    If you haven't been out in the past this is just about as popular as the seedling give away.  The gleaning is when shareholders can come out to the farm and roam through the fields and harvest the vegetables that are still out there.

How should you dress for gleaning?  We had almost two inches of rain on Wednesday and just under three inches last week  (more rain in the last ten days than we had for the previous four months). so wear shoes that can take walking in muddy fields.

What should you bring?  something to put your gleanings in to. Maybe the farm tote bag.  Maybe something larger.

Maybe a lunch.  We'll keep the gleaning open until most of the vegetables are picked.  That should be around  one or two.

What vegetables are still in the field?

We have a lot of greens.  Several types of lettuce as well as rows of mizuna, arugula and mustard

There are lots and lots of those blue string beans

All sorts of peppers.

Half a dozen varieties of eggplant.

a hoophouse with some tomatoes,

another hoophouse with young cucumbers.

a few okra, Thai basil, some Italian basil. parsley. I doubt if there are many sweet potatoes.  And there might be a few other vegetables besides the horseradish and  root crops that shouldn't be harvested until the first hard frost because they won't have any flavor until then.

Other news                                                                                     

Renewing for 2012-  If you have renewed and sent in your check for half the amount but have not picked up your comb honey I will have it at the farm.  Remember, right now and through the end of the month we will continue with the annual  'renew now and get the next year's share at this year's price.'

Details  I've said this before but here it is again.  The early sign up at 2011 prices works this way.  Tell me you want in the program now and send me the first half payment by the end of the month.  (I'll make that, like I usually do, the middle of November).  The other half is due in May of 2012.

This year we have a bonus for the first 70 signing up early.  A container of comb honey.

Right now it looks like I have 25 containers of comb honey left.  this includes the people who have signed up but not sent their checks or not picked up the honey.   If you haven't got your honey yet, see me Saturday.  (I will not be mailing or otherwise shipping the honey.  To get it you have to get it from me).

If the early sign up isn't for you.  If you haven't made up your mind about 2012 yet. or you might move, or have that large garden you've been promising yourself, I will also  take renewals in the spring.  Of course then they will be paying the 2012 prices, whatever they might be  (I'll decide over the winter and post them in late January).

Eggs.  We'll give out eggs this weekend to 2011 egg shareholders on a first come first serve basis.  After the egg share people have  taken their eggs then we'll give them to gleaners in general.  If you want your kids (or the kid in you) to collect eggs from the chicken house we'll be doing that in the afternoon.

Extra share.  If you missed a week or were eligible for  the extra week's share and didn't get double vegetables last week we will pick a dozen shares and set them aside.  See me for a share if you are eligible.

Apple cider -  for the people signed up we'll start making cider at about 11:30 (give me enough time to get the gleaners on the right track)  I still have to track down another half dozen bushels of cider apples but if you are signed up for cider making this weekend I will have a bushel of apples for you.

And now we can return to the bear.

The bear and I are staring at each other not ten feet apart.

Its dark,

and wet,

and windy

And before the bear could realize that he was three times my size and before I could think civilized type of thoughts, the sort of thoughts you think if people are standing around..

as in-  'I'm coming up out of the metro and up at the top of the escalator I run into a large black bear.  What do I do?'

Since I wasn't near a metro or a cop or anyone else I reacted completely different  than I would if I had.

I looked out for a weapon and not seeing anything I did the only thing I could.

I let out the loudest roar my lungs were capable of.

A sound that wasn't a scream, or a yell or a holler.

A roar.  Something from way back when humans did run into bears or other large animals alone in the forest.

And sound that was something else.

And it must have been because the bear. did not reach over and give me a little tap on the head that would have sent me flying twenty yards down the hill.

Instead, without hesitating, he turned and took off...

and ran for everything he was worth,

ran as hard as it could, as fast as it could.

And was gone into the night.

Soon I heard it crashing into the back gate.  I guess trying to knock it over.  trying to knock over the gate it most likely had previously climbed over or slipped around.

And since the gate didn't give

It began to claw and rip at the double plastic fence  that surrounds the farm.

Pulling at it and heaving up against it until it broke and he was through the inside fence and then tearing at the outside one.

and finally it was through that and  for the next five minutes I could hear it running.   At first madly through the underbrush and trees and then softly, off in the distance until gradually the sound of it escaping disappearing further and further into the wet, and still dark,

early morning,


Other farm news.  I did see the bear one more time.  It was the next night.

I had spent most of Saturday putting an electric fence around the beehives  so when the bear came back that night the fence must have worked because he left the beehives alone and instead went down to the van where I had several bushels of apples just sitting out.

  Just after midnight the dogs started barking  and when I went out there he was with a turned over bushel of apples.  Stuffing apples in his mouth two bites per apple.

When he saw the flashlight,  though, he got up and ran.

Not as fast as the night before.
But I watched him run around the side of the store house and disappear into the forest and (the fence hadn't been fixed yet) through the hole it had made the night before and disappeared into the forest that runs uninterrupted for three miles down to the mill and Interstate 66 at Thoroughfare Gap.

There's plenty of room down that way for him to have found a place to nap for the winter.

And I hope he has.

Since then I haven't  heard from him and the beehives have been left alone.  And hopefully, that's the way it will be out here on the farm for the rest of the winter.


See you Saturday and then after that, in the spring.  Thank you for sharing this last vegetable season with me.