Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Is She Hot?

It hadn't hit 90 degrees all summer. The day we pulled our hay out of the field, the temperature soared and the hay gods laughed.

We learned from previous years not to call out crew to show up too early. I always thought 9 a.m. was a good time to start, but, in the Coast Range, the dew is still heavy enough in summer to sit on the hay and cause problems if we bale it wet. Teenage boys don't like showing up at 9 a.m. anyway, so the call was put in for an 11:30 a.m. start.

Considering we had about 21 tons to load in the hayloft, the mood stayed pretty light, hay gods or not. That is what I love about high school kids who get better and stronger every summer since the age of 12. This year, if they weren't just graduated from school, they were getting ready for football and basketball season, so the bodies were buff and throwing bales of hay looked easy.

We finished the first third of the field and then caught up with the baler. Time for lunch and a nap. Okay,so they admitted it was a bit hot in the hayloft. The crew decided they would prefer to come back when the hay was totally baled and the sun had dropped down. We reconvened at 5 p.m. as my visions of dinner went down the tubes. 600 bales was going to take a bit to haul to the barn, buff boys or not.

I think we finished around 9 p.m. but since it stays light in early July until after 10, it didn't seem that late. Plenty of times for the boys still to go out. Just enough time for us to take a bath, sit on the couch, and...pass out.

One funny thing happened during the day to demonstrate the minds of our team. When asked about a young woman helping on the farm, I asked the benign question about whether she was hot or not. Think 90+ degrees. Think, "Does she need a glass of water?" Apparently, the young man I asked this of thought I meant the other kind of hot. He babbled a bit. Once we cleared up the confusion, he, at 16, blushed bright red. For my part, I couldn't decide if it was cute or I felt old. Ah, boys will be boys.

Photos: (top) top of field baled evening before pick-up, facing east;(bottom) finishing up the bales from top of field, headed towards farm stay cabin

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2010 Scottie Jones

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Monday, July 12, 2010

The Honey Grove Massacre

When you risk your life to steal eggs from the turkeys, just so you can incubate them and try to be more successful at raising poults to a Thanksgiving weight, it doesn't seem quite fair to get half way to the goal line and have a raccoon change the end game. There are so many calculated steps to raising turkeys in the best of situations. And for what?

Maybe if I hadn't just looked at the turkeys that day and thought how big they were growing. Maybe if we hadn't named one Nellvira after a friend's daughter. Maybe if we had paid more attention to what could get into the enclosure rather than how the babies kept slipping out of it through the lattice work. Or, maybe nothing could have kept this raccoon from taking advantage of not only six turkey poults but also five chicks we had enclosed in the same pen.

The thing about raccoons is that they get into a blood lust with young chickens. This has happened before, but a long time ago. When I think back, I would have blamed the last massacre to ignorance on our part. Now I think it is just a crime of opportunity.

We were new on the farm and we had 12 chicks that were probably three-months old. They had been staying in one side of the coop at night and everything seemed calm. Six were in one section and six in another. I came out one morning and all the chicks were dead or missing in the back part of the enclosure.

The next evening I moved our remaining birds into a smaller coop area since I could see where the raccoon had broken through some rusty chicken wire. When I came out in the morning, the remaining chicks were also dead, strewn over the yard. A new hole had been punched in the wire just to prove a point. My birds had been trapped with a maniac. I had that sick feeling. We re-fenced everything immediately, but, as the barnyard saying goes, "It's like closing the stall door, when the horse has already bolted." or something like that.

The thing about raccoon frenzy attacks is that they don't kill the birds because they are hungry. They kill them because they are blood crazed. Heads are ripped off or guts spilled out, but there is no eating. There are actually very few feathers spread around either. The lesson drives home: the farmer needs to be more attentive, but then, if you think about it, the farmer always needs to be more attentive!

Plus, raccoons are smart. After this last attack, for which one lone chick survived, we set a trap baited with cat food and salmon. If I was a hungry raccoon, I would have gone for the food. But, wait, we said these raccoons aren't killing for hunger. Heck, no! They've been eating all the cherries and berries they can find, enough that there are none left for us.

The only thing we ended up catching was a chicken when I forgot to spring the gate in the morning. It was my escape artist, the chicken that dug up the new garden veggies 2 times running. If I had paused long enough to think about it, I might have left it in the cage to be bait for the raccoon. Could have taken care of two problems at once.

The raccoon has not yet been caught. We have five turkeys left for Thanksgiving... possibly. They are still so small we have them in the house and it's doubtful they will have enough size by November. We removed the massacre enclosure and are re-securing the chicken wire in the coop for a later release. Maybe they will be Christmas turkeys if they ultimately survive the chicken yard battle zone.

The lone survivor of the attack now has a name. We call her Tina Turner. She is a Polish Top Hat and shakes her head of feather hair as only Tina Turner could. So, drum roll please... Presenting...Tina Turner, a hell of a survivor. Let's just hope I haven't jinxed her here. Of course the raccoon will have to catch her first and none of us is quick enough to sneak up on her these days...I doubt even the raccoon!

Photo: Tina Turner as a Polish Top Hat chicken!

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