- Magic Wild Turkey Tricks: I have a magic flock of wild turkeys on the farm. Each evening, between the hours of 4 and 6, they reliably cross the lane and graze on our hill pasture. Yet if I stand quiet in the shadows with my shotgun at the appointed time, they magically never appear. How do they do that?
- Learning to Panic: Living on a farm provides plenty of opportunities in learning to panic. Owning Grainger, a 70-pound adolescent Carolina Dog who still considers chickens chew toys, gives me multiple moments of anxiety each day. Yesterday, I walked around a corner of the barn to find the door to the brooder left open and all 25 4-week-old Barred Rocks scattering to the wind.
- Water Conservation, Part 1: (A timely lesson as our county slips into extreme drought.) Question: If I turn on the water for the hogs in the woods at 8 a.m., at what time will Cindy come in the house to inquire after the length of time the water has been filling the hog trough? Answer: 5 p.m.
- Water Conservation, Part 2: In an effort to redeem myself, I hustle outside and fill up the sheep’s water trough. When it is full, I leave the hose in the trough and carefully disconnect the hose from its source. Doing so allows the hose to act as a siphon … slowly pulling all of the water back out of the trough and onto the parched ground. Later, over dinner, Cindy asks, “I thought you were going to fill up the sheep’s watering trough?” I feign deafness.
The Longer Lesson
Timing Is Everything: One of our nearer neighbors owns six or so dogs, an unruly mix of mutts big and small. The largest are kept penned, bored and alone, and bark morning and evening. Although a good third of a mile from our house, they can still be heard clearly through the windows and walls of my study. Not quite loud enough to disrupt my slumber, they nevertheless disturb my early morning reading and correspondence.
I’d been looking for a way to gently approach the neighbors with the question, “How in the hell can you live with such racket?!” Since their son works on our farm on Saturdays, I decided that would give me a perfect opportunity for a conversation. And, more important, a demonstration of how we manage to be good, quiet neighbors by keeping our animals firmly in check.
Yesterday, after he’d arrived and we’d exchanged a few minutes of pleasantries, the time had come to diplomatically broach the barking dogs.
Having first made a point of disciplining Grainger as he repeatedly lunged at a chicken on the other side of a fence, I began, “Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask …”
Alas, it was at that very moment that the sheep chose to begin their morning cacophony, drowning out my words, “… about your barking dogs.” Their bleating was immediately overwhelmed by the cattle in the lower pasture as they began bawling lustily for fresh hay. The sounds echoed off the ridges and continued for the next 15 minutes, disturbing the peace of everyone within a mile.
Half an hour later, our farm helper reminded me politely that I had wanted to ask him something. “Never mind,” I said. “We can talk about it another time.”
Reading this weekend: The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman. A re-reading of this modern classic to prepare us to use our new hoop house.