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Friday, May 31, 2013

Heritage Rhode Island Red Chicks Arrive (Blog 140)

Yesterday began Elaine's and my foray into raising heritage Rhode Island Red chickens.  Brice Yocum, who operates Sunbird Farms in California, shipped us five eight-week-old birds which arrived in much confusion.  Brice shipped them overnight on Tuesday, but the quintet did not arrive on Wednesday or Thursday morning.

When we began to fear for the birds' survival, as they were traveling from California to Botetourt County, Virginia, Elaine received a call from the Troutville Post Office that they had arrived and needed to be picked up by noon.

Once here, though, the youngsters seemed none the worse for their cross country junket, and after I put them in the chicken tractor, the chicks began busily foraging. Our daughter Sarah and grandson Sam also came over to see the newcomers. The next problem was introducing them to our two-year-old chickens: Ruby, Little Spotty, Tallulah, and Dot.

Predictably, Ruby, our alpha female, erupted in loud squawking and bit a chunk of feathers out of one of the chicks.  Dot, who often pecks us, attacked one of the chicks and was about to do so to another one.  But Dot had picked on the largest of the chicks, which I already had identified as the alpha male of the two young roosters that arrived.

The cockerel stood his ground at Dot's advance, flared his wings to make himself look bigger, and, to my great interest, Dot quickly backed down.  This cockerel clearly has potential as a future flock leader.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

First Strawberries of the Season (Blog 139)

This Saturday, Elaine and I spent the morning performing chores that I had neglected because of my turkey hunting trips in Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee.  We put new mats in the hen house, planted sweet potatoes and chives, and I swept out the wood chips and straw that had accumulated in the garage.

But the most pleasurable thing I did was gather the first strawberries of the season from our garden.  As always, I brought the berries to Elaine and told them they were all for her.  Typically, given how sweet she is, Elaine offered to let me have them all or at least to share them.  But the first strawberries of the season should always go to someone who is my best friend/girlfriend/helpmate/wife.

We have a lot of projects to accomplish this Memorial Day Weekend, as I don't return to teaching school until Tuesday.  We are going to gather up leaves from our woods and dump a huge pile in the chicken run.  I am betting the birds will be thrilled to explore this gift to them.

Then I have to do some wood cutting, as several more dead or dying trees on our 38 acres need to be cut, and they are just the right size for firewood.  But the most wonderful part of the holiday is spending lots of time with Elaine.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Eating Locally (Blog 138)

Yesterday for dinner, Elaine and I sat down for a meal where most of what we ate came from local food sources.  The entrée was venison burger, which came from a deer that I killed on a farm 4.1 miles from our house.  Topping our burgers were onions from our garden.

Our green vegetable was asparagus that I picked a few minutes before from our backyard garden.  Elaine sautéed the asparagus in olive oil.  Also from our garden were some chives that were harvested at the same time the onions and asparagus were.  The chives went on our baked potatoes.

Of course, it is too soon for potatoes from any garden in Southwest Virginia where we live, and our whole wheat bread didn't come from our land, either.  But all in all, I think the meal was a good example of leaving a small carbon footprint.  The only downside was that we were too full to have some blackberry jam (made from blackberries I picked behind our house last July) slathered on toast.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

West Virginia Turkey Hunting in the Rain (Blog 137)

After finishing up my turkey hunting in Virginia last week, I turned to spring gobbler hunting in West Virginia this week, taking a half day off school as part of our personal leave program on Friday and spending all morning in the woods on Saturday.

Friday, I called two different gobblers in but did not see either one of them - not surprising given the mountainous terrain I was hunting in the Mountain State.  Saturday was a miserable one, spent on a cold, breezy, rainy mountaintop.

Around 8:30, I heard a hen yelp and several minutes later two hens meandered in.  Unfortunately, no gobbler was in tow, so the females left the way they came after taking a look around and not seeing the fellow hen (me) that had called to them.

I knew the conditions would be miserable, but I enjoy spring gobbler hunting so much that I went anyway.  Over the years, I have killed very few spring gobblers when precipitation was taking place, but the more I dogo in the rain, the more I am beginning to believe that precipitation is largely irrelevant to turkeys.

The exception would be when a heavy rain is falling.  I have never seen any gobblers when that was taking place, only a few bedraggled hens.

I will be able to take one more vacation day from school and one more Saturday is left in West Virginia's season if I want to punch a tag as the coming week is the last one in the season.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Success in the Virginia Spring Gobbler Woods -Finally (Blog 136)

I have failed to punch that third and final tag all sorts of ways this spring in Virginia's fields and forests.  I have moved at the wrong time, not moved at the right time, set up too far away and too close to birds.

But Wednesday morning things finally broke my way.  I had set up a good hour before sunrise near a known roosting area.  I had anticipated that the turkeys would be well up the hill some 75 to 100 yards away from me and that they would make their way toward me as I called.  I had chosen this particular spot because it is near a field that these turkeys like to feed in early in the morning.

However, my distance estimation was totally incorrect.  A gang of four to six jakes were roosted just 25 yards from my position.  They never made a peep all morning, just flying down right in front of me to my surprise.  I shot the closest one and my Virginia season was over, except for taking a friend afield and hopefully my son Mark and son-in-law David.

Meanwhile I have gone to West Virginia, coming agonizingly close to killing a bird on Thursday when I  took a half day of vacation time from school.  Saturday, I was never in the game as the wind howled and the toms gobbled only on the roost.

I have two Saturdays and a 1 1/2 days left of school vacationto take a West Virginia bird.  Will I have enough time?