Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 11-6

The first of November starts a string of LAST things as the growing season winds down and the Market closes until Springtime, and we head off to hibernation.

Wait a minute. Something’s not quite right there.

Oh, yeah. Hibernation…

Contrary to popular belief, we do NOT hibernate all winter, or go somewhere warm, or even celebrate the OFF season.

Wintertime is not a vacation. Sometimes it’s anything but! We still do farm sales, there are always animals to care for and somehow the “to-do-list” sprouts even more items that demand our attention.  However, life does move at a different pace and we cannot complain that we are bored.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest…

In keeping with the whole cycle of life deal, we processed the last batch of broilers for 2016. The project went off without a hitch and there is a real sense of accomplishment once we get everything cleaned up and the birds packed into the freezer. We will go into the Winter sales season with well-stocked freezers this year.

one last pen move

catching broilers for processing

time to to get started

the last broiler of 2016
ready for packaging and the freezer

After we got the processing mess cleaned up, Minion1 came to visit us for a little while. It was a beautiful afternoon so we played outside for a long time. We also made countless trips to the barn as he truly loves his critters and wanted to visit the sheep, look for the cats and feed the dogs one more time. The sheep, however, couldn’t figure out the tiny human who had nothing for them to eat, but seemed to appear every time they heard MY voice. They spent the longest time running to the barn (after hearing my voice) and then turning and running the other way once the“tiny human” appeared.

bye-bye sheep!

foggy morning
Wednesday started with fog. And, I mean FOG. It was nearly impossible to see the end of the driveway. Personally, I wasn’t too thrilled with this weather phenomenon as I had an appointment in a town nearly 20 miles from here and driving on the interstate isn’t one of my favorite things anyway. And, the fog just makes it so much worse. However, by the time I got to town, the fog had lifted and it was well on its way to being a beautiful day.
just a few minutes later,
I was sitting at a stoplight in town
wondering at the beautiful day

On my way home, I noted that the local corn harvest is in full swing. Harvest in the big field on the corner has been completed and there is very little corn still standing around the “neighborhood”.  That's another sure sign of the season…
corn harvest

While the Boss didn’t have any corn to harvest, he did decide that it was BARN-CLEANING day, and he was just about finished by the time I got back. (not sorry I missed that) Last year’s waste hay will slowly turn into compost for next year’s crops and the barn is all clean and tidy in anticipation of lambing season. (well, as clean and tidy as a barn can be)
barn cleaning day

just about done

…and speaking of lambing season… 

showing Flehmen response

ewes looking for a hand-out

well-worn ram marker

It was time to remove the ram harness and hang it in the barn for another season. Looks like the first lambs should arrive just in time for New Year’s Eve. The majority of the lamb chop crop will probably be born about two weeks later. There are eleven ewes due in a four day stretch. The barn is going to be a busy place come January, making me wonder…“Off-season”? What “off-season”?

This is the time of year that we see a lot more raptors (that would be hawks, harriers, eagles and yes, even the occasional osprey) as the birds prepare for winter. And, they enjoy a good chicken dinner as much as anyone else, so we need to keep an eye out to prevent losses. This is perhaps the biggest down-side to pastured poultry. More than once, I have seen a hawk rip a hen to shreds. And, more than once, I have had the hawk look directly at me while it was doing so. I was surprised at my most visceral response to save the chickens. (the thought of battling those big talons did slow me down some) But, since the birds are protected by federal law., they may not be eradicated without special permission.  In other words, you can’t go around killing hawks just because they ate your chickens. Other measures must be taken.

hawk from the office window
So, when I heard a hawk screaming in the fenceline outside the office window, I figured I better go outside and do a little investigation. Often, the dogs will scare the hawks away by barking ferociously. (apparently, it was naptime…they didn’t even notice what happened next)

The hawk screeched a little more and flew toward the trees out back. Good riddance!

But, before he got there, the local crows got into the act. Now, crows and hawks are not on friendly terms. As a matter of fact, they are mortal enemies…the hawk being one of the few predators of crows. But, the crows don’t just cower in fear like other birds do. Often, we will see the crows chasing hawks. This is called “mobbing”.

crows "mobbing" a hawk

this crow is dive-bombing the hawk
(he missed)

more "mobbing"

The loud caw-cawing and commotion alerts us to any hawk pressure. And, for the record, the crows are not that fond of the chickens, I think they are just protecting their food source.

When the Boss throws away the broken eggs, or the hens lay in odd and random spots, the crows swoop in to have a feast. Needless to say, we have a fair number of crows in the vicinity and it is not unusual to find egg shells in some pretty weird places. Did you read this one?

So, I guess what happened next was to be expected…one of the crows went on the attack. It flew directly at the hawk, they tumbled in mid-air, both shrieking wildly. A wild free-fall ensued and I’m pretty sure I saw feathers flying. Then, it was over as quickly as it started. The hawk flew off toward the mountains, and the crow returned to its tree, caw-cawing in loud victory. And, I just stood amazed, wishing I had managed to capture that one in something other than an incredibly blurry photo.
I never thought I would say a crow was my "hero"
The hens were safe for another day. And, the rest of the week was pretty tame (read, downright boring) by comparison.

The first Market of November was dark and cold. Really dark and really cold.

November 5th 7 a.m. 

While Accuweather is not known for its accuracy...
 it was cold at the Market!

 And, I don’t think we had even ONE customer during the first hour. However, things picked up and it was a good day. Folks are starting to stock up for the winter months and more than one customer was lamenting their “forced” return to grocery store fare.

Which brings us full-circle to the whole subject of the “off-season”. The last time I wrote about that was five years ago five years ago. So, it might be time to revisit the subject. Maybe at the end of the Market…

we took a little tour around "the neighborhood"
isn't this pretty?

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

Thanks for stopping by. Come back and visit us again real soon.

Here’s the link to the Boss’ Market photos.


  1. Maybe your next dog should be a maremma dog. Ours hates birds and chases off hawks and Ravens alike. We just watched the movie Oddball with the kids and it is about the maremma breed. Very good movie :)

    1. Our Pyrs are generally pretty good about hawk patrol. However, they had been busy in the night killing a gigantic possum, so I reckon they needed the sleep.
      We have a couple of friends who have Maremmas. Nice dogs! But, they tend to range a lot and we're to close to "civilization" for that to be a good fit.
      But, now I think I want to see the movie, too!
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

    2. Interesting. We've had both and our maremma stays home, and watches over the kids, way better then the pyr ever did. I wonder if it is because he's half golden? We are on 5 acres too close to civilization as well.

    3. I wonder, too, if it isn't because he's half golden.
      The two Maremmas I can think of have a range of MILES. Although, there were probably mitigating circumstances. (one was an intact male who I think may have been looking for "love"...he sired at least one set of pups in the area. lol)
      I had no idea you were on 5 acres near civilization. Your photos look like you are in the middle of the wilderness!

  2. Ha ha, who suggested you had a down time, or an off season? Those animals don't hibernate! Hawks and crows, mortal enemies. Who knew? -Jenn

    1. We actually had more than one person think that we went to the islands for the "off-season"! Isn't that hilarious? I can just see us (and the sheep and the chickens, dogs and cats) setting sail for the south seas. HAHA
      Thanks for reading!

  3. That is the prettiest road I have seen in a long time...:) Your chickens looks awesome too. Do you mind if I ask how much you sell each chicken and how much they usually weigh? The ones around here are pretty small. almost like one of those Cornish hens, lol. Ok, not that small....I know the price is more than the grocery and appreciate why. Don't mind paying it at all...just curious about how big yours look.
    Thanks for sharing. We have many owls and a few hawks, but no chickens....or mice....or rabbits, lolol.

    1. Hi Barbara!
      Thanks for reading...and commenting.
      Don't mind answering at all. The weights on the broilers vary a fair amount from batch to batch (weather plays a big role in gain). Generally, they weigh somewhere between 4 and 6 pounds. This year's average is right around 4.5#. That size bird would run about $16.85. ($3.75#)Which, somewhat unbelievably, is the going rate for local, pastured poultry. I completely understand when people balk at this, considering what you can buy chicken for at the grocery store. But, man...are they good! ;)
      Have a great week!

  4. Good Morning Barbara, It is lovely to meet you. I was wandering around the internet, when I discovered your blog, so I thought I would pop by to say hello.
    Funnily enough, I was reading an article the other day, about crows mobbing, but I have never seen it myself, so it was fascinating looking at your photographs.
    I know preparing chickens is a long process, because when I lived in Cyprus, many years ago, my neighbour used to keep chickens and every Sunday, their was the morning ritual of preparing a chicken for the table.
    I have really enjoyed my visit and I will be back to visit again.
    Best Wishes from England.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Daphne!
      Your little note was a great encouragement this morning.
      Have a wonderful week and come back and visit again soon!