Spring Week 5: Crows

The rapini is gone for the year. Warm weather is good for many things, but it makes the brassicas flower like crazy.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
• Claytonia or Rapini
• Radish Greens
• Purple Sprouting Broccoli
• Swiss Chard
• Green Garlic
• Sorrel or Parsley

Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

COMING SOON:
Baby Beet Greens
Carrots
Arugula

The reason we don’t advertise our Spring Season, or accept many families into our Spring Season is because it is fickle. Sometimes it is even a volatile season. The first four weeks of Spring have been amazing this year. Abundant, varied, and tasty. As much as we all love and appreciate the warm, sunny weather, that same weather encourages the overwintered plants to burst suddenly into flower. That means the rapini is a field of beautiful yellow blooms—the bees are loving that field, and are bringing basketloads of honey back to the hives to feed their brood. Unfortunately, that means we’ve reached the hump, or rather, the valley of spring. The overwintered crops are petering-out, and the spring-planted crops are not-quite-ready.

BTW, Radish Greens are pretty tasty. I found them mild and tender enough to chop and use as salad—kind of like arugula. You can also cook them like turnip or mustard greens. We don’t know why the greens got so big, but at least they taste good.

So, for the upcoming beautiful sunny weather forecast, we will have a corresponding low produce forecast. There is not as much to harvest this week, and probably not next week either. However, the outlook is good afterwards.

Usually, these weeks of increasing daylength are when we experience our annual overabundance of eggs. And, until last weekend, the hens were outdoing themselves—60+ eggs each day from only 90 hens. More than respectable production. But suddenly, around last Friday, they dropped to only 35 or so eggs per day. It took some investigation, and observation to finally figure out the problem.

Crows.

Crows are a remarkable species. In my mind, they rank with rats, starlings, and possibly cockroaches. Adaptable, intelligent, inventive, and destructive. We’ve had plenty of experience with this species that seems to have very few predators. The seem to constantly increase in population. They eat anything, and find fun in everything—one of their favorite games seems to be plucking newly-planted garlic cloves out of the ground in the fall, so that they all have to be re-planted. Solve that by covering the beds of garlic with fabric. I painstakingly put plant-name markers in every planting, so that I can evaluate different varieties of each crop. They love to pull out the tags and strew them around the field, and it doesn’t matter how deep I stick them in the ground—they dig them out just to peeve me. And, they love eggs. They have figured out how to get into an exposed egg carton and dig the eggs out. They have figured out how to get inside a box covering the egg cartons and dig the eggs out. Now, they have decided that it is cool to go inside the chicken-house and get into the nests on the back side of the house and steal the eggs. The chickens don’t seem to care. We have temporarily solved this problem by gathering the eggs several times a day, AND hanging a floppy feed bag in the doorway. Now that we know this is the problem, we will be hanging a curtain there.

Crows are clever. They learn. They mock and imitate noises—or voices. They can use tools. They communicate with each other and devise plots against other creatures—other birds, cats, humans. When I was a kid, my dad had an artist friend who loved birds. He had a falcon, or maybe it was a hawk, but he also had a pet crow. He found it as an orphaned nestling and raised it. The crow believed the man was his mate and brought him presents. Hmmm, presents? He learned after a few “presents” not to open his mouth around the crow, or it would be stuffed with tender worms, or regurgitated frog. Only the best for a mate. Certain tools, or sparkly, shiny objects would suddenly go missing. Then, the man found a stash one day of all the shiny, missing objects—an earring, a watch, a spoon, pieces of tin foil, buttons. The man was a metalsmith, so there was no shortage of shiny, special things that he could borrow from its mate. They are devoted mates, after all. Click here for more information on this artist: http://www.lesperhacs.com

I just wish they would evolve a bit more and move past vandalism. It amazes and frustrates me how a crow can tell if you are actually holding a pellet gun, or pretending with a stick. Just try it sometime. They KNOW.

Here are some other interesting links about crows. This one, by a UW biologist about how crows can recognize different human faces: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/26/science/26crow.html

And here is a PBS documentary on crows: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/a-murder-of-crows/introduction/5838/

And, if you have a chance, I highly recommend reading “King Solomon’s Ring” by Konrad Lorenz. We had a copy in our house, and I read it at least a dozen times when I was 14-15. That was before my Stephen King phase. But, I still have that book on my shelf, and I am still fascinated by how many insects a tiny shrew needs to eat each day to stay alive. Here is a page from Chapter 11:

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One response to “Spring Week 5: Crows

  1. Shelley, I love hearing about life on the farm. Here in Lake City, the crows are a huge nuisance getting into the garbage and spreading Dick’s hamburger wrappers all over the neighborhood. I never stopped to think what a nuisance they would also be at the farm. I think of them as a city bird, but you guys are an urban farm! 🙂

    A late spring recipe for week 5 – a smaller box of veggies is just fine if you’re like me and trying to eat down the rest of last year’s produce so you can defrost your freezer!

    Cold Pea Salad

    1 bag of frozen peas, thawed and drained (from u-pick at the farm last spring/summer)
    Chopped green onions or green garlic
    Chopped French breakfast radishes
    Roasted almonds, chopped (I toss the hot almonds with tamari or ume plum vinegar to salt them)
    Mayonnaise
    Curry powder
    Salt and pepper to taste (remember your almonds are salted!)

    Toss everything in a medium sized bowl and serve at room temperature or chilled. If you’re not serving right away, keep the nuts separate until just before serving and keep the dish chilled in the refrigerator due to the mayonnaise in the dressing.

    Adapted from Simply Recipes – http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/cold_pea_salad/

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