Spring Week 4: Battle of the Birds

The Japanese turnips planted in February are looking lovely. Weeded, watered, and ready to grow! They need to be thinned, and they're tasty and tender, so enjoy raw or gently cooked.

The Japanese turnips planted in February are looking lovely. Weeded, watered, and ready to grow! They need to be thinned, and they’re tasty and tender, so enjoy raw or gently cooked.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:
Pea Shoots
• Baby Turnip Greens
Siberian Salad Kale
• Broccoli Raab (Rapini)
Swiss Chard
Beets

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

COMING SOON:
Green Garlic
Green Onions
Arugula
Radishes

Dinner tonight is pretty tasty. I picked up some clams at the West Seattle Farmers Market yesterday, so they’re just simply steamed. I also sauteed a little onion, put in a heap of pea shoots and cooked them down a bit, then added some créme fråiche and tossed the works with a little pasta. Not bad—a satisfying spring dinner.

If the weather would just warm up a few degrees, the green garlic and green onions would zip right to harvest size. They’re just barely growing! And soon, we’ll have more. The carrots are getting weeded. I know everyone can’t wait for those.

The mouse carefully dug out these zucchini seeds and nibbled out the meat inside, leaving the shells for me. Surprise! Replanted and covered with plastic domes for protection, round two.

The mouse carefully dug out these zucchini seeds and nibbled out the meat inside, leaving the shells for me. Surprise! Replanted and covered with plastic domes for protection, round two.

It’s a pesky kind of time right now. Rabbits are digging out the germinating peas. Not just nibbling, but actually digging them up. The normal level of rats (always present around here, thanks to the feed mill down the street, and the nature of having a farm) has recently exploded, and we have a mouse in the greenhouse that has dug up all the cucumber and zucchini seeds I started. Tiny little paws working hard to pull those tasty nuggets out of the flats.

Teaching the little dogs to dispose of rats. Here is Mario with his first dispatch. What a good boy!

Teaching the little dogs to dispose of rats. Here is Mario with his first dispatch. What a good boy!

Did you know that a female rat can produce a litter of young every month? The nests we’ve been finding have averaged 10 babies—that’s 120 babies for EACH female. Very quickly, a farm can be overrun by rats. We don’t use poison though. We are working on training our smaller dogs, Mario and Luigi (Corgi/Jack Russell mix) to catch the rats. Here is Mario with his first catch. The cats are good at getting the babies, but not the adults.

An unusual thing has been happening over the last month or so. Typically we don’t have eagles down here, or ravens. We have plenty of different hawks and lots of crows. We don’t see the bigger birds until we go up the hill to Enumclaw. But, for some reason, they’re moving down here. We are seeing three bald eagles, off and on. Luckily they’re not bothering us, but they’ve done significant damage to the neighbor’s duck flock. We have been graced by pieces of duck dropped upon us from the heavens.

Ravens and crows don’t like to share territory. They are cousins, and live at the same position on the food chain. Maybe it’s a feud from way back, who knows. All I know is that when the ravens show up, the crows disappear. And that isn’t all a bad thing.

The crows get pretty thick around here. Hundreds squawking and flocking around. Stealing eggs, pulling up plant tags, digging up germinating peas and corn. Pulling garlic cloves out of the ground. Sometimes we can cover crops and prevent damage. We’ve successfully hung curtains in the chicken house to keep them from flying in and stealing eggs right out from under the hens. They also like to grab baby chickens–definitely not nice, and hard on the bottom line.

So, given the choice we’d rather have a pair of giant ravens than 100 pesky crows. It has been interesting though. The crows send out one emissary to harass the raven, presumably to drive it off. The raven mocks the crow, who flies back to the flock and they send another messenger. This one dives repeatedly, nearly striking the raven, now sitting on top of the chicken house. The raven takes flight and the crow and raven engage in a battle to rival military jets, even incorporating barrel rolls. We cheered! Then, again, retreat and send another crow. This time the raven has figured out that there are eggs lurking under the chicken house and picks one up in its’ mouth and settles down to have lunch. What makes a murder of crows more upset? Not much.

And so it went on, all afternoon. The ravens took turns being harassed, but I’m guessing they enjoyed tormenting their little cousins. And we enjoyed looking up talking raven videos on YouTube. Did you know they could be trained to talk, like a parrot? Amazing. But you don’t want one for a pet. They are flying two-year-olds.

This one says “hello” and “hi”.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFXU7o0fYII

And this one says more!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GusdG_SSWw

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