Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Worms, Glorious Worms!

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Free Fall

It's been awhile since I last updated the agricultural hijinks at Rock's Roost.  Nothing too much is going on right now, with the major emphasis being on hunkering down in preparation for winter.  

The big news is we now have a farm truck here at The Roost, a basic necessity for rural living.  The truck, a 1994 Chevy Silverado, is unique in that it has a fire motif, being red with a white front and yellow flames stretching across the hood toward the cab of the truck.  I really wasn't shopping for a truck that was embellished with flames, but that's what I ended up with.  Rosie likes it.

One of the first things I did with the new truck was to rush out and buy a couple of loads of straw and bagged top soil.  Some of the straw went into the peacocks' aviary where it was spread around, by both me and the peacocks, to provide a dry place to walk when the weather is wet or inclement.  The birds also like digging through it for seeds and bugs.  The rest of the straw, twelve bales, went into storage in the barn where it will serve as peacock roosts during the winter months and also keep wind from blasting through some the many cracks and holes in the ancient barn.  I will probably invest in more straw while the weather remains unseasonably warm and nice.

The peacocks are doing fine and are fairly secure from predators in their elaborate home and pen - although there is still lingering evidence of the two skunks which have been seen in and around the barn on occasion.  One night I even saw the skunks in the aviary, where they seemed to be posing no threat at all to the structure's intended occupants.   The regal birds, in fact, ignored the striped and smelly interlopers.

Little Peewee, the only addition to the peacock flock this year, is about two-thirds grown and has revealed herself to be a young peahen.  Peewee still sleeps on a roost next to her mother, usually under mama's wing - and the other adult birds still pick on her at every opportunity.

Fiona, the cat, likes to eat and sleep.  I feed her twice a day - very early and very late - and see her munching on the occasional mouse during the day.  Fiona naps most days in the barn where she is basically ignored by the peacocks.  She has had her rabies shot in case she has a close encounter with one of the skunks, but she is fairly smart as cats go and I doubt that will happen.  Usually Fiona's nights are spent in the chicken coop where she likes to curl up and snooze in one of the hen's nesting boxes.

Hector, the duck, who was hatched out with one other duckling (since deceased) and fifteen baby chickens in the incubator this past July, has revealed himself to be a boy.  He is solid black with a green tinge.  I almost named him Chuck, but finally opted for Hector - a name from two television programs that I've watched over the spring and summer.  Hector MacDonald, the original Laird of Glenbogle on the BBC show, Monarch of the Glen, was a little duck of a man, and Hector, on the A&E series, Longmire, was a Native American vigilante - with no duck connection whatsoever - but who doesn't admire vigilantes, particularly in the age of Trump?

The chickens have self-divided into two flocks, with the ones born in the incubator in one, along with Hector, and the older hens and roosters in the other.  The older birds sleep in the chicken coop and range further than the young ones, often venturing into the front yard to enjoy the scraps beneath the bird feeder.  The younger chickens stay in the back yard, enjoy scratching the soil in the garden area, and sleep in the pen in which they grew up.  Hector, the lonely duck, is always with them.

Yesterday morning as I was walking across the back yard scattering bits of bread for all of the assorted fowl, the place suddenly exploded in sound and action as if a bomb had gone off.  The birds all began squawking and screaming at once and running for cover.  Immediately a large hawk sailed overhead and landed in a nearby tree where he remained several minutes, no doubt making mental notes on where the birds had all gone.  Eventually he left.  One of the more interesting scenes from that trauma was the younger chickens gathering under a large Rose of Sharon bush before rushing, in a straight line, into an annex to the chicken coop.  Hector occupied the center spot in that fast moving line.

The three guineas are all doing fine.  They are still around because they developed the good sense to spend their nights shut up in the chicken coop along with Fiona and the older chickens.  Guineas aren't always known for bonding to people, but these three are always right at my heels when I am passing out bird treats.  It was the guineas who gave off the loudest alarm when the hawk came calling.  

The bagged top soil that I have brought from town over the past few days is for my fall bulb-planting project, an annual dig in which I seed the ground with daffodil and tulip bulbs in anticipation of a colorful spring.  Usually I dig up enough rocks, which I then remove, to require extra soil to place around the bulbs.  Yesterday afternoon I began digging around the fire pit in the back yard, with the intent of bordering it with a large circle of narcissus bulbs.  The ground in that particular area is rich, fairly rock free, and easy to dig.   I careful shoveled the soil out of my round trench and into four large piles that were arranged beyond the circle in a very OCD clock style - with the north pile being first at twelve o'clock, followed by three other piles at three, six, and nine o'clock respectively.  By the time I was working on the nine o'clock pile along the west side of the circle, I began to sense that I was being followed.  I looked over my shoulder and founded that the older hens had attacked the other three piles digging for worms - which were in abundance.  Each of those three piles was basically leveled by the time I discovered what the hungry hens had done.

So I started singing my favorite chicken song, a little ditty by Colonel Sanders that begins, "I like my chicken finger-licking good!"    They took immediate offense and moved on to other pursuits, more than satisfied with their surprise afternoon treat.  A few of the girls clucked back at me, Worms, glorious worms!" as they scampered away.

Here at Rock's Roost we all try to get along!

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