It's been a very rainy few days down at the farm; everything looking like a mud soup (with the occasional vegetable medley). We got our first chickens for our own personal egg production from a friend of Skip's who raises chickens for a living. Gifted four Rhode Island Reds just about to lay. Their bodies seem to reflect their "teenager" status; some parts seemingly full grown, some parts lanky and awkward, all parts moody with attitude. We are planning out our rotational grazing flock now, which should materialize very soon (keep your eyes peeled for beautiful, grass fed eggs at your local Market.)
We've had some bad luck trying to start our crops next to a thriving rodent population. Their mischievous nature has made it near impossible to evade their regular robberies of our seeds and seedlings. I'm not a huge fan of traps and death, so it has been a true test of our patience trying to use positive energy and ingenuity to secure our fort and stabilize a symbiotic relationship. I worked raising calves for a woman named Johanna Laggis on a 400 cow dairy farm in East Hardwick, Vermont a few years back who solved a similar problem in a way I find to be quite amazing.
Johanna raises some of the healthiest Jersey Calves in the state of Vermont, utilizing preventative medicine techniques and a state-of-the-art barn that gives each calf extra comfort and breathing room. This barn is well ventilated, and for that reason, she had House Sparrows come in and eat the feed from the calf bins. While this was not much of a big to do, each bird not taking much grain or water from any one bucket, the birds began to deposit the digested grains all over the place. Johanna began to worry that the poop on the buckets would make her herd sick (let alone it was a horrible chore cleaning them out incessantly) and decided to ask the birds to leave.
She went into the barn one morning and explained to the birds that they could drink as much water as they wanted and feed on the grain from the buckets as long as they did not poop where the calves were feeding. After a week or two, Johanna noticed that her respectful positive energy had cured the poop problem and while the birds continued to roost in the rafters of the barn, they did not poop where the calves ate their food or drank their water.
Now I know this sounds hard to believe, but since that day I have heard several stories similar to this one from vegetable production farms, to livestock farms. Johanna is a very scientific, sensible woman herself and I can't imagine her believing something like this unless it had happened to her, first hand. Now here lies my real problem...
Last night I tried to employ this method. Elliot and I sat in the greenhouse and explained our situation to the rodents of the farm. I had to ask Elliot to leave when I spoke, in fear that his presence would make me laugh or not take the situation seriously. I poured my heart out to the rats, explaining that this was my soul source of income and in human terms that is unfortunately the best survival technique I've got. I told them I loved them and asked them, for their safety, to avoid the peanut butter traps.
The next morning we awoke to the biggest raid yet! The One trap nibbled on, another trap dismantled and covered in ants. An entire tray of Spinach gone with Pac Choy and Kohlrabi seedlings nipped down to the soil. Maybe I said the wrong things. Maybe I lacked rodent finesse! Whatever happened, I seemed to have made it worse. If anyone knows the appropriate words to use with rats or what turns them off, let me know!
For now, I will continue to try and reconnect myself to the whispers of Mother Nature; rediscover the language of Symbiosis found in many multi-species relationships. I do wish I were better at picking up languages.