Farm Life

I’ve Been Bad

By | Farm Life | No Comments

peacock image from milwalkie zoo

When a friend sharing my zip code sent me over the image of a neighbors’ peacock on the roof of her house, just chilling…I admit I was enchanted. What a cool thing to discover visiting the roof of your house!   Peacocks are stunning animals, I remember enjoying the other-worldly calls they make to each other when I visited the San Diego Zoo as a kid. Some rural folks choose to raise peacocks because they are known to be suspicious of strangers and can be used as an early warning, difficult to circumvent… security system. And who can’t stop in stunned silence when something so beautiful marches by in search of seeds and bugs.

So my daughter’s art assignment two weeks ago required a photo of a peacock from which she could paint. (The prompt was to paint something that “radiated out.” I suggested a pine cone. That wouldn’t do. I suggested a daisy flower. No…that was so a cliché.

Here in Rainbow, California there are quite a few peacocks roaming the streets…yet another endearing quality of living here in this tiny community. You do have to be mindful of driving carefully through the few streets that comprise our little town because of these birds. So camera in hand…mother and daughter ventured off to find a willing peacock to photograph for her project. No peacocks to be found. As is often the case with teenagers, she had allocated no time for Plan B. Certainly no time to drive all the way to the San Diego Zoo to photograph a willing peacock.

We drove to the epicenter of Known Peacock Encounters down the street from the only restaurant in town, and found someone working near the road pruning trees. He didn’t speak English, and my Spanish is…ahem…rusty, as he scratched his head trying to understand what in heaven’s name  I was looking for as I spread my arms wide and wiggled my butt trying to mimic a peacock. Nothing. Then I came up with this embarrassingly simple query that even I could say in Spanish: “Where are the big birds? Only the men are beautiful?: Ahhhhhh! He said. And pointed to a house down the road.

It’s true, only the males sport the colorful plumage. The females are a bit smaller, and are mostly brown. No welcoming signage at the gate, I was wary of entering their property. Word to the wise: strangers are viewed warily out here: agricultural theft is among the biggest issues in Rainbow, and most farmers are ardent 2nd Amendment supporters. Just saying…anyway, the farmers’ young horseback riding daughter caught our eye as she galloped by, and alerted her mom to visitors’ presence.

So we had ventured out an hour earlier with the purely..I swear… innocent intention of coming home with nothing but photographs. But here was my daughter with that “I need this kitten” look on her face, and the cutest hand-raised peacocks you could ask for. Lots of them.   And interestingly, they were being raised with chickens, so these babies would fit right into our free-range chicken aviary because they were already accustomed to living with chickens. There would be the matter of Farm Operations: What To Tell Lance who had placed a moratorium on Strange Acquisitions That Require an Increase in our Feed Bill And That He Has To Feed When We’re On Vacation. Options were weighed and balanced. While I negotiated the possible purchase of a pair of peacocks, my daughter snapped away at the adult males that roamed nearby. Art project mission accomplished.

Since the baby peacocks were the same size as our adult chickens, my daughter suggested Not Telling Lance. As in, he won’t notice right away because they blend…that’s right…they just can mix in with our chicken flock… and we have time to warm him up to the idea. Now I admit, I have owned a secret rooster, but keeping two peacocks that will soon be as big as turkeys a secret is beyond the scope of even what I think I can manage. You just can’t have that as Plan A.   Full disclosure is best here I said. And my daughter was right, we had time, because the baby peacocks really do blend.

So as I sat down to coffee the next morning to go over the day’s farm duties, Louie, the farm manager had stopped to feed the chickens on his way in and discovered “guineas or something in the chicken barn.” I jumped up, coffee in hand and waved the universal shut up gesture across my neck…but too late. Unlike Lucy Ricardo, who typically planned ahead… I hadn’t formulated my exact presentation. You know, what came out, sounded better in my head. “ There’s peacocks in our chicken barn?”

Morning Glories and Bees

By | Bees, Farm Life, Morning Glories | No Comments

morning gloryFor most of my life, I’ve shrugged my shoulders when friends asked me non-edible growing questions. If ya couldn’t eat it, I just wasn’t that interested. Over the years, even my home’s landscaping utilized mostly edibles…sometimes a less than ideal game plan when living under the restrictive guidelines of a HOA as I did in my early 30’s. Just saying….
But in the last few years, I have enjoyed adding non edibles on the farm, and have in particular fallen in love with the humble morning glory. The photo left, features three varieties’ seeds tossed among a row of rosemary. Morning Glories are as easy to grow as radishes, and are a great canary in the cave if planted next to edibles because they show drought stress sooner than the edible plants we have them growing with. I’ve noticed that they’re reseeding each year, so at least here…we haven’t had to plant new seeds each year. They are annuals, rather than perennials which really was among the top reasons I didn’t discover them sooner. I’ve always thought that if I was going to grow a plant that provided no food, at least it should last more than a few months for all the work involved in getting it started. But Morning Glories slide by my Annual Non-edible Nuisance Factor Rule by not needing to be replanted each year. Which is kinda, sorta, like a perennial. And as they twine and reach over stumps and rock outcroppings, their beautiful assortment of colors, sizes, and shades continues to amaze me.

Not that I’m ever going to be a non-edible aficionado, but adding ground cover retains valuable moisture, and in the case of flowering plants, gives our growing bee colonies an option when the occasional week arrives and nothing edible is in bloom. Like cats, bees are cared for or suffer. Yes, bees can be feral, but die-off can be dramatic if a caring beekeeper isn’t keeping tabs on maintaining an easily accessible water source and making sure the hives actually have enough flowers to keep them well fed. One clue that our bees are struggling in the heat is when we see them congregating in every little puddle left behind after the irrigation has turned off. Uncool. We’re hoping to add a tiny water feature near the hives so that our bees don’t have to waste energy searching for water when it gets really hot out here.