Folks, I’m not a big fan of cats, except for some kinds of wildcats, and I’m not a fan at all of mice. Domesticated cats of all breeds are too self-absorbed and aloof for my pet taste and mice are just a plain nuisance all the way around.
However, readers of this column know that I’m a big fan of just about any breed of chicken. Chickens are relatively inexpensive compared to other pets and livestock. Plus, they provide farm-fresh eggs, automatic insect removal from my lawn and gardens, and they’re pretty tasty all fried-up, barbecued, or with noodles.
All the above is leading up to the discovery this week that I have inadvertently — meaning totally accidentally — been raising the perfect kind of chicken for people like me with little use for both cats and mice.
Yep, I’ve discovered that I own efficient “mousing chickens.” As they say, “I done sawed it wit my own eyes.” First, let me explain that early in the spring I planted a cover crop of oats, wheat, barley, turnips and a mix of alfalfa and clovers in an old pit silo after I’d collapsed the steep sides of the silo with my front-end loader and tilled them up so I could get the mower through it. The old pit silo has been a pain ever since I moved here and provided an easy pathway for coyotes and other chicken-loving varmints to sneak in, nab an unwary old biddy, and make an easy escape.
So, one day last week I fired up the lawn mower and started mowing the tall cover crop. Of course, the old hens ran to the sound of the mower becuz they’ve learned that there’s easy bug pickings when I mow. Well, imagine my surprise with the mower flushed out a white-footed field mouse and the nearest old hen gave chase, gave the mouse a wicked peck, and then commenced to devour the mouse all-the-while trying to keep the other nearby hens from stealing and devouring it. Within a minute the mouse wuz gone forever down the hen’s gullet.
“That’s a pretty good deal,” I thought to myself, “a mousing chicken.”
But, that wuzn’t the end of the story. Two days later I wuz using the tractor and front-end loader to aerate my freshest compost pile after the recent rains. The hay in the pile is only partially decomposed and there’s still a good bit of dry moldy hay in the middle of the pile.
As usual, the hens were flocked around just waiting for me to upturn some Junebug grub worms that they love to eat. After I upended the first load of moldy hay, the hens dashed under the loader to grab the grubs, but then I saw two mice come out of the pile and make a dash for the safety of the nearby green grass. Neither mouse made it to safety. Two hens saw them and dispatched them in seconds — just like the hen at the pit silo.
Folks, I’ve raised chickens for a lot of years, and I’ve seen them eat helpless baby mice before, but I’d never actually seen a hen or rooster kill and eat a full-grown mouse. Maybe I’m seeing the evolution of “mousing chickens.” Perhaps some of the new chicks that will be hatching in a couple of weeks will exhibit the “mousing trait.” I may have just accidentally discovered a new way for poison-free rodent control. Letting my imagination run, perhaps my new “mousing chickens” will become an expensive fad and make me rich.
Well, that’s a rich bunch of BS, but it’s fun to imagine.
My ol’ buddy, Avery Ware, told me an interesting true tree story last week. I wuz over playing with his Beagle hound puppies and admired the mid-sized oak trees in his yard. He said, “Milo, there’s a story behind those trees.” And so there wuz. And here it is:
The admirable oak trees are from acorns Avery gathered 32 years ago directly off the historic “Post Office Oak” in historic Council Grove, Kansas. The tree is famous because it actually served as a post office tree for the pioneers going east and west on horseback or in covered wagons. They dropped their addressed letters in the tree’s cavity and pioneers headed in the right way would take the mail in that direction and try to get it delivered correctly.
Avery said he planted 12 acorns one-each in mid-sized flower pots and placed them under the eaves of his home. The first year, nuthin’ happened and he forgot about them. However, the second year he noticed that 10 of the 12 acorns had sprouted and were growing well. The next year, the final two acorns sprouted, too.
That’s when Avery and his wife decided to plant some of the little oak trees in their yard on their 20th anniversary in 1989. Thirty years later the trees are thriving, but, sadly, Avery’s wife is not here to admire the direct offspring of the historic Post Office Oak. But, thankfully, the fond tree-planting memories remain.
Speaking of planting, I finally got a couple of varieties of sweet corn late-planted this morning. But, last week ol’ Nevah and I bought two-dozen ears of delicious, locally-grown sweet corn. Yummy. I finally found some sweet potato plants and I’ll get them transplanted tomorrow.
As for the other garden stuff. I saw this morning that two zucchini are ready to pick. The green beans are 10 days away from harvest. I’ve dug some of the red spuds and white spuds and the rest need digging soon. The tomatoes are growing like crazy as are the rest of the garden crops.
Words of wisdom for the week: “I am who I am. Your approval ain’t necessary.” Have a good ‘un.
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After hail, flooding, a severe drought and a depressed market — all within months — Mike Kertzman says his days of ranching might be numbered.