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Blown Away

May 14, 2015
Shot Wing's mate

Shot Wing’s mate

I am blown away by all the wonderful comments!  THANK YOU so much for all the kind words and ideas for future blog posts.  It’s always nice to get a little pat on the back now and then.  Again, thanks so much.

Why the raven picture you ask?  Well, we owe that raven big time, he and his mate Shot Wing used to guard our pastured poultry flock from hawks.  We called the pasture the No Fly Zone.  Really they were guarding their young that they always raise in our watershed, but we benefited from their diligent parenting.  When we sold pastured eggs we never sold floor eggs, it was just a thing we had, by floor eggs I mean eggs we found (in deep bedding you never know how old that egg is) on the floor of the greenhouse we wintered the hens in, and that transferred to pasturing season too.  No worries there, because the ravens took care of that too.  We always had a hen or three in 900 that just couldn’t seem to figure out to lay in the nest boxes, or to give them the benefit of the doubt, you’ve seen the lines at the privies at a concert, ladies you know what I mean… . Maybe when the egg was imminent the preferred nest box was busy.  I have no idea, but I know the ravens would swoop in on a daily basis and grab the floor eggs.  Or I should say raven, because Shot Wing was usually on the nest, so her mate would swoop in and grab an egg and head for the timber where the nest is.  And it was funny, as dumb as I think chickens are, they knew that big shadow the raven cast was not a danger to them.  Our broilers weren’t quite so lucky, when it was time to take the pasture pens to the field the ravens showed up, knowing that little meaty morsels would soon be in those metal and wire boxes.  Part of the yearly inspection included making sure there were no gaps that a raven beak would fit into for pulling a chick wing or leg through.  Wicked birds they can be.  Stop gap measures literally were needed.

Many years have went by, and we’ve stopped doing pastured poultry, but our long-lived raven pair is here and two sets of their offspring have nests as well on different parts of the farm.  Usually in the fall when the babes are getting ready to leave the nests and care of their parents for good they have a confab here in the home pasture.  Carrying on, games in flight, a group of raucous ravens and then they’re gone.  But unless it’s hunting season (carrion everywhere) the ravens are here every morning at chore time, and when the young hatch they come twice a day.  I give them two eggs.  If I forget, or don’t notice the silent sentinel, they make a noise to remind me.  When my daughter’s horse was still alive they developed a hankering for Equine Senior, Raven Senior?  Getting a photo of them in flight with the egg in their beak is hard, they hate the camera.  Two-legged with box near face is bad.  Bring eggs only no box.

new pullets
To that end, I raise a few extra pullets each year to supply the ravens with their daily eggs.  We haven’t sold eggs since 2008 but the ravens are still here and we enjoy them.  They aren’t a bother, they don’t take more than they are due, and we are still grateful for all that hawk hazing they did.


40 Comments leave one →
  1. Evangeline permalink
    May 14, 2015 6:42 am

    I too have missed your blog! Have learned so much over the years reading about your daily life, it’s been missed~

  2. Laura Wentz permalink
    May 14, 2015 6:53 am

    I’m one of the people who is guilty of reading and following you & never commenting. I have missed seeing your regular blog posts but check in every day and look at your Instagram photos. It’s always interesting to see what you’re doing! Thank you for taking the time and effort to do all of this.

  3. May 14, 2015 6:57 am

    i too, have an affinity for ravens. on the ranch where i lived a few years ago there was a pair that nested in an old barn every year. the fledglings would practice flying back and forth inside the barn. there too, they would take “floor eggs”. occasionally i had hens that would lay in a grassy spot in the garden instead of the box and those eggs were for the ravens. there are ravens that pass through on my little farm where i live now but i do miss having resident ravens about. most people consider them a nuisance but there is something about them i connect with.

  4. May 14, 2015 6:59 am

    We don’t have ravens, but we have crows – same thing. They sort of guard the place and perform clean-up duties. I really like them, noisy as they are. Those are good-looking chicks! What breed are they? And you can add me to your fan club. I love your blog and really look forward to your posts!

    • May 14, 2015 7:53 am

      I miss the crows, we have them in the winter, and then they summer lower down, and come back about late summer to feast on crickets. They steer clear of my garden since I killed one and hung it on the bean pole so many years ago. They have spread the word to leave my corn alone. They know the garden is okay to be in during the off season, but summer is off limits. Smart birds.

    • May 15, 2015 3:28 am

      We have a pair of crows but here in Western Mass where they roost is 25 mins (by highway) south of us. Apparently they like to roost near fast food places…. They fly up and back each day, and have done so for many years. They have never given us problems but then, we don’t raise corn. The raccoons saw to that….

  5. May 14, 2015 7:00 am

    and, i meant to add that i enjoy your blog very much—thank you for sharing.

  6. Bee permalink
    May 14, 2015 7:03 am

    Yes, your readers have clearly spoken, Nita, so please don’t give up the longhand blog for Instagram. I thought of another blog idea, by the way. I’ve googled your place (don’t know how old the picture is) and it looks as though you have a variety of outbuildings. Could you share just what’s out there and how you use them?
    Wish my ravens would do what yours do! We have both ravens and red-tailed hawks, as well as some Harris’ hawks on the place. The ravens don’t chase the hawks off, doggone it — the hawks are my worst chicken predators, despite also having plenty of foxes, bobcats, coons and coyotes around. I finally had to give up on trying to pasture chickens unless they were in the roofed chicken tractor (and that’s currently out of commission due to a bear tantrum inside it). I’d happily share some eggs if the ravens would take over guard duty.

    • May 14, 2015 8:13 am

      Bee, ugh, google is about 5 years old and Bing might be 4?, it’s sure fun stalking myself, you see paddocks etc, where the broiler pen was and is going…but it’s a little different now, a lot of chicken stuff is gone, thank heavens. Decommissioning a poultry business is for the birds, they are so single-use only with all their gear, unlike grazers. I still need fence, gates etc, even if we didn’t have cows. Poultry tools are ridiculous, so specialized. Still cussing poultry greenhouses too, we are stuck with our concrete footings for the foyer in one, and it sure makes it a $?SS**! to till in there with a tractor. But, that’s a good idea, Chris at Chism asked me to draw up a map of our zone one once and I’ve never done it. Adapting new uses to old farm stuff has its perks and downfalls. But old farms were designed to make it easy on the user, because so much was done by hand, now it’s called PERMACULTURE 😉 But I perfectly understand someone new to farming with a bare piece of land, and no idea about how to make it efficient… Our rule of thumb is no destroying any pasture! No buildings outside the main area, and no pigs rooting up perfectly good sod. Good idea Bee. I kinda wish they would update their maps, my girlfriend who lives about 5 miles from here is over the line towards more population so their place is up-to-date although maybe that’s not such a good thing…

      • Bee permalink
        May 14, 2015 8:21 am

        Yes, if I had to make a choice between out-of-date Google and more population, I’d much rather be out of date. Probably not going to be an issue for us for many years, as we’re too far out, given the current rate of growth. and I seriously doubt the economy is suddenly going to get into high again for many years…

        • May 14, 2015 9:19 am

          Yeah, and we’re in a no-build zone here, so not any chance of any subdivisions or anything going in at all.

  7. May 14, 2015 7:04 am

    I didn’t get a chance to read all the comments on your blog yesterday or add my own heart-felt appreciation of the knowledge you share here, so that’s on my list to do today. You are much more appreciated and widely read than you may think. My dh hears a lot about what Throwback has to say whenever we are tackling something new on the farm or just looking for a better way to do something. Please keep doing what you do, both on the blog and in Instagram!

  8. Elva permalink
    May 14, 2015 7:07 am

    Been busy moving fence, as the cattle are FINALLY out (oh happy days!), but wanted to say that I have missed seeing your blog and reading about your grazing and Jane. Your gardens are absolutely spectacular! I have a new Maremma puppy and have woefully neglected mine except for the tomatoes, as nothing is more important than that puppy! I always look forward to reading your interesting and informative posts.

  9. pam vandel permalink
    May 14, 2015 7:08 am

    I signed up yesterday…actually, I have been reading your blog daily for over a year now.  Just moved to Oregon from Missouri. I had a huge garden, 100 sow, and raised dairy replacements in Missouri.  Now in Oregon, I find your blog very helpful figuring out what varieties do well here.  I love that you take the time to explain the ‘why’ of things….I am so envious of your two green houses…I am using a lot of row cover here..seems to help fight the cold nights we still get.  I keep up with a number of blogs AND YOURS IS DEFINITELY MY FAVORITE.  Your pictures are so professional….Jane is perfect!   Thanks for all the time you spend sharing your life.Pam Vandel

  10. christinalfrutiger permalink
    May 14, 2015 7:19 am

    Nita, did I miss something? Did Jane already have her calf this year or was she not expecting one or is she still preggers? I love your blog and don’t want you to change thing except maybe more posts! 🙂

    • May 14, 2015 7:49 am

      She’s preggers and not due until October :p So long lactation on my quest for getting her back in sync with spring calving! It takes years.

  11. Allisa Imming permalink
    May 14, 2015 7:36 am

    It’s very cool…the symbiosis you have with all of your animals.
    And they with you : their human.

  12. May 14, 2015 7:50 am

    I’m a quiet regular reader, too. Always interested in the doings at your place. I’d like to read more about your old orchards – varieties of trees, how you maintain them at 125 years old! Or anything you write about, really.

  13. deb permalink
    May 14, 2015 9:23 am

    I will just add my appreciation for the blog on top of all the other comments. Thus is one ofnthe most inspirational and informative blogs I follow. ‘Nuff said! Love this raven post. They are amazing creatures. We had a nesting pair at our former property. I miss them here. My hubby got to watch them battle a golden eagle who was probably after their eggs or youngsters..
    i always love seeing cattle pictures. As an artist, I would love a photo essay or some of your favorite cattle pics -with your permission they might end up in a painting!

  14. Sherri Killion permalink
    May 14, 2015 9:26 am

    Glad to see you are back to blogging again. I have been a lurker for years and didn’t appreciate you enough until you were gone. Don’t leave us again:)! I enjoy just seeing the routine seasonal work that goes on at your place. It encourages me as I do my routine seasonal work here at my place. As Wendell Berry says…we all have a place. The older I get, the more I know what he means. No one can occupy my place like I can but I still enjoy seeing what goes on at other places too. Take care and keep up the good fight on the farm!

  15. christinalfrutiger permalink
    May 14, 2015 11:38 am

    Did you plan to have her calve in October because I thought you did prefer spring calving? You bet crows/ravens are smart…I had a pet crow as a kid and he was smarter than all the neighborhood kids were…including me…but we has a special relationship so he didn’t try to outsmart me too much! 🙂

    • May 14, 2015 12:44 pm

      Chris, definitely not planned for October, but I working my way forward to spring calving after this one. I bet that crow was smart, these are so funny. They remembered we used to feed the pigs cracked eggs back in the day, now we don’t have extra so the pigs don’t get eggs, but the ravens sure hung out with them for a week before they decided they were wasting their time waiting for eggs.

  16. Jay permalink
    May 14, 2015 12:03 pm

    Thanks for the post again. I gain so much by reading them. The common sense info is helpful and refreshing. What do you use for a planter in your gardens? those are some straight lines….

    • May 14, 2015 12:41 pm

      Jay, I use my tractor and tiller width as the spacer, each tiller pass is a row, wide spacing because the plants have to look for water since I rarely irrigate that garden. When I plant though they get a little wonky, since I just eyeball it, but I’m hand seeding and not selling so perfection is not my worry.

  17. Veronica permalink
    May 14, 2015 3:02 pm

    Hope I’m not late to hop on the bandwagon! I truly enjoy reading your blog. I like your writing voice and the way you explain not just how you do things, but why.

    I don’t have my own land (yet) but I dream of the day. Because of the wonderful way you explain things I would love to see the following as blog post topics: Sheep (I know you’re all about the cows) but I’m very curious about all the aspects of raising and caring for sheep. It doesn’t seem you use them for dairy, but do you use their fleeces? Or are they just lawnmowers? Do you have to feed them anything extra (minerals, etc) What kind of maintenance do they require? Any thoughts on using sheep for diary? I”m sure cows are superior for that, but from what I understand sheep require less land and may be the only option for some. I”m not interested in goats, too much mischief!

    Any posts involving more details about animal care (hoof trimming, illness, etc) Also, and this may seem silly, but what about cats and dogs? I ask because I’ve only ever had an indoor cat. Some day when I have land I plan on having dogs and probably barn cats. But where do you get them? Do you have them fixed, why or why not? what and how much do you feed them? do you have to assist with flea and tick control, if so, how? Do you do anything special to help them through the winter? Do they get shots like for rabies, etc? And for the cats and dogs that are inside and outside at times, how do you control fleas and ticks?

    Whew, I kind of threw a lot at you there! At any rate, I love reading your blog. And though it may seem repetitive to you, it is informative, comforting, and inspiring to me. Thanks for sharing on your blog.


  18. Martha permalink
    May 15, 2015 1:45 am

    Sorry I didn’t comment on the last post! Sometimes I feel like a little bird at this screen with my mouth wide open, waiting to be fed. I’ve read your blog for two or three years now without commenting and I’m very sorry. It’s kinda parasitical I guess. In a real conversation, at least you’d see me smiling and nodding, even if I said nothing! But I love what you write, and I’m sorry I don’t join in and comment. I’ll make an effort in that direction. Your posts on gardening often give me ideas to implement in my own young garden. I love your posts about your cows too. I don’t have cows, but I would love to have some on down the road and what I read here gives me some insight into what that would entail. I guess as far as ideas for posts, I’d say don’t feel that just because you’ve posted about one thing before that you can’t post about it again. Farm life is endlessly repetitive and yet endlessly creative. Your posts should and do reflect that. I’m a musician, and music is not about finding different chords to play (unless you play jazz…), but about finding a different way to express the same chords.

    Thank you so much for writing. Yours is one of my favorite reads.

  19. Dee permalink
    May 15, 2015 1:56 am

    Love reading your blog. I get excited each time I see a new post when I open my email. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. I’ve learned a lot from you. That is an awesome story about the ravens. That is a good partnership for sure. I remember a long time ago reading, in one of your blogs, about the different swirls in the hair of your cow’s abdomens. We have goats, currently 15, that we milk. (Only milking 4 at this time.) Each time I sit on the milk stool and see those swirls I think of you. Could you elaborate more on them sometime. I believe it had something to do with the health of the animal. Thanks. Dee

  20. May 15, 2015 6:08 am

    I agree with Martha. Just because you posted before on a subject does not mean we all managed to be under your wing at the time, I probably missed something as I read back in the history of your blog. I enjoy every word, every subject, every picture. I love the Garden you show. Ive become a much more demanding gardener. I have insisted I have more beds to use for my vegetables, and now there is one more. Two more are in the works. I have made friends with several farmers because I understood how to converse with them thanks to you, I hope to learn from them as well, so I can finally get some land and have my own Jane to milk, and chickens for eggs, and maybe some sheep, and three dogs.

  21. Lauren permalink
    May 15, 2015 6:24 am

    I too am a long time fan of your excellent blog. Relieved to hear you intend to keep on carrying on!
    Curious if your ravens ever foraged for ticks on your old deceased mare. Have an old (28) but sprightly Arab mare who happily obliges the resident crew who walk along her back in search of ticks. Amazingly, she blithely allows them to pluck tuffs of hair for nest material when she’s shedding her winter coat. Quite the symbiotic relationship! Lauren

  22. May 15, 2015 8:14 am

    Awesome post. Thank you. A little snippet of a story something someone from Port WIlliam might have told. Maybe we need to have a talk with our ravens. They will go into the coop after eggs, so we tend to shoo them away..

    • May 15, 2015 8:53 am

      These two have been well-behaved, although I can’t say the same for a pair of their kids, who live as the raven flies about a mile away, they pecked the plastic on our neighbors greenhouse last spring. Just for something to do, no bugs or anything of interest in there, just teenage shenanigans. We helped them replace the plastic a while ago, for us it was a 5 mile by road trip, wish we could have flown over there like the ravens.

  23. May 15, 2015 12:11 pm

    I am a lurker as well. I love your blog as it reminds me of my young self growing up on a farm in Idaho. I own a cafe now and only have time for a small garden and flowers. I live vicariously through your blog and remember the days…back too long ago,

  24. May 15, 2015 12:12 pm

    A neighbor behind our place (home, not the farm) rehabs injured crows. I don’t know how they are related to the injured crows, but there is a huge group (murder?) of crows that hang out in the woods between our houses and they seem to be keeping a constant, watchful eye on the caged crows. The bonus for us is that they chase the eagles away from our chickens. The crows have never bothered anything in our garden – we have more of a problem with the robins eating our blueberries and grapes.

    • May 15, 2015 1:24 pm

      LFF, they must be relatives waiting the ones in the cages? Buggers, I hate that, the scrub jays seem to be taking that away from the robins here, they are pretty aggressive and they will go in and get eggs if I forget to close the door. I thought the robins were bad, but I didn’t know about scrub jays until the Himalayan blackberries got so thick around here. Perfect nesting spots for scrubs we have found out 😦

  25. May 15, 2015 12:59 pm

    Awesome post 🙂
    Years ago we were asked if we would provide a forever home for a raven from a rescue center that couldn’t be set free because of nerve damage in his wing. Of course we took him, still have him. He can only fly a few feet, so he was given the entire goat barn to hang out in – he actually liked the goats. He also gets eggs every day, dog or cat food and all the left overs he wishes to eat (or cache).
    He’s also a big mischief maker. Many times we’ve come home to ‘free range’ goats and chickens as he’s a master at operating latches. We’ve redesigned many a latch in an attempt to stymie him – usually to no avail. He also talks – can sound like anybody he chooses to mimic – incredibly good at it. Totally freaks out the visitors when they walk past the barn and hear a one or two sided conversation going on. I always get the best kick out of when he says ‘good morning’ and they answer back – and only then realize they’ve been talking to a raven. We used to let him hang out in the yard – but the past few years he doesn’t care to come out – likely because the other Ravens in the area get he can’t fly and try to swoop him. Very smart birds – if his water freezes up in the winter – he’ll actually hop over, pound on your boot with his beak – and say ‘fresh water’. All the years we’ve had him he never ceases to surprise me 🙂

    • May 15, 2015 1:21 pm

      Great story! I can’t imagine having one here opening gates, Jane’s mom used to hook the gates open with her horns, we changed a lot of gate latches.

      • Bee permalink
        May 18, 2015 8:57 am

        All of our gates except the Texas/Portagee gates (they’re wired shut) have a chain with a snap latch, as my old mare could open anything but that one, and she taught all her colts. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to worry about ravens, too!
        Nita, your Instagram post today made me think of another blog topic: predators. We have a running disagreement in our family: i say it’s our job to keep the critters safe by keeping a close eye on them, penning them at night, etc. and let the small predators like coons and foxes go on about their business. If we start to have a serious problem, OK, kill the offender. Hubby operates on the principle that all predators should be dead on sight. I think this would make a good post, especially for newbies.

        • May 18, 2015 9:28 am

          Sure to bring a heated discussion I bet. Pretty much we live with them, but the cougars are getting thick, there is no protecting anything from that…I know people who think even a LGD is harmful to wildlife…can’t wrap my head around that one.

  26. May 15, 2015 4:10 pm

    We get quite an array of carnivorous birds here. Currawongs nest in our area, along with Kookuburras, Magpies, Butcherbirds, Pee-wees and Pheasant Coucals. I’m actually amazed how many carnivorous birds can nest in the same area. What I love about the Currawongs though is when they’re nesting, they won’t tolerate Crows. I’ve lived in areas where crows nested, and it was incredibly noisy! Do you get that with the Ravens?

    At night we also get a lot of owls, because we have so many bush rats and mice. The only birds we have managed to tame (sort of) is the Butcherbirds. They’ve figured out that when we dig, we often get grubs out of the ground. So they’ll perch within a metre of our activity (often unseen) then swoop down suddenly and snatch a morsel.

    When its nesting season, we often see an array of all these different carnivorous birds, chase away hawks and eagles – and even chase each other away sometimes. What I love about our winged carnivores though, is they keep the snake population in check too.

    So I would agree that making peace with these hungry birds, is a great asset to one’s land management. 🙂

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