Monday, 7 September 2009

Dave the Scarecrow & the Pigs Return

If it's not one pest, it's another. We're getting on top of the fox problem at 'The Hill' but now buzzards are giving the little pheasant poults a hard time. I think I explained in an earlier post that buzzards will sit in trees above the poults and worry them so much that they won't come out to eat or drink. Once they're weak enough, the buzzards picks them off at their leisure. In this case, it's probably this year's young buzzards learning to hunt on a pretty abundant food source.

It's illegal to shoot or trap buzzards so we made 'Underkeeper Dave' here:

I love making scarecrows - it reminds me of Fall in New England and seeing scarecrows with pumpkin heads sitting on porch benches. Sadly, this is my sole artistic endeavour for the week. And I had to lend Dave my best hi-vis waterproof coat. Neither of us know (or will admit) where the size 8 flowered wellies came from, but it lends Dave's outfit a bit of flair.

Here's Dave in his new home in the pen. The big eyes are supposed to be an additional deterrent for the birds of prey. Dave's job is to stop this from happening:
There were 20 or so little kills like this. I hate losing birds.

We also rode the horses yesterday to try and keep them fit. The winds and storms have passed through so they are more settled again. It was a quiet amble (our horses' favorite speed) through the cider orchards. Chris the orchard man has already started harvesting, and there are lots of apples on the ground waiting to be hoovered up and sent for making hard cider. It looks like a record crop this year - they're expecting to process 800 tons!

After our ride Mike went back to "check on the pheasants" (and sneak in a little fishing!) before dark. I was still thinking of those wild pigs we saw yesterday, and thought I would go sit in the high seat and see if they return to the field. It was a sunny evening and at worst, I could enjoy a few hours with the late afternoon sun and a beautiful view. I often bring my ipod and listen to books or the Craftlit podcast. I had been doing this for an hour when they appeared in the field, nearly under my feet - too close to get a shot and close enough that they winded me or heard me and trotted back into the woods. No matter, they may be back.

And they were, half an hour later, this time at a reasonable distance 100m or so away. I had a good look at Moby Pig - a sow as big as my quadbike. A half-bred for certain. She is the leader of this clan. Following on behind her were two ginger colored pigs, most likely sows as boars that size would have been pushed out of the group by the matriarch. And Moby Pig's 9 or 10 mini stripers maybe 6-8 weeks old.

At this point I saw Pete walking up the far hedge - he obviously had the same idea as me. He couldn't see me but I could see he was safely out of shot. I picked a barren ginger sow and dropped her in the field. Pete heard the shot and saw where I was. Now he might have a chance at the other ginger sow - he had a shotgun with rifled slug so needed to get much closer to be in range. I stayed loaded to back him up; he was on the ground and pigs, especially a big mom with youngsters, is likely to charge. Though not ideal, I could drop her if necessary, so I stayed on her.
The pigs were staying with their fallen friend. It's hard to watch, I'm never sure how much they are aware of. Research on elephants acknowledges that they grieve for their dead. Pigs are so smart, I don't think we should be quick to underestimate them.

But it's a trade-off. They're escaped domestic crosses which dilute the 'native' boar and do a tremendous amount of damage to crops. And it's meat, and I'm not a vegetarian.

Pete never got close enough. They winded him and ran back to the safety of the woods.

We bled and gralloched the pig, and loaded her into my quadbike and I drove home. Hunters on the continent often put a leafed branch in the pig's mouth as a sign of respect, like offering a last meal. I always try and show my quarry the utmost respect, and ensure the kill is quick and clean, to prevent suffering and ensure the most amount of meat is usable. This carcase will go to our estate stalker Paul for processing. Paul pays me in meat for the freezer.

Dakota always has to check out the trucks and quadbike when we return from a trip without her. Most dogs are afraid of pigs, and rightly so - a wounded pig that size could easily kill Dakota. It is one animal I hunt without the backup of a dog.

It looks like we'll be having wild pig for Christmas dinner then.


Poppy Cottage said...

A quick bit of veg planted in the green house will mean that you'll have your own veg too!!

I am going to start on the moss stitch bag before tomorrow night.

Mmm.... size 8 flowery wellies?? Now where would I find Dave, could swap him some boring Bartlett specials!

Ps....... Is Dave single? Looks like my kind of guy!

Jennifer Montero said...

The wellies are yours when Dave's done his job. The only person in the hosue with size 8 feet is Mike and he denies all knowledge of the wellies!

Just finished processing as many runner beans as I could face slicing for the freezer, we'll be eating them 'til Christmas. Started some wild plum jam, made a crumble, and made bolognase sauce for tea tonight with toms from the g/h - venison as usual.

I would love some more of your eating apples if you have any to spare, windfalls are fine - will swap you some deer sausages when I get a delivery.

Just washed & set twist in my Gotland yarn. Going to start a baby cardigan, but will need advice tomorrow night from you more advanced knitters. May need to adapt pattern to yarn, have just enough I think.

Poppy Cottage said...

I shall bring apples tomorrow. Have started on the bag. Nice to be able to pop up to the shed and sping another ball when I run out! I also have a nice receipe for runner bean chutney. Easten out of the jar it is fantastic. Mine never got to see a slice of bread or cold meat!

Oh well, see you tomorrow,

me x

Sara said...

Dave came out great! The buzzards won't dare come near such a portent of bad weather! Good shot on the piggie...I see a pork dinner in your future. Maybe during someone's upcoming b-day?