A black shadow crosses over me. It’s early, I’m sitting in my rocker sipping coffee, and I look out the window into the cloudy Midsummer morning. What are those crows up to now?
Ah, I see it, between the hoop house and the former strawberry garden, plucking the guts out of a mouse I saw Garfield kill.
The actual word for a group of crows is a murder of crows, and a small murder swooped onto the farmlet this month and has stuck around. According to myth and lore, crows are all about seeing the magic in life. They stir things up, and insist that you notice the coincidences, the serendipities, the mischief.
The crow sees me stand up and flys away with half of the mouse carcass. It lands on the lower pasture gate, between the two fake Great Horned Owls we installed earlier this spring after an eagle might or might not have killed Blackie the Chicken. Owls are a crow’s biggest predator, but these smart, magical crows know plastic when they see it.
The crow launches and flaps up the hill to the corner of the goat barn roof, drops the mouse and leaves. This makes me laugh out loud.
I date the crows’ arrival from the cooked wishbone I discovered 3 weeks ago in the goat’s water trough — surely a magical sign heralding the arrival of the 32 Cornish Broiler meat chicks we are raising to eat. Crows are omnivorous, too. The crows are watching us raise these chicks, and all is going remarkably well.
No deaths and the chicks now, at two weeks old, a quarter of the way through their lives, are huge and resemble ostriches with their large legs and feet. The Bearded One likes to say they’re bred for their drumsticks.
They run and semi-fly around the new, bigger brooder when I come into the hut to fill their feed tray. They are voracious eaters. We refill their food tray a half-dozen times a day.
The crows hang around the goats a lot. At first I thought the crows were here to glean the goat’s fleece for their nests. It was a big surprise to us that the goats shed at all. I thought they had to be sheared, or the fleece just stayed on the goat forever. But no. They shed it and rub it off on the fence where I have gleaned a bag full, which I’m going to try to sell.
The likelihood of a buyer seemed remote at first — it’s such a messy, dirty tangle — but all of a sudden I’ve heard of several people, including a woman who owns a knitting store up in Port Gamble, who might like to buy it. Or at least will know what to do with it. I feed the goats their dry cob ration and hay and head back to the house for a morning of inside work.
Later in the afternoon, I’m weeding and the Bearded One is up in the just-finished meat bird pen putting tools away, when the crows start screaming at each other. “E — E — E— E —E!” Short, staccato bursts of noise.
I read that crows are in the songbird family because of their voice box structure, but they don’t actually sing. That’s an understatement. They caw loudly. Up and down the scale, all the while focused on that “E” sound.
The Bearded One and I both stop our work and listen. “E — E—E—E —E!” Back and forth it goes, on and on. Urgent. The Bearded One says, “ChimpanZEES in the TREES!” and I laugh hard. He’s right. It sounds just like an excited Cheetah in the old Tarzan movies. We return to our tasks.
It’s been cloudy all week, the weeds are thick, and I’m starting to inhale the evening bugs.
“Do you want to see a sight?” It’s the Bearded One calling to me from the barn. I don’t hesitate. What have they done now?
The Bearded One is pointing at something on the ground next to the goat’s water. The goats stand nearby. They don’t want it. I open the gate and try to absorb what I see. It’s whitish and about an inch wide and six inches long.
“Fresh bacon,” he says, and I realize he is right. Clean, raw, right out of the package. I couldn’t make this up. I am enchanted.
“We’re saved!” the Bearded One says. “Manna from heaven. There’s something to crow about.”