By Farmer David Plescia of Green Valley Community Farm
One of the most special things about living and farming at Green Valley is that is a very wild place.
It's no wonder: If you zoom out on a satellite map of the address here (13024 Green Valley Rd.), you'll see that this little valley is nestled in the base of a forest that extends Northward, essentially unbroken, up through Alaska!
We come in contact with this wildness everyday out here. It is perhaps most noticeable in the bird and mammal kingdoms at this time of year, during the spring / early summer surge of activity, new growth, courtship, competition, homemaking and baby-raising that corresponds with the return of the sun and the all the surge of new life it supports. At this time of year especially, our furred and feathered neighbors weave themselves into our everyday lives, greeting us in the morning, keeping us company throughout the day, and accompanying us on our way home at night as they go about building their lives next to ours.
The bird world is especially rich out right now. Kayta's parents, avid birders, spotted 34 species during their two-week visit from Missouri at the beginning of June. (And that's just the tip of the iceberg.) All the feathered ones seem to be making a go of it while the gettins good and doing all the things that go with that: Courting (those Turkey gobbles of April and May, echoing down the valley) and singing (wow, hear that Swainson's thrush), fighting (the "bird wars" begin in late May as the sky fills with inner/interspecies arial battles and battle cries as they all squat, steal and harass each others nests and territories), eating (where did all our lettuce seeds go?), building homes (check out the Barn Swallow mud nest near our wash-station) and starting families...
In the owl box perched along the 13024 driveway, a barn owl family has taken up residence. Who knows when mom and dad moved in but about a month and a half ago tiny little raspy screeches could be heard coming from the box. Now, our way home at twilight every evening, we watch four barn owl teenagers exercise their flying permits. Compared to their silent, sleek, be-masked parents they are awkward flying monkeys. At first they would just pop their fuzzy heads out of the house, then pop back in. Lately, they have been taking flight, with a tellingly rapid RPM crash landing into the nearest tree, where they screech at each other for awhile, before flying back to the safety of the house. Where they screech some more. All. Night. Long...
Also like clockwork, at twilight, comes a Dark Sentinel. Our main fields are in her route. She has three spots -- that we know of: On a fence post overlooking the center meadow, on a large tree overlooking the main fields, and on the tall power pole overlooking the vineyards. A shadow. The Great Horned Owl. Like the Lady of the Forest, she gives us shivers, reminding us of our mortality. But she reminds gophers of their mortality too, which is quite necessary around here.
Yes, twilight is a special time. Quivers of quail come out from their thickets to forage (a little paranoid and a lot domestic). Mama and baby skunk visit the compost pile to see what's been left, and a gophers flit through the grass like lightning, mindful of the Dark Sentinel.
The gopher army (at its population low near the end of winter, being food for so many predators during that time) explodes at this time of year. Their subterranean networks of paths seem to multiply underfoot, their little portal holes pock the ground, and their boldness grows. One crashed against my leg as I was harvesting mustard mix on Tuesday. They may not visit the barn, but you can be sure that the gophers have been picking up their CSA shares.
And then there is Mama Deer. You may have noticed the fortress of junk in between our greenhouses and the hog panels around Aubrie and Scott's garden. These are protection from Mama Deer. Mama Deer took up residence in a thicket near the greenhouses about a month ago and, pregnant and now presumably nursing, uses a genius and boldness I have never seen in a deer to infiltrate our fortresses and feast on the fare. Who can blame her, she's making a go of it just like the rest of us.
This list could go on: The juvenile Salmonids and the baby turtles in the culvert, the broccoli-obsessed ninja Hare or the demon Racoon that visits our neighbors... no matter how much they annoy us or pillage our greenhouses, we can only but be grateful for their antics, their lessons, their company, and that they are here. This place is alive and wild. Let's make sure to keep it that way.
See you in the fields,
David & Kayta