Thursday, August 25, 2011

Organic Inspection and a Couple of Hummingbirds

                I have elected to start with the two hummingbirds, since that is the most recent in my memory, although both occurred in the same day, that is, this past Tuesday, August 23, 2011. This may appear to be an odd paring for a title, but I assure you that it… might make sense by the end of this entry… I hope! (What does not make sense is how the “p” on my keyboard has decided to become dysfunctional. How does one deal with that? Press harder! But I digress.)
                It was 4:45pm when I began weeding Field 3 Row 8, but weeding is not quite an accurate term. First off, somewhere within the tight verdure of weeds were red beets, and perhaps some gold beets, or at least that was the theory. Anyway, the row consisted of a variety of… plants, from purslane to pig weed to lambsquarter, all of which… pigs love to devour! Technically, beyond weeding, I was also harvesting feed for Kirk’s pigs. And to jump ahead a bit, man, but those pigs LOVED those greens, as one group of pigs snorted their dismay over not being tossed those delectables first… but I will get back to that in another entry.
                The day was incredibly un-August like! The temperature was in the 70s (Fahrenheit, that is), and for some reason, it felt rather peaceful and stress-free. So, I continued to find small beet plants beneath the towering plants listed above and liberated them from their “weed” enshrouded captivity. It was after 6pm, when I heard/felt a rumble.
                I have to pause here, because what I am about to describe is the approach of hummingbirds. To begin, I am not sure what species of hummingbirds they were. I have a few bird books that I have paged through, but none of the pictures are accurate to what I witnessed in the field. There was a definite presence of yellow on their torsos, and since they were so close to me, that is undeniable. The fact that they were hummingbirds is also undeniable, since the rapid wing motion all the while hovering in one place in mid-air produced that “humming” for which they are named.
And I will pause again here to assert that a more accurate term for those birds should be “rumblingbirds”. The term “hum” suggests harmonious resonance, whereas those birds’ wing beats is somewhat dissonant. As a person who has learned to tune stringed instruments to a hum for a couple of decades, there would be no way to tune such instruments to a hummingbird’s wing “beat”. In fact, that sound resembles something far different, but allow me to describe…
So, I was weeding, or harvesting. My mind, as usual was deep in thought, when a slight rumbling was heard, and felt. (And this is what I hope to describe accurately!) There is not so much a “humming” that is heard, as… a tremor in the force, if you will, only not evil. It is a mellow “rumbling”, as though a far off plane is approaching the airport runway to the south of me and soon will be roaring over head in its descent. But, that sound did not grow so intense. My thoughts were ceased that day, because that rumbling was subtle, and continuous, and once it was actually realized, it was realized to be VERY close. Over the years, I have learned to latch onto the sound of hummingbirds, simply because they seem to be so human friendly, and because of that trait, they intrigue me greatly. In much the same way the stink bug’s short brusque buzz alerts me to their presence, the rumbling wing beats of the hummingbird alerts me to them.
When the sound settled into my brain that it was a hummingbird in the near vicinity, which in some strange manner resembled that of a mellow pulsing diesel engine, I paused my “harvest” and looked for the source. The row next to me contained bell peppers, and a wire trellis was installed over those plants, which resembles a clothes line about six feet in the air. I noticed the first hummingbird as it hovered just before the wire of the trellis staring directly at me. And that is the thing with at least that type of hummingbird. They specifically approach ME, and hover just over head quite passively. There are no flowers around to source nectar, there is nothing which could be the focus of their stare… other than ME. This has happened so many times over the years that it has to be the case. By why? Why do hummingbirds feel the need to “meet” me? I still find the situation very odd.
Anyway, the second hummingbird flitted in with nary a sound and perched on the wire of the trellis. Then, the first hummingbird started to dance, if that is what it should be called. In mid-air, as its wings beat incessantly in its diesel-esque tone, it stared straight at me, then shifted to the left, then the right, then forward, then to the left… Actually, I cannot remember its “steps”, but to witness that bird’s actions, I SWEAR that bird was dancing! And the second bird just stared at me from the wire. All that time, I was crouching low to the ground in a baseball catcher’s stance. I had ceased my activity, because I did not want to startle them. My intense curiosity wanted to film those creature’s activities into my memory. Again, to pause, hummingbirds always seem to make an appearance before me as I weed at the farm. It truly seems like a form of greeting, where they face to face meet me, then speed along on whatever course is their destiny. The situation is extremely odd, at least to me. Of what interest could I be to those tiny birds? It is not like I intentionally build nests for them… or feed them. Nonetheless, as mentioned above, for some unknown reason, hummingbirds tend to make a face to face meeting, at least to this human animal.
I watched the dancing hummingbird for quite a few minutes. At first, I was curious as to how long the dancing would last. After those minutes passed, I realized I needed to shift from my squatting position, because… well, I am getting old, and the knee sport injuries I experienced in the distant past often make themselves known quite ADAMANTLY! I knew that once I shifted my position the hummingbirds would vacate the scene. Such a shift from a six-foot male mammal would definitely not come across like the “dancing” of that one hummingbird.  I shifted. The two hummingbirds flew away.
Oh, and that is why I brought up the organic certification for 2011. Earlier that day, my annual organic certification inspection took place. My neighbor, Kirk, with the pigs, etc. was also in attendance, as Bill, the certifying agent and I walked the fields. There were no hummingbirds witnessed during that part of the inspection, in fact, hummingbirds are no longer a focus of this entry.
Eventually, we sat around a large dining table in my parent’s house, (They own the property as well as the old farm house on the property that was built long before indoor plumbing. There is currently indoor plumbing, but I digress again.), in order to go over the paperwork side of the organic certification inspection. This involves detailing all the processes used on my farm, amendments, etc. I have gone through this process for years, and it really amounts to me simply relaying my record keeping in order to show accountability.
But then, I heard… and felt what seemed to be the rumbling of a diesel engine. That is not unusual, since the lay of the land, that is the hills and valleys, cause any diesel-powered vehicle that rumbles down Hughes Shop Road to be “felt” in the old farm house. But it did not cease! And it increased in intensity! A diesel truck must have been coming up the driveway. Perhaps it was an oil company truck to fill up my parent’s oil tank. I mentioned this to Kirk to my left. I stood in an attempt to look out the side window but I was blocked by other chairs and such. Then, as the rumbling intensified even more, I looked back to the table, over which hung a dangling light fixture which was shaking back and forth… in the opposite direction THAT THE WALLS WERE SHAKING!!!
WHAT THE…? The three of us looked at each other with incredulousness. “Is this an earthquake?” I asked naively. We had no idea. We had never experienced one. For maybe twenty seconds the house shook and the old farm house windows rattled against each other, as we remained relatively motionless, uncertain as to what to do next. And then it was gone. Or was it? Strange thoughts arose, at least to me. Was the oil burning furnace directly below us in the basement about to explode for some unknown reason? But things had settled down. The tremor had passed. The three of us talked a bit about it, and our conclusions were correct. When Bill got into his vehicle, the radio relayed that indeed an earthquake was the cause, and he passed the info to Kirk and I.
Wow! Nature! Never underestimate that power!
For me… what a day! Tremors of all kinds! Hummingbirds, earthquakes, and definitely those that just passed me by! “You live, you learn.” That is a cliché. But I drink up such unexpected situations with exuberance! Life on the planet Earth is amazing on SO MANY levels. And for sure, absolutely for certain, that was an organic certification inspection that none of us will forget!!!

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