One of the fellows working on our land to remove pine trees gave me newspaper published by the Georgia Extension Service. He said, “You like to read all the time and you are so enthusiastic about your barn and garden, I thought you’d enjoy this . . . then again, you probably already subscribe.”
Actually, it was a resource I’d yet to stumble upon, so I appreciated his passing it on. Sure enough, I was enthralled. The paper (The Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin) features a few short articles about Georgia farm interests, but mostly it is full of classified ads for farm equipment, seed and feed, livestock and animal auctions. It tells you what the market rate is for beef, honey and other farm products. There is a category for each of your basic farm animals, poultry, cows, horses and goats. Then, there is a section called “alternative livestock.” Now that sounds interesting.
This section contains ads for llamas and alpacas. It also features some really fun ads.
I said, “Hey Honey, someone is selling an Ostrich. What do you suppose your basic country ostrich goes for?”
“No.” Mark said.
“I didn’t say I wanted one, only wondered if you could guess what they cost. It’s only $450.00! That’s a bargain, don’t ya think? ”
“No, you don’t think it’s a bargain?”
“No. You can’t have one. You couldn’t PAY ME $450 for an Ostrich. They are mean. ”
“I didn’t ask if I could get one, did I? Hey! Someone in here is selling a pair of emus. Isn’t that interesting? (I knew better than to push for an Ostrich, but it couldn’t hurt to test the waters for an emu. I don’t even know what an emu is exactly, but I think I would love to have one. It’s sort of like an Ostrich, right?)
Clearly, I married a man who doesn’t share the same adventurous poultry spirit as I. Harrumph. I read on. “Hey, someone is selling baby peacocks . . . and the address of this farm is right by us.”
Now, Mark looks up. He knows when his wife talks peacocks, she isn’t hinting around or making a joke. “I thought we were waiting until spring to do the peacock thing again.”
“We are. Still . . . I wonder what color these are and how old a “baby” peacock is, by this seller’s estimation. Probably the same age as Early would be, don’t ya think?”
Sure enough, I call. Turns out the seller lives only a short drive from our house and he is selling peacocks that are three and six months old. His current batch consists of traditional blue peacocks. Too bad. I still miss the late Early, and I’d love a white peacock to name in his honor. But blue peacocks are pretty too. Before I know what I’m doing, I schedule an appointment for a look-see. I ask Mark if he wants to join me and of course he says yes. He thinks his presence is going to curb any impulse buying.
We drive up to a beautiful rolling meadow surrounded by forest and talk about how our land will someday look like this – it takes time to groom the wild frontier and our homestead is a work in progress. Right now, patches of our land look like a tornado ripped through. We have lots of clean up to do from the recent pine tree removal. Sigh.
We head to the barn where we spy the bright blue feathers of a peacock peeping through the slats of a fence. When we get out of the car, Mark pauses. There is a tiny peacock feather at his feet. He stoops to pick it up. “I can use feathers like this in my baskets,” he says, delighted with his newfound, free treasure.
It occurs to me stray feathers are a good selling point, so I stock that one away for later use. I begin wondering what an emu feather looks like. I bet they would be great in a basket.
Our approach startles the birds in the barn, and suddenly about three dozen adult peacocks come fluttering outside. They mosey off into the woods, natural and easy. They are a colorful flock, vibrant blue, white and cameo. The sheer number of them and the way they walk about freely, is striking. In the fenced area we see the six month old birds and a cage full of babies. I am immediately reminded of Early, which makes me partial to the young ones. Gee, I miss that bird.
A smiling older woman greets us. We ask how she got involved in peacocks and she tells us that her son got them started. If it was up to here, she’d sell them all because she is tired of maintaining them. She especially hates having to attend to the birds in the winter when their water freezes and such. Apparently, her son’s hobby just grew and grew and she got stuck with the daily care. Stinks, if you ask me. The least I could do is relieve her of some bird maintainence, don’t ya think?
We inspect the bird’s nesting area, which is pretty simple, just a few boxes on stilts with an overhang to keep them dry. She tells us the peacocks all leave the barn to roost in the trees at night. They pretty much take care of themselves. She only contains the females during nesting periods because if she doesn’t, they lay eggs all over the field. Other than when brooding, the birds roam free.
I end up purchasing three baby blue peacocks and tell the woman I’ll be back in the spring for a white bird or two, if she has any. She assures us she will. I really only want two adult peacocks, a breeding pair, but I’ve experienced the lonely peacock syndrome and think it is wise to have a spare in case something happens to one. It also increases my chances of getting at least one male and/or one female.
On our way out, we stop to admire some very colorful, ring-neck pheasants. “Do you sell those as well?” I ask, thinking they sure are pretty.
“I just want to get rid of them. I’ll let the four go (two males and two females) for 50.00 for the lot. We have too many birds, as you can see.”
“We’ll take ‘em” Mark says, before I open my mouth.
Ha, and he was supposed to be here to curb female impulse buying. I told the woman we’d pick up the pheasants in a day or two. I suppose we will let them hang out for a few months in hopes that they will breed in the spring. Then, we will set them free in hopes that they will populate our 50 acres with fun flying creatures to spy on.
In the meantime, I am once again a proud peacock owner. My new babies are silent, tentative in their new digs nestled in the hay in a cage in the barn. Because they are young, they will imprint on us and consider this place home. I am planning to take special care of them so that by spring, I’ll have beautiful, mature peacocks roaming free.
Right now, they look like ugly ducklings. They are brown with only a hint of green on the tiny tip of one bird’s neck. I understand some things take patience. It is always a pleasure to watch the colors slowly emerge as a bird comes into his or her own. We won’t know for another four months if they are boys or girls, but that is always a nice surprise too, and knowing there is a peacock breeder a short drive from here means that if I end up with three like sexed birds, I can make up for whatever I’m missing later.
Now, it is time to name them. I’ve decided to name this batch of birds after authors I admire. So, I’m naming them Emerson (I’ve been reading a great deal of Emerson lately – his essay on nature is brilliant) Quinn, (for Daniel Quinn of My Ishmael – favorite all time book) and Mich (short for James Michener). Future peacocks will be names after Alice Munro and Tobias Wolff and … well, it isn’t like I’ll ever run out of names in this category. There will never be enough birds to exhaust my list of favorite authors.
When I get a particularly annoying bird that I must struggle to understand, I’ll name him Faulkner. In fact, if I ever get an Ostrich, that will be his name.
Anyway, here they are: Quinn, Em, and Mich. Ya gotta admit, they’re cute. An ostrich would have been cute too, but some things are best left as distant curiosities. At least for now. Still, it is fun to imagine. . . and there is always the possibility of an emu someday – IF the feathers look good in a basket.