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SUBHEAD: Surprise! We didn't know nine-banded armadillos had reached East Tennessee.

By Brian Miller on 29 May 2016 for Winged Elm Farm -

Image above: A Nine-Banded Armadillo on its hindlegs. To the surprise of some they have reached East Tennessee. From (

It is 4:45am in the morning and a neighbor maybe a half-mile away is shooting a rifle.

Sounds like a .22, so he is probably potting raccoons or rats raiding his cattle feed. Or perhaps he is a man who likes to annoy the world. Regardless, I roll out of bed and make a pot of coffee.

We promise you rain, tomorrow:
For a man who gets up so early, it is amazing how late I am in getting to haying this year. It is the perennial struggle to find just the right week between cooperative weather and work schedule. Driving back from Sweetwater yesterday, I observed that almost all the fields were either cut, raked, baled, or a combination.

I have been holding off for one more good rain, but apparently all the moisture continues to dump on Texas. Meanwhile, our Roane County forecast is an ever-shifting horizon, the moisture always promised in another three days.

Beware the nine-banded armadillo:
On yesterday’s drive back from town, just past the big hog roast in progress at the Luttrell community center, I spotted the distinctive and familiar remains of an animal ­on the road. The sighting was commonplace to me on the backroads of Louisiana growing up. Later that night at dinner with friends, we discussed what I’d seen.

Our friend remarked that, coincidentally, she could’ve sworn she’d seen the same kind of animal a few days before, but she decided against it, since the critters are not known to live in these parts. But, sure enough, a quick bit of research and we found that the nine-banded armadillo has arrived in East Tennessee.

Busy little bees:
In the immortal words of Margot Channing, “You are in a beehive, pal. Didn’t you know? We are all busy little bees, full of stings, making honey day and night. Aren’t we, honey?” Frantically painting more supers and putting together more frames, Cindy has struggled to keep pace with this spring’s exponential colony growth.

The number of our hives has doubled to four, and the girls (all worker bees are female) seem unusually productive. Cindy keeps slapping on supers, and they keep filling them up. We look for a bountiful honey harvest come end of summer: I see horns of mead aplenty and a rereading of Beowulf in my future.

Let’s not go there:
I fixed some chicken sausage gumbo last night. “Cindy, when you go out to feed, grab me an onion from the garden. There are three rows of weeds before you get to Petunia. Buried in the last row are the onions.”

Typically, the dry years like this are the years the garden looks the best. So I really have no excuse … except the fencing. That massive project of closing in the ravine for the pigs was a time-suck this spring. Sigh.

Who cares why you crossed the road. Where are my damn eggs?
After raising speckled Sussex almost exclusively for 16 years, we are going to make a change. We ordered 20 brown leghorn chicks, which arrived this week. They are the foundation bird for the modern leghorns and an egg-laying machine, purportedly.

Our dual-purpose meat-and-eggs Sussex are too irregular in the latter department. So, unless the governor calls (and why would he?), the flock will go in the pot. We look forward to endless bowls of coq au vin, chicken paprikash, and gumbo.

Well, with coffee and the blog now done and the eastern sky alight with the approaching dawn, it is time for me to go dig holes and plant grapevines. One must take advantage of the coolness of the morning and reserve the afternoon for a siesta.


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