In The Eyes Of A Pigeon


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a turkey vulture soaring against a blue sky looking for a meal
Always Watching
a pigeon with head up and eyes on alert for predators
It’s All In The Eyes





A willing and observant person can gather some extraordinary insights about the natural world in the most unlikely places. It can happen in the short time that it takes to blink an eye, no matter if that eye belongs to you, or to something else. Nature abounds with beneficial lessons and the teachers of true meaning are everywhere. I just happen to gain some of my clues from the clear-eyed and attentive stares of my backyard pigeon flock. You can learn a lot from an otherwise ordinary and common creature.

I spend a fair amount of time with this captive audience of one hundred in their outdoor aviary. I am their provider, and their lifeline from the outside lands. I supply them with their daily ration of grains and clean water, regardless of the weather or the many other duties or time constraints I may have. I fill their pickpots with grit and minerals. I break ice from their bowls in the winter, and suffer the same stinging snows and biting winds of the day. I clean their flypen and pigeon-house, and keep a sharp eye out for the telltale signs of distress or disease. I study them closely, and through it all, they watch me too.

a pigeon with a twig in it's beak flying to build a nest



I am a constant in their lives, and a spoke in their wheel of life. I have come to know of them and their world just a little bit, and they of me. It could be said that they would rather prefer that I was not involved at all, but I am a necessary intrusion they must tolerate, at least for a brief time.

Yet, they wait for me each morning and afternoon, the anticipation building as I drive up to the entrance doors. They mill about excitedly as I approach, ready to perform just for me. I touch the door handle, and they begin their wild jig, dancing like ecstatic puppets on hidden strings. They hop about and swirl their wings like crazed whirligigs, or slap their wingtips smartly as they launch from their perch for a short flight across the pen.

They chant their pigeon talk and coo even louder as I step in through the inner doors, to become completely surrounded by frantic birds, eager to fill their crops before the other’s. They push and shoulder for each speck of grain as if their life depended on it. Perhaps they bicker and fight to establish or maintain some imperceptible pigeon pecking order, or maybe just to remind themselves that life can be a struggle. You would think that they would know by now that their will be enough food for all comers, but it is a wild ritual that they simply must abide for reasons known only to the pigeon.

We have repeated this madcap scene a few thousand times and more, the pigeons and I. It has become routine, with little deviation from the usual suspects. That is until yesterday, when our normal interaction abruptly and inexplicably changed.

It was immediately obvious when I pulled up in my truck. The absence of sound or flashing wings struck me first, and what pigeon heads I could see sat on top of outstretched necks, alert, with searching eyes. They crouched in the classic manner of all prey, with feet tucked under their bodies, coiled and ready to spring out and away from impending danger.

The birds stood frozen and paid me little mind as I entered and searched the ground for an animal intruder. I investigated the pigeon houses and the nest boxes and found nothing. I checked every nook and cranny of their limited world and came up empty. I paused to scratch my head, and ponder this puzzling circumstance.

Hand on chin, I stared at the closest pigeon and wondered, determined to discover just why he would not fly. And then he cocked his head, and I saw his eye focus on something high as he grounded himself more tightly to his perch. At that moment I spied a wide, dark shadow moving across the dirt floor, and smiled. I knew exactly what belonged in that kind of shadow, as did my fine feathered friends. All I had to do was look up, to see just exactly what it was that had struck such all-consuming fear in their hearts.

I had no doubt that the shadow maker was an eater of birds, but there were several possibilities in this category. A red-tailed hawk maybe, or a gleaming eagle from the nearby river. In this case the black shadow belonged to an animal of equal color, with a distinctively naked neck. It was not what I expected to see.

The Turkey Vulture, or Buzzard as it is sometimes called, is quite common to the American West and many parts of North America. A six-foot wingspan casts a long shadow across the land, and he covers a lot of it as he travels. That great red and bald head is immediately recognizable from afar, and known by all. His sentinel like posture and hovering demeanor create and perpetuate his iconic image. It is a form often associated with death, and it is a meaning not entirely lost on my domesticated, but anxious, pigeon flock.

The Vulture is classified as a bird of prey, after all, even though he finds most of his meals by smell after they are already dead. I suppose that it is a distinction utterly lost on the brain of a pigeon.

Continue reading In The Eyes Of A Pigeon

If You Like The Taste of Chicken, You Just Might Jump For A Rabbit Dinner


Why eat a rabbit, you might ask? Why, indeed?

Au Contraire, says I. Why not eat a rabbit, would be my quick and ready response? I am a great fan of this most versatile and willing animal, for several reasons. You may have a few of your own.

I’m talking here of the large domestic rabbits most commonly found in backyard hutches across the continents. Perhaps the question is moot, and you have already raised them and prepared them at home for yourself. Or maybe you have had them served up at your neighborhood bistro, or even found them on the menu of the world’s finest restaurants. The less adventurous, however, may need some gentle convincing.

I like the idea that when properly prepared each new dish can become one of the best meals that you may ever eat, while remaining quite good for you too. Rabbit meat is high in easily digestible protein, as well as B12, iron, and a wide range of minerals. It is remarkably low in calories and harmful saturated fats, but high in the desireable Omega 3 fatty acids. Most wild game is lean and clean, but this is particularly true of rabbit.

In fact it is so lean, that it has been said that it’s meat has as much food value as so much cotton, and that you could eat rabbit three times a day for many weeks and never gain a pound. That may be true, but if you did you might find yourself with the same dilemma once faced by many northern peoples, who developed “extreme fat hunger”, when forced to live on rabbits alone. There is even a name for this type of acute malnutrition, called “Rabbit Starvation”. Who knew?

Of course, our modern diets tend to favor the addition of many high calorie ingredients, so not to worry. More on that in a minute.

Our domestic rabbit of today has its origins in the European Rabbit that was native to the Iberian Peninsula. In fact, the ancient Roman name for Iberia, and modern-day Spain, was Hispania, or “Land of the Rabbits”. It is believed that the Romans were the first to keep rabbits in captivity for the sole purpose of meat production, starting in the first century BC. It would appear that they truly loved their rabbit dinners, and had better things to do than run them down randomly about the wilds. After all, they had legions of mouths to fill, and vast and waiting empires to conquer.

France was naturally colonized by rabbits from Northern Spain sometime after the last glacial period, which no doubt explains that country’s well-known reputation as rabbit epicures. Historical records indicate that French Catholic Monks were the first to bring rabbits under true domestication, about 600 AD. The need to keep a steady supply of procurable meat behind the safety of solid and cloistered monastery walls created the conditions that eventually lead to the establishment of the more than 200 breeds recognized today.

Rabbits were actually one of the last animals to be domesticated, but they made up for their late arrival on the scene in a big hurry. They were transported around the Mediterranean by the Phoenicians, were introduced in the British Isles and other parts of the northeast Atlantic in the middle ages, and made it to New Zealand, South America, South Africa and worldwide sometime after the 18th century.

Since then they have woven their way across a multitude of diverse regions and cultures, to become firmly enmeshed in the daily fabric of countless lives. Raising rabbits is now a big thing, with a current world-wide production of over 1 million tons. The domestic rabbit has become an important and reliable protein source, and is now considered traditional cuisine for billions of people across the globe.

Fair Trade

Just ask the people of Malta, who manage to wolf down about 20 pounds of rabbit meat per person each year. Or perhaps talk to the Spaniards, who love their well crafted “Paella”, or the Italians, who make a mean “Coniglio alla Cacciatora”. You simply haven’t lived if you have not indulged in a perfectly prepared “Hasenpfeffer” from our German friends, or broken some crusty bread to sop up the juices of an exquisite “Rabbit Normandy”, made with Calvados and cornmeal. Ah…the French, who love their “Lapin a la Provencale” and so many other rabbit dishes, prepared with style and panache as only they can do. And you thought that fried rabbit bathed in the buttermilk of the American South was to die for, which of course, it is.

Rabbit is a valuable food source for many, but it wouldn’t be so popular if it didn’t taste so good. The meat is fine-grained and similar to poultry. The old adage that it “tastes” like chicken” is mostly true, but not quite. It is generally mild and faintly sweet, without a taste of gaminess. Though elusive to describe, it’s flavor profile is somehow more subtle, and complex. It speaks of the exotic, with a hint of mediterranean breezes and coastal plains, juniper berries and scrub, and soft, summer rain. Domesticated it may be, but not for too long compared to other homestead livestock. No doubt some free ranging memories and wild hopes remain.

So, give a rabbit a go. It is yet a blank canvas, daring us to be creative, humble, or bold. Wrap it in bacon, today, and drop it on an outdoor grill with a coating of bourbon and your favorite barbecue concoction. Sauce it up with butter and cream, and wine. Stew it down with beans and beer and throw it atop a plate of steaming rice. Invite some friends, and chase it with some well matched and lively spirits of your choice.

The ancestors of Hispania and the Catholic monks applaud you, and I can wholeheartedly guarantee that “rabbit starvation” will not be problem.


Fathers and Sons


Michael Patrick McCarty

Food Freedom!

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“I Is” An Activist For Food Freedom

StockSnap / Pixabay

Recently, our food and farming related blog has been linked to some other fabulous and thought-provoking websites, for which I am truly grateful. Writers write, and it is nice to be read. However, my blogs most often show up under the category of “activism”, which gives me pause. It was not necessarily the focus of my intention when I began my blog.

I thought It might be a good idea to investigate the meaning of this thrown about word, so I looked it up in an online dictionary. The first definition of activism I found is as follows. It is “the use of direct, often confrontational action such as a demonstration or strike, in opposition to or in support of a cause”. One definition of an activist is, “an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, especially a political cause”.

This being the case, I guess you could say that I “is” one. An activist, that is. I wish to eat high quality, unadulterated, nutrient dense food. I want to grow as much of it as I can myself, or purchase it from others that I know and trust. I wish to sell it or trade it to whomever wishes to obtain it, with a minimum of oversight and regulation. Call me crazy, but I don’t think the government should have anything to say about what I eat and who I provide with food.

The topic of food freedom and government over regulation is an activist’s dream, or should I say, nightmare. Who would not fight for the god given right to gain sustenance for one’s self and their family? If you would like to continue eating, and thus living, you probably don’t like the idea of someone blocking access to your food. Voice your opposition, and you may be on your way to becoming a food activist. It is as natural as breathing, and I will not let someone cut of my air supply.

Call me naive, but when I became involved in the local food movement I did not realize that it was a political cause. I found out soon enough. The battle for food freedom will begin on the farms of your neighborhood and the gardens in your backyard, but it will be taken to your community halls, and the meeting rooms of your town trustees and county commissioners. It has already escalated far beyond the local level. It is the peoples’ cause, and it will be heard.

I am an active food activist now, and if that is my new label I will wear it proudly. I doubt that I can turn back anytime soon. I am honored to stand with you. We have a lot of work to do.

Food Freedom!

Capri23auto / Pixabay

Enemies At The Borderlands

It must be fair to say that human beings strive to be liked by other humans. Most of us not only want this, but need it. We crave acceptance and approval like a potted plant thirsts for water and nourishment. For some, it is most uncomfortable and worrisome to know that another person not only dislikes them, but despises them. Hatred aimed and focused in your direction can be a devastating and brutish weapon, and it can knot and shrivel your innards if you let it. A man who tells you different is either completely oblivious or tragically dishonest to himself. I know, for I’ve experienced such mind numbing hatred from another person for the last several months. It does not lessen the confusion and pain to know that it is all because of pet dogs and dead chickens.

My wife and I raise rabbits, squab, and chickens for our family table on our small acreage in the rocky mountains. It is a mostly simple and worthy task. We enjoy the daily chores and the opportunity to be more closely involved with our food. It gives us purpose and slows the spin within the ever tightening death spiral of the ruler’s world, hoping that our example will encourage others to change their ways or stay the truer course. Our part is small and the hour late, but we can only hope that a small awareness in ourselves leads to better days for all. Hands on food and an honest meal can do no harm. Some people, however, seem to have a genuine knack and desire for havoc and chaos. It is the promise of the end of something fine and inherently pure that drives them.

We have tried to be respectful and considerate neighbors. It’s not that hard to do. Large tracts of open space surround us on three sides. To our north lies the Flat Tops Wilderness, and mostly other wild lands up to the Canadian border. We favored our closest neighbor and built our bird pens and coops about as far away as possible to reduce the chance of conflict or complaint. We tried to inform them of our plans, and offered to resolve any problems in advance. We built and repaired hundreds of feet of border fence without thanks or any offer of assistance. Instead, we offered ourselves to them if needed, and eggs from our happy hens, and other backyard bounty. We owned up to the joys of “manure management” and odor control, and in fact adored the results it produced when applied to our gardens. It mattered not at all, for their dogs came anyway and killed them well, without consideration or remorse.

The same dogs have come several times over many months, as we were never quite able to completely finish the fence or predict the direction of their campaigns. It didn’t matter that in Colorado it is the dog owner’s responsibility to control the wanderings of their dogs. It didn’t matter that our property possesses the proper zoning, and that we had broken no laws. It didn’t matter that we have always limited the amount of time that our birds have free ranged on open pasture, and under a close eye at that. It never mattered that Colorado is a “Right To Farm” State, or that our property was once a poultry farm long before we, or our neighbors, thought to live here. What matters is that our chickens are still very dead, and that our neighbors apparently hate us beyond all measure of rationality and reciprocity, because we had the audacity to ask to be compensated for their loss. Until then, I never imagined that chickens and farm animals could generate so much disdain and consuming hatred within a human soul.

Of course, the officers of animal control responded to our calls, the police consulted and reported, and the court evaluated, and judged. We have been monetarily compensated to some extent. But still, somehow the compensation never comes close to filling the emptiness left behind. Money does not heal all of the damaging wounds of the violation. It does not compensate for the destruction of one’s peace of mind, nor aid in the eternal quest of a lost ideal. We don’t ask for much. But we would occasionally like to hold the world of deceivers and brain addled man-children at bay for a few precious moments in time, and latch on to something real long enough to remember what that is.

It’s a life’s work to look evil in the eye and make it blink, without first succumbing to the overwhelming need to fall apart and scurry for cover. In my case, it certainly does not help when your chicken hating neighbor is every bit of 6′ 6″, and them some, and looks like he could still hold his own on the college basketball court. He has no doubt held off countless opponents from an uncontested spot beneath the basket. I would not like to be on the receiving end of a slashing and blindsided elbow. To say the least, my neighbor is a rather intimidating fellow, and his body language and practiced glare would make a snarling badger turn inside out and pass himself in panicked flight. Like all petty enforcers and sadistic bone breakers, he is used to getting what he wants, or destroying and discarding of what he does not. He has made it clear that he does not wish us to have the pleasure of our poultry. They will be gone, of that he is sure. In his mind, there must be an angle from which to triangulate, and an actionable course to pursue by whatever means possible.

Still, I must stand my ground in the face of the onslaught. Farms and farming are suffering under a withering and unconscionable attack in this country, every day, from every direction imaginable. Big business and big government collude and conspire against us, with malice afore thought. Little government works overtime to impress their corrupt handlers, with some special attention for anyone who points out their dirty workings. Urban and suburban values collide with escalating force as the job market and the economy implodes, leaving the common person to pick up the crumbs from their festering carcasses. You would like to raise and sell some poultry from your own property, you say? Well, we don’t think so! And by the way, it is now illegal for your own children to labor on the family farm. Can you hear the screams of the founding fathers as they claw to escape from their earthly graves?

We let it get this bad because we never saw it coming. A good person cannot think through the mind of a plotting and scheming beast. For example, we simply cannot originate the concepts of flouridated and toxic waters being promulgated to wash down chemically saturated non food, while at the same time making it illegal to have a home garden as they dream up new ways to criminalize the art of self-sufficiency.

As with others locked in this terrible struggle, I will stand and fight because I must. Like all proper dinosaurs I will see my end soon enough, and can only hope that it is a good end. Or perhaps not, and instead grow wings like the modern bird that they became, and fly through the bombardment unscathed. I will fight for my right and your right to become just a little more self-reliant and defiantly independent, and help you hold up a big, bold, fistful of empowered personal dignity towards the light.

After all, like many of you I have already pledged to spit in the eye of the county health department, the  USDA, The FDA,  and any other alphabet soup agency or freedom hating tyrant who may dare to fight fair. They hate us too, and their rabbit punches and dirty boxing skills are legendary. The enemies of the borderlands are vast and most cleverly devious. They lurk at the edges of our lovingly protected world, while hungrily plotting the death of our way of life. Compared to them just how bad can one really giant fire-breathing neighbor be?

Our intimidators and bullies simply cannot prevail, and we refuse to own their hatred. Our will, and the will of the land will not allow it, and our travails and hardships will be replaced with joy and forgiveness. Here’s to hoping, and praying, that our injuries can only hurt for a little bit, and that things will look much better when it’s over. Together, we shall grow stronger at the broken places. We have the power of the chicken and the spirit of her barnyard friends, and the righteousness of the good fight, on our side.

Food Freedom!




Marauders And Guilty Culprits

Red-Tailed Hawk In Flight

Yesterday my neighbor’s dogs killed several of our cherished chickens, again. I discovered the disquieting scene as I left for work. The story was easy to read in the thick mud, as was the trail leading back to the home of the evil doers.

I feel some responsibility because I had let them roam unprotected for a short time outside of their coop and flyway. On the other hand, it was not my fault at all because the dogs were well within the boundaries of my property. Colorado law clearly states that a dog owner is required to control the whereabouts of his animal so that this type of thing could not happen. A landowner does not have to fence the problem dogs out – the dog owner must fence the dogs in and prevent them from entering someone elses property. An uncontrolled dog can be cited by Animal Control as a “dog at large”. If it kills poultry or livestock, well, that’s a whole other ballgame.

I did not have enough time to deal with the chicken carnage at the time. So today I walked across my field to our bird pens to do just that and came face to face with a magnificent red-tailed hawk. The bird stared at me fiercely as only a raptor can, while deciding if it must abandon the prize. The hawk looked disgruntled, and guilty, as it grudgingly took off. But it needn’t have worried. I knew he had not done it. I left the chicken there, on the ground, for the hawk’s return.

I am sad for the loss of our chickens. They were our best young layers and had the best chicken personalities in our flock. I am happy though that I was able to steal such a close range look at the hawk. I love to observe birds of prey. He’s got to eat too.

I don’t fault the dogs. They were just being dogs, and some will kill chickens if not discouraged. I do have issues with the dog owners, however. They have been consistently disrespectful of our property rights, and have demonstrated little regard for the joys of poultry. They had been warned.

In this case, the marauders and culprits will be dealt with appropriately by the court, as they should. I hope the dogs fare better.

The red-tail is welcome to his dinner. I hope I see him again soon, under better circumstances.

Michael Patrick McCarty

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A Journal of Honest Food, Freedom, and The Natural World