We are thrilled to report that Mr. P is still with us and still up to his old tricks. He made an appearance yesterday while Marilyn's brother Chuck was mowing the West Hill fields. Mr. P shadowed the tractor and stomped back and forth, clearly not amused about this "invasion" of his territory. We love that little guy!!!
It all started on a November day back in 2004. I was in the barn cleaning out plant trays. Rick was driving back and forth on the tractor, hauling manure from the chicken house to the Middle Hill garden. This garden, one of our favorites because of its scenic location, is in a partially overgrown field some distance from the house, down a short path through the woods. All of a sudden Rick jumped off the tractor and came into the barn. "You've got to come see this," he said. "There's a partridge attacking the tractor!" Each time Rick drove along the woods road to and from the Middle Hill garden, an apparently very territorial partridge would come running out of the woods and charge at the tractor. We'd never seen such a thing! We watched him for a while and found the whole spectacle quite entertaining. Finally Rick finished up his tractor work, we went back to our other farm chores, and the partridge disappeared into the woods. Once winter set in, we didn't give the little guy much thought.
Come spring, though, there he was again. Whenever we would go near the back gardens with any kind of motorized equipment – tractor, rototiller, truck, you name it – this little partridge would come out and chase us around. So we gave him a name – "Mr. P" – and adopted him as our Chick Farm mascot. Technically, Mr. P is not a partridge, he's a ruffed grouse, and although we think he's a "he", we're not entirely sure. Clearly, though, Mr. P considers at least three of our gardens to be part of his territory. He's especially protective of the Middle Hill garden. If we spend any amount of time there – whether we're planting, weeding, or harvesting – we can pretty much plan on seeing him. First he'll hover around in the bushes on the edge of the woods. Then he'll watch us from under the truck. Eventually he works up the courage to come right out into the garden with us, within arm's reach as we're working down on the ground. And make no mistake – he is not trying to be friendly! He puffs up his neck feathers, makes little peeping noises that are apparently supposed to be threatening, and even sometimes charges at us as we move around in the garden. He's harmless, though, and we're very fond of the little guy. Every time we finish up our work, he chases the truck up the hill as if to say, "There! I finally scared them off."
This past winter we thought of him often, wondering if he was okay. Then as the weather warmed we started hearing a familiar sound coming from the Middle Hill – the rhythmic "drumming" of a male ruffed grouse beating his wings to attract a female. "Could it be Mr. P?", we wondered. Then a few days ago, as Rick was running the tractor in the garden behind the greenhouse, who should come charging out of the woods but the little guy himself, looking none the worse for wear and ready to take us on for another season.
We're thrilled to have him back.
Live long and prosper, Mr. P!