Of Crossbows and Man-Cages, or Having the Right Equipment

Of Crossbows and Man-Cages, or Having the Right Equipment.

There are some neighbors, Jim and Pat, whom we’ve kind of liked from afar for a while, and finally got to spend some time with today. Jim is a pretty cool guy. He heads up a group of bow hunters who have special permission from the Himalayan Institute next door to us to cull a few deer each year as part of population control. He only hunts with a bow, even during gun season. We’ve spoken with him a few times since our property borders the Institute, and he wanted to make sure we were OK with his hunting around the edges of our property. He also works with a sustainable energy organization and powers his whole home with solar. He and Brian got to be pretty friendly, and we have been saying for a while we would get together. We actually ran into him and his wife and a couple other friends this past Friday evening at the artisan wood-fired pizza night at Old School Farm, down the road. We’re enjoying this part of the farm too – getting into the local community, meeting like-minded people who grow organic food and share our values of being respectful stewards of the environment.

This afternoon’s visit began with the offer to test out Jim’s brand new crossbow. It is a pretty amazing weapon. I’d never held one before, and it was lighter than I’d expected, looking at it. Jim taught us how to cock it, sight the target, and shoot it. It’s extraordinarily quiet. There is no kick, unlike a shotgun or rifle. The arrow just whooshes out with the softest little release sound, and the whole thing is still and steady, quick and exact. We’ve never been hunters, but I can sense the respect Jim has for nature, and appreciate his precision in ensuring that, when he takes a deer, it’s over instantaneously, without a sound and without undue fright or suffering for the animal. It’s not a trophy or a blood sport to him. I can also appreciate the power and the engineering of this bow. It was quite something to experience.

[Jim instructed me on the crossbow using a stand at first. My favorite part of this video is how the dogs in the background watch the shot.]

We drove home, munching on fresh peas and cucumbers from the garden, with a bag full of rhubarb, and the discovery of a couple we had more in common with than we’d even expected. Turns out they served in the Peace Corps in Rajastan; we also have a connection to India, where we were married. We share a love of the woods and the simple pleasures of life close to nature, as well as appreciation for classical music and a good white wine. We look forward to more opportunities to spend time together, canoeing the Delaware, or picnicking in the orchard. No doubt there are long conversations ahead between Jim and Brian about hardy kiwi, super dense insulation, and geothermal energy.

We decided to cap off the day by picking mulberries. Our tree is loaded with them. For the last two years, the birds got them all. This year there are enough that we’ve been enjoying the handfuls we can pluck off the lower branches in between throwing the ball for the dogs. Brian had the great idea to go up in the man-cage on the tractor, so there we were, as the sun lowered in the sky over the orchard, my man navigating the tractor and me up in the cage with a Folgers can around my neck with a string, plucking berries until my hands were stained bright red.

It’s not quite at the level of sophistication of Jim and his crossbow, but we did a good enough job that we’ll have sweet black mulberries, tasting of sunshine and summer, for breakfast in the morning.

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