Murder of Crows Saves Chicken

I witnessed a crow miracle today.  The forest gifted us a miracle that saved my sweet little chicken’s life.Crows

This year has been a difficult one for our chicken flock.  We free range our hens, because we believe that freedom is a precious thing.   We have also heard horror stories of caged hens being massacred by creatures tearing through fences and taking the whole flock at once.

So, sometimes the forest will take a hen or two to feed someone.   This year, the fox came to visit. I think she was raising a den of pups.  She would come and take a chicken about once a week until we were down to one poor lonely chicken.  Since the disappearance of her flock, this chicken has become somewhat dear to us.

We have a little routine, she and I.  Every morning she comes up to the porch to check in.  Then she nestles into an old garden basket in my outdoor pantry and lays her egg.  She cackles loudly to let me know she is done, then she jumps up on the porch railing to wait for me to feed her.  It’s quite endearing.

So, as you can imagine, I find myself just praying for her safety and encourage her to stay close to the house.  She is pretty “forest wise” and she flies up into the trees when threatened.  Some of the other breeds don’t do this.  It’s curious because they can fly.  But, often when they are under attack, many chickens will not fly.  They simply run.  This makes them pretty easy prey in the chain of life up here. Anyway, this chicken is a Spangler.  She is pretty savvy.  And, I pray.

This warm summer morning,  as I was watering the plants on my porch, I heard this incredible ruckus.  The crows came flying from everywhere.  They dove through the sky from the north, south, east and west.  They were screaming their crow call and diving down in this one spot in our meadow.  The grass and flowers were quite high so it was hard to understand the scene at first.  The crows kept diving and cawing until the fox turned away from her path to the chicken coop and went running, tail between her legs back into the forest.

I ran around the house to check and there was my sweet chicken.  I was so happy to see her. I gave thanks to the crows for saving her for one more day.  It was a chicken miracle day at  Dancing Sun Cabins.  I am so grateful.

I do wonder if there are others who have witnessed forest miracles.  I would love to hear about them.  I find the forest to be a fascinating place to live in.

Max Patch Magical Morning

The AT crosses the top of Max Patch

Mornings on Max are nothing short of a miracle.  This morning we shuttled some of our guests up for a hike down to the cabins.  This is a wonderful 9-mile hike down from 4629 feet to about 2900 feet of elevation at the cabins.

Tom and I took the opportunity to walk over the “roof of our world” here in Spring Creek.   Max Patch is the highest point in our area and it never disappoints us.

On this fine morning. we were witness to a brand new baby elk being born.  When I captured her on camera, the distance and glare made it difficult to notice the baby.  I was very curious as to why she was alone, grazing in an open field.   The bulls are often alone, but most of the time the females are in herds.

We hope you enjoy this video which we entitled the Magic Morning on Max Patch.

For several years now, the National Park Service has been working to re-establish the elk in the Appalachian region.  This beautiful doe probably wandered over from the Cataloochee area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.   Or, perhaps she split off from the two herds that are pretty well established in the Harmon Den area just below Max Patch on the drive over to I-40.

 

 

Hiking is endless at Dancing Sun Cabins

Hiking Tips

Here are some things to think about when hiking in our woods.

Max Patch hiking is the best
Max Patch is one of our favorite places to hike
  • Take a map along. We have provided maps for you to carry with you that will help you find your way in our forest and connect to the Appalachian Trail.
  • We take a Garmen GPS unit with us, but we ALWAYS compare it to our maps. GPS can get you lost around here and it rarely gives you a good idea about how long a trail might be.
  • The blazes for the AT are white. When you see 2 blazes, that means to pay attention as there is another trail crossing the AT.
  • In the summer, the understory gets thick with stinging nettles, poison ivy and blackberry vines. Come prepared for this, or plan to hike on trails that are heavily traveled.
  • We do have snakes here. Most are not poisonous. Rattle snakes make a pretty loud sound. Copperheads are shy and prefer not to be bothered. These are the only two kinds of snakes that are poisonous here. It is best just to leave them alone. If you should experience a snake bite, just stay calm and get to help. Slow breathing and keeping your heart rate low is the best treatment.
  • Yellow jackets can be ferocious if disturbed. Please be aware that they live in holes in the ground. It is best not to poke holes in the ground. If they come after you….RUN!!!! Run away from their nest and try to get them off of you. They can sting more than once. Jewel weed takes the sting away.
  • It is good to carry 50 mg of Benadryl and 150 mg of Zantac with you just in case you experience and allergic reaction.

Here is a link to little video on helpful and harmful plants you may encounter along the way.

Rankin Bottoms: A great place for bird watching

One of our favorite places to visit in the winter is Rankin Bottoms.

This unique wildlife area is located where the Nolichucky and French Broad rivers meet and enter Douglas Lake. This is a flood plane area.

The water level is managed by the TVA. The water level is dropped very low in the winter leaving mud flats and watering holes that are perfect areas for birds to gather. This high altitude swamp has unusual features such as Osage orange trees, Cyprus trees, and Honey Locusts.

This is often a warm sunny spot in the winter and a great place to see large birds such as Egrets and Herons. Geese,Sandpipers, Gulls and many other birds find this the perfect spot to feed. Check out what the Tennessee Ornithological Society has to say about this place. It’s incredible!

The landscape has unique plant life that create surreal colors and scenery. We find it a great place to wander.

​To reach Rankin Bottoms, you must travel to Newport, Tennessee. We advise going to Hot Springs and following 25/70. The road is not really closed even though the bridge is out. You can take Fugate Road, just go slow as the locals do. When you get to the end of Fugate, turn right on Hwy 107 and cross the bridge. Turn left toward Newport on 25/70.
Go through downtown Newport and bare right on Industrial Road. Stay on Industrial Road about 5 miles you will have to turn left to remain on Industrial road, the go another 5 miles until you reach Rankin Hill Road. There will be a Wildlife refuge sign here. The road follows the railroad tracks and is a little rough in places, though you do not have to have 4 wheel drive unless it is muddy.