Thursday, September 12, 2013

Falconry Update!

I need to constantly remind myself that there is no reason anyone should have any idea what I am talking about. My life includes farriers, horse carts, cheese making and medieval archery. It's about fiddles and cider brewing and I make a living talking about it all on the internet. The general public does not know (or want to know) what a dorian chord is, how to measure your work horse for a proper hames, or the difference between a longbow and a recurve. Yet sometimes I expect one of my passions to kindle the public's zeitgeist and I assume a level of understanding. Example: I don't expect people who never touched a horse cart to know what a singletree is, but I do expect them to know what a draft horse is. Another example would be that even if you never touched a fiddle you could tell the difference between OId Joe Clark and Bach. These are commonalities, base understandings. A mathematician could hand me an abacus and ask me to find the sum of seven and ten minus four and I could figure it out, but I would just stare opened mouthed and drooling if they wanted a theorem recited. Point is, everyone's got their own focus and their own world. And most of us can understand just enough of each other's to be polite. It's true in line for Stewart's waiting to pay for coffee when you nod at someone's Yankee's cap (Baseball fan!) and it's true when asking the clerk in the town office for a photo copy of your Small Game License so you can mail in your falconry apprenticeship application to the Capital.

Nope. Hand that lady an abacus 'cause I just asked for a Theorem.

I had been so focused on falconry, so intent on getting the year's worth of tests, projects, and prerequisites in order that this otherwise arcane pastime had become as normal to me as baseball. I work part time at a falconry school. When I drive over to Mark and Patty's local falconers are in the field flying their birds. And so it had just become a part of my life that when then woman stared at me, asking what I meant by "falcon apprentice?" I must have stared at her like she was trying to get me to explain the color blue, or what a crow sounds like. In my own little world I had forgotten, again, that I am the weirdo.

"It's hunting with a hawk. I'm applying for a special license to use a bird instead of gun. "

At this point she lit up, and understood what I meant. She had questions and thought it was cool but didn't realize the same place that handed out deer tags and people licensed their dogs was the place people came for Falconry paperwork. In all fairness, there aren't a lot of us out there. Not compared to deer hunters. So we chatted and smiled and then I headed out of the office with my brand-new 2013-14 hunting tags and the proof I needed that I was a hunter in good standing with the Empire State, which by default showed I had taken the courses on hunter safety.

For those of you who are following my falconry journey with any interest, things are about to get a lot more interesting. Tomorrow a state Game Warden comes to inspect the mews (hawk house), weathering area (hawk run), and supplies I had gathered. The Warden will have a two-page list of requirements that need to be checked off and if I pass he will hand me a signed form of acceptance, and I will have the last part of my application packet ready to mail to Albany.

So what did it take to get this far? If you remember, back in April I took a hundred question test at a DEC office outside the Adirondack park. I passed, with 91% (I needed a minimum score of 80%) and that allowed me to take my next steps in my adventure. I found a mentor, Ed Hepp, a Cambridge neighbor and retired carousel horse carver, and he accepted me as his apprentice. Then a mews was built here on my farm, thanks to the amazing Daughton Family and the Wesner's who gave both their time, tools, and energy to this endeavor. I had traded two goats back in early spring to the Daughtons for their help building the mews (deal was I would provide the wood, they would provide the labor with my help) and I think I got the better deal. I know it, as it took a lot of nights post-office for Tim and his family working on the building. But it is here, and thanks to Patty's birthday present of lumber it cost me very little to erect. I painted it white to match the house and the folks at Common Sense Farm welded me a custom perch. It is damn beautiful, that building. Patty and I finished Tim's hard work just this week and put together a weathering area out of dog kennel panels and deer netting. I am seriously ready to capture a juvenile red tail! Thanks to amazing friends, the people at the falconry school, Ed, Tim, Patty, and everyone else who helped along the way.

Now all I need is the state's approval on what we built together. When I have that in writing I mail it to the special license department in the Department of Environmental Conservation along with Ed's blessing (another mentor-acceptance form), my exam results, proof of hunter's education and small game license and I should be granted the big, big, deal: My Falconer's Apprentice License. When I have that I am legally able to capture, train, and hunt with a red tail hawk under the supervision of my mentor, Ed. I study with him for two years and if after that time he feels I am qualified he will let the state know and I can become a General Falconer. That means I can begin taking apprentices of my own. A long way off but who knows, as there may be some folks looking to me someday to do what Ed is doing for me.

So tomorrow if the Game Warden approves my mews, weathering area, perches, and gear I can mail my application and begin the adventure of a lifetime. I will start to create a partnership with a wild animal. I will learn to think, hunt, and work as a team with something once as impossible to touch as the stars. I will be a Falconer's Apprentice. It feels like it should come with a robe and some incense, no? No, I guess not. But it will come with a pair of chaps for walking through thick brush an a walking stick to make rabbits scurry out of bushes.

Stay Tuned. This story is just getting started! So much is ahead with the story of trapping, training, hooding, learning, fear, joy, and that sacred first hunt together. It is another world, one apart from baseball hats and math problems, but it is mine and I adore it. And sure, people still may be confused as hell when I start talking about jesses, bow perches, and gauntlets but I will be happy to have my hawk deliver them an abacus.