Sunday, September 13, 2020

Mast update, random plants and raccoons + electricity

Thank-you to Amazon Customer for Review #7.

Mast crop

I had a question come in asking about the mast crop in my part of Michigan.

There are two kinds of mast. Soft mast includes apples, pears, hawthorn, rose hips, pawpaw, persimmons and fruits.

Hard mast includes acorns, walnuts, hickory nuts, hazel nuts and so on.

Some kinds of mast straddle the fence. Chestnuts are more like potatoes than most other kinds of nuts. Acorns from the white oak group are likely to sprout as soon as they hit the ground. On the other hand, some kinds of pears are as hard as rocks and are difficult for deer to gnaw on until a couple of freezes have softened them up.

The mast crop is light this year. I estimate it is 25%-to-35% of what we would see in a good year.

Some species have a strong crop: Northern Red Oak and Bitternut Hickory.

Most others have partial crops at best.

We had two significant freeze events in the second week of May. Even the species that are not blooming are extending succulent growth that is vulnerable to freeze damage. The secondary buds that push are not always fruitful.

Like all things related to freeze damage, the degree of damage varies by site. Branches lower on the trees and partially sheltered by higher branches avoided the worst of the damage. A few trees on elevation and sloping ground did OK.

Seed pods from a Tulip Tree. They were in the trail I was running. Not only are the pods as hard as rocks, but the seeds are tiny. Squirrels have to be pretty hungry to go after these.

I suspect we have an exceptionally high squirrel population this year. While running I have seen where squirrels were cutting Box Elder seeds and Tulip Tree seeds out of trees already. I don't recall seeing that before.

Ramps have an interesting life-cycle. Ramps are a perennial in the onion family.

They have bulbs. In the early spring before the trees leaf-out, they push large numbers of lush, tender, mildly onion-flavored greens. The greens die away after the tree canopies shade the ground. Then, in August, the seed stalk pushes.

The seed pods are cracking open now.

Not every plant has chlorophyll. These are called Beech Drops and yes, I found them in a stand of beech trees.

Beech trees are in decline in some areas and exploding in others. Both places consider it a problem.

Beech trees fill a niche similar to Sugar Maple. They are a climax forest species and the roots tend to be shallow. That makes them vulnerable to compaction due to animal hooves and, presumably, wheeled vehicles racing around in the woods.

The wood is not considered particularly valuable but that can change if supplies of other, higher value hardwoods cannot keep with demand.

Raccoons and electric fences

I put an electric fence around my sweet corn this year. I didn't have much evidence of its effectiveness until I took it down.

We had zero losses in two weeks of picking corn while the fence was energized.

Four days after turning it off 90% of what we had not picked was hammered.

I think raccoons must be very sensitive to electricity. They tend to be grabbers and sniffers and their bare feet are good conductors to ground.

The fence was not very hot. I was driving a lot of perimeter fence and the fence had a lot of grass loading.

I guess it was hot enough.


  1. We had a tomato patch more than a decade back. Every time the a tomato was about to get ripe, it developed a rip in the skin. We looked around, and couldn't see any bugs - at all. And it was only the tomatoes getting ripe, not any other crop.

    Then we caught our dog nipping at them one night. Turns out the rat terrier liked the smell of ripe tomatoes, but not the taste.

  2. I've heard keeping the soil moist around the grounding rod helps. We get really dry summers here. I have 3 wires near the top of my board fence all around the yard. Adding that third top wire and finding the last sneaking thru spot finally solved the problem. But it was a real raccoon war.

    1. Better yet, run hot and ground wires adjacent strands in the fencing itself. When critters touch both together, the grounding path is through the critter, not to just dry ground. You can allow the ground strands to be touching metal t-posts at a variety of locations along the fence, not just going back to a single grounding rod.

  3. We've had good luck with a radio in addition to a hot wire.

    1. I've also heard that hanging old CD's up to move and twirl in the wind keeps deer back. The shiny round things look like eyes, and the deer don't like the predator "eyes."


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