Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Good fences make good neighbors


Many of these are broken off at the base

The rotten, broke posts are being replaced with something like these: 4' lengths of split black locust with 2' buried and 2' above ground. Compared to what I am replacing, they look stout enough to hang guard-rail on.

This stretch of wire is a power-feed. It runs along the side of one of the gardens and needs maintenance.

The ground is so dry the dirt, once broken, flows through the side of the posthole digger like water. I had to add water to get the dust out of the hole.

It was slow going. It took me 2 hours to clear and repost 200 feet. Then I did another 200 feet that took less than a half hour.


That is a watermelon that I think a woodchuck gnawed its way into.

He is also hammering the Chinese cabbage.

It is time for Zeus the wonder-dog to earn his kibbles. I need to take him around and let him tell me which holes have the woodchuck(s) in them. Then I need to set a body-grip trap and keep him a tight leash for a while.

Produce losses

Bayou Renaissance Man recently posted about food sustainability. His premise is that chaos happens and tidy plans don't always produce like our hopes.

I agree.

One thing that new gardeners seldom consider is that larger fields suffer less from pests and depredation than smaller plots because pests typically work the edges. Small plots are nothing but edges while a 160 acre field is almost all interior if you assume the "edge" extends 50' into the field.

Another thing that sabotages the home gardener/orchard is the plan to have a sequence of crops hitting maturity so something is always ripening every week of summer and fall. The problem is that pests can decimate your crops as the crops trickle in. They are less able to do that if you have one or two big surges that overwhelm their ability to eat it as quickly as it ripens.

Ideally, the home food grower would be able to protect his crop with electric fences and bird netting and traps and other technology. But technology can fail, humans can get distracted.

The other thing worth noting is that an animal does not have to eat the entire crop to destroy it. Consider rodents or raccoons in a grain-bin. They probably make 20 times more food unusable by urinating and defecating on it as they actually eat.

(As an aside, the same thing happens with human predators. The value of what they steal pales in comparison to the costs born by the victims in terms of collateral damages)

This year I intend to pick the fruit a little bit earlier than usual. Apples and pears can ripen off the tree just fine. Picking up fruit off the ground is a little bit dicey, especially if the skin has been breached. Better to pick earlier and ripen in boxes in the garage than to waste food.

Wasting food is a sin.


  1. Find yourself a local flock of chickens, or if you know any hog farmers in the area...? Could turn what fruit does hit the ground into breakfast!

    1. Agreed, but, I believe you and I are on the same page here:
      A deer will passively eat the dropped fruit, or maybe not. Likewise you may harvest this converter of foodstuffs, or maybe not. Someone else may reap your windfall.
      But a neighbor who saves on feed costs will be a local friend, ally, and contact; and your odds of getting a return are higher (don't care how good a shot you are).

  2. Remember when tshtf those groundhogs are actually not bad tasting if you get them before two years old . My dad was a gun and hunting nut and we boys grew up eating anything the old man would bring home . Except possums . Mom refused to cook them . Thank Gawd !

  3. I realise I’m lucky in having both the climate and (after a few years of improvements) the soil to pretty much have to fight to ‘stop’ stuff growing (once I’d figured out which bits of my land the particular plants preferred, which needed the greenhouses and … which to just give up on). That and having almost no vermin (rabbits, mice and even badgers occasionally, but nothing to what you all face). Plenty of bugs, but again not as much, or as aggressive, as what you have.

    But , saying that, and on a (4 acre garden) small plot I’ve found that ‘sacrificial’ outer plantings (mostly heritage or wild species that the pests are familiar with elsewhere, things like Skirret, ground nuts, sea cabbage, radish and beet and yarrow here) seems to reduce my losses. I still get some produce out of them, but not as much as I’d like, but at least my core crops are mostly left alone. (it looks a bit untidy,, but at least the Jerusalem artichokes hide what I’m doing from the neighbours, who think my ‘forest garden’ area is a neglected wilderness, and look shocked on finally entering my ‘groomed’ – well in my imagination it would be if I ever get on top of all the work involved - row plot area in the middle. I think I need to hire, or breed, some help, one for the garden and at least a dozen for the farm). Oh, and companion plantings that discourage some pests help too.

    Do you have similar options as a ‘distraction’?

    I was born, and brought up in this area, gardened (on and off) for decades, with access to ‘ancestral’ knowledge (and hundreds of studies, documents and local experts) and I am still learning every day (and failing about a third of the time). As such I look on in some amusement at the many people who assume they’ll ‘just’ start growing their own when and if they feel the need. They just don’t seem to understand either the work involved, or that it’ll take years to get it all up and running even vaguely well (and a decade or two to perfect it). Time they may not be allowed.

    No fencing here, dry-stone and hedging, but my post-hole digging (for planting) usually involves an hour or two extra with a brick-hammer to chip off the mud that permanently glues itself to it – so “runs like water” sounds so ‘idyllic’ to me (side greener grass, reassemble as necessary).

  4. Thank you very much for the gardening tips. Going to rethink my orchard plans now.

  5. I made a comment to bayou resistance man’s post but I didn’t mention crop protection, we finally went to an eight foot fence to keep the moose out as did our neighbor. Fortunately they don’t bother potatoes. Here in Alaska we don’t have wood chucks or coons but some years the voles have caused serious damage. The moose got the early cabbage before we got the fence up. Electric doesn’t work well for moose.

  6. Electric fence outside the 8' fence has kept the moose out of our garden for several years now. Neither by itself was adequate. Moose don't eat 'tater plants, but in late fall they will paw up the taters after the vines have died back. So far, moose won't touch fava beans at all.

  7. Voles ate most of our beets and turnips last year. Can't fence them out! And the dogs would do at least as much damage if we let them go after the voles. Voles go after the taters, too, but haven't done serious damage to them yet. All this in Interior Alaska.


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