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A complete plan change on our farm. Maybe. Ugh!  RSS feed

 
Posts: 1392
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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We have 40 acres in Wyoming. I've been planting various fruit trees about it for several years now. My success with growing varies based on method but I had settled on mini krater gardens as the grand plan. I was hoping to turn 35 acres into a U-pick orchard. We are breeding pigs as our ONLY livestock. I don't really want any other animals and other animals pose more of a risk to the orchard anyway.

We've always had ground squirrels. They really exploded around our property when the oil play started back up. Seeking refuge for sure. At this point we have so many that my oldest trees are dying. Everything is dying. Sure, mother nature is helping. We have bull snakes and weasels about killing the ground squirrels. It's not saving the trees though.

So this isn't working. Between the regular old death rate (which at 50-60% I was considering amazingly good with our 11 inch rainfall and my complete lack of water rights to irrigate), and the plant eating pests we have everywhere (I didn't even mention our rabbit population which amazes people for miles around), it's not working.

So I'm playing with a new idea and I need some opinions on it.

The front 5 acres is swaled and krater'd out. The trees there are planted. I plan on leaving that alone except I'll irrigate with drip irrigation. That way I'll have a 5 acre orchard. (So when I said I can't irrigate I meant that I only have 2 acre water rights if I used a sprinkler. Using drip I think I can stretch that.) I'm going to start smuggling snakes, stoats and freaking poison if I have to, to those ground squirrels.

The other 35 acres will be randomly krater'd. I've already started that actually. I'll plant a single tree in each hole. I'm thinking native, hardy species. In this way I'll perhaps be able to get some silvapasture going. I'll seed the land, field fence it, and expand our pig operations. Kraters have a big impact as far as forage goes. I have alfalfa, clover, grasses, sainfoin, etc growing easily in every single krater.

It's not the grand plans I'd really wanted but I could sell fruit on a small scale and pork on a large scale. I do love our pigs. I would not mind having more at all.

Oh, the pigs are American Guinea Hog but next year I'm planning on breeding all the females to a Kune-kune boar. I'm enamored with the cross breed idea.
 
Posts: 103
Location: Pennsylvania, Dauphin County
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I have no real input except to ask, are you absolutely certain the tree deaths are from ground squirrels.

It is not uncommon where people make the wrong diagnosis because it seems like one culprit is the main one but then their are bugs or disease they did not catch as their attention was on another.

Rule out anything else is my best advice and sorry I am not so helpful otherwise.
 
gardener
Posts: 7473
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I'm going to assume that you're never going to grow any timber in those craters, due to your lack of rainfall. Autumn olives, and sea buckthorn might have a chance. If Autumn olives  were established on regular intervals, that would provide grazing and a large supply of nitrogen.

Guinea fowl will hunt rodents. They may also go after your snakes, so not sure if there would be a net benefit.

Once you have a dry Savannah, interspersed with Autumn Olive, hopefully birds of prey will choose your place.

If pigs were roaming everywhere, I would expect that to be hard on the rodent population. I would also expect that the pigs may consume every snake.
 
gardener
Posts: 4864
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Elle, Harry brings up a great point and so does Dale. Ground squirrels rarely kill trees in my experience.

AGH cross Kune Kune is a breed mix that keeps the size the same but adds less lard development from the AGH genes.
This cross will be a hog variety that hunts down snakes and rodents.
All Hogs will rub against trees, I have a now dead mulberry as a result of my hogs rubbing against the trunk enough to girdle the tree and kill it. Something to think about if you want to move then into areas with fruit trees.

I would lift one of the dead trees and do a through inspection of trunk, roots, branches to determine what killed the tree.
If you don't find anything wrong with the tree such as fungus, disease or damage to the bark, then it might be soil conditions that are the culprit, a sample to the lab would be in order in that case.

Redhawk
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1392
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Harry Soloman wrote:I have no real input except to ask, are you absolutely certain the tree deaths are from ground squirrels.

It is not uncommon where people make the wrong diagnosis because it seems like one culprit is the main one but then their are bugs or disease they did not catch as their attention was on another.

Rule out anything else is my best advice and sorry I am not so helpful otherwise.



They aren't eating the roots but they've dug around the tree so completely that that is what is killing it.
 
gardener
Posts: 402
Location: Sierra Nevadas, CA 6400'
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A cheap rubber snake will scare squirrels away pretty well. It might be worth it zip tying some to your new trees and seeing how that fares. That being said, I still have doubts that squirrels are your real problem. If you have holes around your trees, that sounds more like voles/moles than squirrels. Squirrels usually dig to bury, not really for the sake of digging or hiding. I've still yet to see a single vole in my property, but I'm certain I have hundreds of thousands of them.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1392
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Kyle Neath wrote:A cheap rubber snake will scare squirrels away pretty well. It might be worth it zip tying some to your new trees and seeing how that fares. That being said, I still have doubts that squirrels are your real problem. If you have holes around your trees, that sounds more like voles/moles than squirrels. Squirrels usually dig to bury, not really for the sake of digging or hiding. I've still yet to see a single vole in my property, but I'm certain I have hundreds of thousands of them.



I understand what ya'll are saying. I can understand your disbelief. Unfortunately we have them everywhere. We shoot them. We find random dead ones. We have a cat that gifted us a few. I know it's them. It's their tunnel system. I'll try to get some pics for ya'll.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Posts: 4864
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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If the squirrels are tunneling that much then they are the problem, to much air and root disruption.
You might try planting garlic around the trees, it won't hurt the tree and voles, moles, ground squirrels don't really like the odor of garlic bulbs growing.

Redhawk
 
pollinator
Posts: 1793
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
You might try planting garlic around the trees, it won't hurt the tree and voles, moles, ground squirrels don't really like the odor of garlic bulbs growing.

Redhawk



Daffodils are supposed to do the same.  I know the voles and things don't bother my apple trees that have daffodils, but I'm not sure if that if why.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Posts: 4864
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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daffodils contain two alkaloids, narcissine (lycorine) and galantamine as well as the glycoside scillaine (scillitoxin). These toxins are probably why the voles don't bother your trees.
 
gardener
Posts: 1470
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Kyle Neath wrote: sounds more like voles/moles than squirrels. Squirrels usually dig to bury, not really for the sake of digging or hiding.



"Ground squirrels"can refer to animals of the marmot family, also called groundhogs, prairie dogs, or woodchucks in the US. These marmot types do indeed dig for the sake of it, and they live in extensive runs and complexes.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Is this the same one that is called the prairie dog? I think they spend more time below ground than above. People from the East are probably more familiar with tree dwelling squirrels. They dig to hide things.

Prairie dogs and groundhogs dig dens, escape routes, air ducts, nesting chambers and pooping chambers, depending on species and location.
 
Posts: 89
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You could also consider terriers. This is exactly what they were bred for. A pair of jack russels or similr will hunt rabbits and ground squirrels down into their tunnels all day. If they get stuck in a tunnel, they are conformed such that you can pull them out by their stub tail without hurting them. If you could get a couple of the most hyper ones from a local breeder or rescue, or talk to a breeder or trainer, you might actually have success. They hunt much much more voraciously than cats.
 
pollinator
Posts: 484
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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Elle, I hate to say it but when I was a hippie child, we had an explosion of ground squirrels. They did solid work in the fields, since it was badly compacted. They allowed new plants to move in where there had been sagebrush and yucca. But, they did get out of control. We tried cats and had plenty of snakes and raptors, but ultimately they did kill a bunch of small trees. The bigger trees seemed to be fine.

Ulimately we had a case of bubonic plague and the state came in and cyanide-bombed hundreds of acres, and they were pretty damn thorough! We had no squirrels for a long time, then the 13-lined little ones moved back in, and now there are the full complement, but it gave the trees time to get bigger. The raptors were still around, never really saw them drop off because there were still rabbits and tree squirrels around. Did have a major snake decrease, unfortunately.

Probably not the most permie story, but the burrows can really dry out soil quickly in the summer to a modest depth. Maybe a combo of drip irrigation and garlic next to the trees would be reasonable. I feel your pain, it is so hard to grow in high desert areas, and then after stuff limps along for 6 years you are back to square 1. I hate to say it but that is why I don't live there anymore!
 
Posts: 56
Location: Zone 7a, Paulden, AZ
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This sounds much like our problem with gophers.  Anyone here know if the garlic or daffodils would work the same to deter gophers?

Bonnie
 
gardener
Posts: 3536
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I wonder if a goji berry would survive out there? Wonder if you could handle picking such small berries?
 
Bonnie Kuhlman
Posts: 56
Location: Zone 7a, Paulden, AZ
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I wonder if a goji berry would survive out there? Wonder if you could handle picking such small berries?



I do believe goji grows wild near here.  No problem picking them, but would they deter gophers?
 
Posts: 170
Location: Denmark 57N
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Really not a problem I have I don't even have moles as my soil is too wet for them, but. could you plant your trees in a chicken wire ball? say 3ft round, it would at least prevent them from digging right next to the tree. So dig a hole line it with wire, put the tree and soil in then fold the wire back over the top?
 
Bonnie Kuhlman
Posts: 56
Location: Zone 7a, Paulden, AZ
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Skandi Rogers wrote:Really not a problem I have I don't even have moles as my soil is too wet for them, but. could you plant your trees in a chicken wire ball? say 3ft round, it would at least prevent them from digging right next to the tree. So dig a hole line it with wire, put the tree and soil in then fold the wire back over the top?



Interesting idea.  Maybe, if using the small, 1/2" size chicken wire.  Would this restrict the root growth?

 
pollinator
Posts: 1520
Location: Denver, CO
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Some balled-and-burlaped trees come with a wire cage around the root ball. Sloppy installers sometimes leave these in place, and they do compromise the long term health of the tree.

Would a layer of gravel around the trees deter critters?
 
Posts: 1944
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Katie Jarvis wrote:You could also consider terriers. This is exactly what they were bred for. A pair of jack russels or similr will hunt rabbits and ground squirrels down into their tunnels all day. If they get stuck in a tunnel, they are conformed such that you can pull them out by their stub tail without hurting them. If you could get a couple of the most hyper ones from a local breeder or rescue, or talk to a breeder or trainer, you might actually have success. They hunt much much more voraciously than cats.



I'll second this. Terriers are exceptional hunters of borrowing animals. They do a superb job of rat control. Even better if their owners are along with a shovel to open things up for them. I know there are groups of terrier owners who get together for an afternoon to help out with rat problems on farms. Maybe see if there is a terrier breed association local to you?
 
Skandi Rogers
Posts: 170
Location: Denmark 57N
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Bonnie Kuhlman wrote:

Skandi Rogers wrote:Really not a problem I have I don't even have moles as my soil is too wet for them, but. could you plant your trees in a chicken wire ball? say 3ft round, it would at least prevent them from digging right next to the tree. So dig a hole line it with wire, put the tree and soil in then fold the wire back over the top?



Interesting idea.  Maybe, if using the small, 1/2" size chicken wire.  Would this restrict the root growth?


I would think it will depend on the type of tree, i.e how fat it's roots get and how big you can make the ball. I don't know how deep they can dig but perhaps an inverted fence round the tree might work as well
 
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Location: California Sierra Foothils, 2,500 ft. Elevation zone 8b-9a
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I also have had a population explosion of ground squirrels. In addition to them I have gophers and voles. Whereas the gophers at least close up their tunnels the ground squirrels do not. I believe they take over abandoned gopher tunnels, expand them and leave them open. We have a constant breeze in the summer with daily temps in 90's and humidity in the teens and our land gets parched and rock hard from above and below. Even though we average over 50" of rain over the winter months.

This spring we are getting a rat terrier. Too much work to see it decimated by these prolific breeding rodents. I refuse to poison or gas them. These dogs are in seventh heaven doing what they are bred to do. The few I have shot are left out on the back forty and are gone by the next morning. Coons, foxes, skunks I don't know what eats the carcass but it is not wasted.
 
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