Win a Fokin hoe blade this week in the Gear forum!

Dan Cruickshank

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since Aug 18, 2012
Virginia
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Recent posts by Dan Cruickshank

David Jacke discusses how Robert Hart did the initial temperate forest gardening work with a hernia. Check it out in the first volume of "Edible Forest Gardening." I wouldn't recommend it, but ...

Let's put it this way, I'm in good health and yet that's one of the reasons why I would like to look into forest gardening further.

Dan
5 years ago
Why no cat? Well, we have a cat. It just hasn't done any mousing for us. We've locked him in the shed, he works his way through the shed, sits and watches the mice for a while, and then asks to come back out.

We even caught a mouse, and put him in a 4'x2'x2' cattle feeder with wood chips in the bottom. (The chickens were sleeping there, in the house, at night--to recover from injuries from the rooster. We put the mouse in after letting the chickens out.) The sides were tall enough that the mouse couldn't get out. We put our cat, named Tiger, in there with the mouse and watched for over a half an hour as they played "cat and mouse." Eventually, the mouse learned that he could run towards Tiger anytime Tiger pounced. Thus, Tiger would pounce and land with his hind quarters on the mouse. He'd look left, right, confused, not finding the mouse. Finally, Tiger would pick himself up and the mouse would run out from under him. After a half an hour, one of the hens wanted to come back into the house to lay an egg. She knocked at the door, I let her in. She pecked at Tiger, and Tiger was out of there in a flash. She pecked at the mouse: once, twice, and then the mouse didn't move again.

We did this again later, with another mouse. After close to an hour, Tiger came back to me meyowling. When I went to check on the mouse, it wasn't there anymore. My only guess is that the mouse jumped on Tiger, and then jumped from Tiger to get out of the feeder.

Bottom line: we have a cat. It's been fun and amusing to watch him try to do his cat thing with mice, but so far nothing significant has happened, save for lots of laughter on our part at watching him.

Dan

P.S. He seems to do a much better job jumping on and pouncing at the laser pointer ....
5 years ago
Actually, it's not that the mice are getting into the storage container, it's more that we can't seem to keep the floor clean. The feed is kept in a metal garbage can with a tight lid. They're not getting into that. They're getting into the scraps that spill onto the floor every time we scoop some up to put into a transfer container.

I like the idea of the PVC pipe with a trap in it. I think I might have just that length lying around to try. It'd also keep the cat out of it, so I wouldn't have to worry about killing or injuring a cat while trying to get a mouse.

Dan
5 years ago
+1 for varietal differences. Our Seedless Reliance grape vine set a wonderfully huge crop, and it was destroyed by black rot this year. (We've had some wet weather, at exactly the wrong time.) However, a Mars grape vine that I planted last year has several clusters turning color with no sign of black rot at all. Is this because the Mars vine is growing in a welded wire fence? Because that was the fence protecting the garden? Because the chickens were on the other side of that fence? The Cawtawba vine growing in a chain-link fence looks to have some black rot on it. It's growing right next to beans in one garden, but has no chickens near it. Is that because Mars is less susceptible to black rot than Cawtawba, Cayuga, or Reliance?

I don't know, but I'm still looking for the answer. I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for all those who have shared ideas!

Dan
5 years ago
We seem to have a problem with mice and our chickens. The mice like to stay in the shed where we keep the chicken feed and the straw for the chicken coop. It seems like a perfect environment for them.

My problem is that I don't want them there.

We also have a dog house converted into a turkey coop for baby turkeys, together with an outdoor run. Every time we move that converted doghouse, however, we find a fresh family of mice underneath.

I don't really want them there either, although I suppose if I knew how long a mouse brood cycle was, I might know to move the coop whenever the baby mice were available--they do make good chicken treats.

We've found a black snake on the property - I figure that's a good start.

We've found that if you keep a metal trash can with a handful of feed in the bottom, that it will then act as a live mouse trap. The chickens relish the mice as treats, although getting the mouse to the chickens without letting him get away has been ... only somewhat successful.

Anybody have any other good ideas?

Dan
5 years ago

Alder Burns wrote:Better than cereal boxes...go out and find the hugest cardboard boxes you can find. Try mattress and furniture store dumpsters.



You're right, mattress boxes would cover more ground. I was assuming that the garden was already in existence and growing. Huge cardboard boxes would kill what's already there. Smaller boxes might allow you to work around small and existing plants.

I'll admit, the first time we tried the cardboard, we used only a light coating of straw. When the Virginia winds came along, the cardboard flew away and into the garden fence. We needed to redo that cardboard many times before we were finally successful. Hence, I strongly recommend a thick layer of mulch on top of the cardboard to keep it in place. That has actually worked for us.

Of course, if you didn't have the garden (yet), you could use animals to clear the ground. I am told that goats prefer poison ivy to other plants they might eat and seek it out to eat it first. Where we live, nearer suburbia, we can't keep goats and our full chicken and turkey flock.

Dan
5 years ago
Poison ivy in the garden? Ouch, what a pain. We've got plenty of it here, but I've been blessed not to find any in our garden.

Here's what I would do here if we had that problem:
1. First, we collect all of our grass clippings to use as a mulch. With a two acre property, we can cover stuff pretty thickly with this mulch. It seems to work fine on many weeds, but it does seem to specifically encourage wire grass growth within the grass mulch. (Wire grass grows in wood chip mulches too ...)
2. We also eat a lot of cereal in our house. Those cereal boxes are biodegradable, and you can place them on your soil before the grass clippings. I've used pizza boxes and newspaper as well, with good effect. The weed barrier plastic cloths are a total waste--I used one once and ever regretted it afterwards. In one garden, we used cardboard followed by grass clippings and another we used newspaper and grass clippings. By the end of the season, you could see that the cardboard was definitely superior, and had kept the weeds down better. (That was our pepper bed.)
3. If the weed barrier plus thick mulch doesn't work, then you are going to have to do it the hard way: pull up the poison ivy by hand. (Yuck!!!) I've actually done this. Usually, I only do it once a season or so, and regret it immediately. If I had to do this, I would wear long sleeves, pants, and fabric gloves. Don't wear leather gloves. Everything you wear will need to be sent to the washing machine and you will need to wash up with soap and (cold?) water thoroughly as soon as you are done.
4.We have also discussed using cinder blocks as weed blocks. I don't know if it would work for poison ivy.

There's also Solomon's method of using a sharp hoe, and just getting out there and weeding with the hoe a lot.

Please let us know what you choose to do, and how it works out for you.

Dan
5 years ago
Here's a fascinating observation: I visited an individual in the DC area who kept a large grape vine. His grape vine grew along the edge of his property on a fence. At one point, the vine grew underneath the roof of the woodshed, and then kept going on the other side. When I asked, he confirmed that none of the grapes that grew under the roof of the open woodshed had black rot on them, whereas the rest of the vine struggled with black rot.

Does that mean you could build a "roof" over your grape vines to keep them from getting wet in the rain, and that if you did so you wouldn't have any problems with black rot?

Just a thought,

Dan
5 years ago

Sheryl Napier wrote:
What exactly is meant by growing them 1.5 meters off the ground. Are the first leaves 1.5 off the ground or are they in a pot up on some sort of stand 1.5 off the ground?
My green grapes (who knows what variety) are totally being ruined this year. Do I prune the whole thing back, just let it run it's course or...?
I have 2 muscadines planted that are not having any black rot problem. Can they get it or will they be ok as they are adapted to the south. I live in the south east corner of Virginia.

Thanks, Sheryl



Sheryl,

Here's what I mean: Normally, they tell you to put the bottom wire of the trellis about three feet off of the ground. Suppose you instead put that bottom wire up higher, say four to five feet? In all other respects, the grape is grown the same: they are planted eight feet apart, in rows that are eight feet apart, planted in the ground, etc.

Dan
5 years ago
Oh, gosh, why did the chicken cross the road?

My answer, "That's what the farmer wants to know." In other words, I don't like it when my neighbor's come talking to me about my chickens having crossed the road to the other side, and I'd like to keep them from doing it. If I knew why, then I could keep them from crossing the road.

Another farmer's answer, "Because the bugs were better on the other side."

From our experience? "Because he was following the turkey."

But what about the cow? "It was the chickens day off."

Why didn't the skeleton cross with the rest? "He didn't have the guts."

On a more serious note, the chickens like hiding underneath the elderberries too ... there's just not nearly as much shade underneath our young elderberry bushes as there is underneath the raspberries.

Dan
6 years ago