Friday, March 29, 2013

Beaver Buddies.....Or not?

 Friday, March 29, 2013

The dark sky over Peacham Pond has been at a standstill for a couple hours now. The temperature hangs at 32.4° and the windless morning is only interrupted by a few raindrops that fall-stop-fall-stop. Still no birds at the feeders but the red squirrels are having a convention. But this morning I just want to mention beavers, a fascinating but often troublesome critter known to bother  me at the flower farm every spring. 

Our land is surrounded on a couple sides by the Winooski River and each spring as beavers seek out new places to live, they always seem to arrive at the nursery. Beavers care little about flowers but they enjoy the poplars, bass trees and the few birches that line the river. At one time they even  dammed the river on the Marshfield side of the property and caused quite a mess until the river was freed again of tons of trees.

This picture is of an old but still very active beaver house on Bailey Pond just outside Marshfield village. I never got a firm count on the number of occupants but during the past couple years they have taken out the road twice that I know of. They dammed a culvert and flooded a whole length of the old railroad bed during a rainstorm and it took bazillions of loads of fill to get the road back.

 I like to see beavers work but as trapping has almost become a thing of the past, beaver numbers have soared and they have begun to bother people by flooding large areas and even changing pond levels by plugging overflows and exit culverts.

These last two pictures show a strategy at Marshfield Pond to keep the pond level constant and not allow beavers to dam the overflow at the bridge and possibly take out the entire front of the pond during a heavy rain or spring flood. The wildlife folks always employ these culverts to keep the water level low even though the beavers think they are creating a bigger dam. You need a few engineering skills yourself to calculate water flow in and out but if you stick with it, even trial and error and more pipe will work.

Beavers can flood your land and if you are a gardener not interested in water gardening, you have no choice but to help them move along. They generally remain in an area until the food source/dam construction material source begins to diminish. I have read that this is 7-9 years although the beaver house pictured above has been active for 20 years. If you call a game warden they will probably tell you that you are permitted by statute to kill the beavers to protect your land. This is like saying that the warden has bigger fish to fry. He or she might be able to suggest a trapper who will remove the offenders  by shooting, live trapping or (leave it said) other forms of trapping. But keep in mind that trappers are not really interested in beavers if the time of year is off and the pelts are not viable. They also want to be paid for their service time and that means not only setting traps but checking them regularly by law. This all may sound pessimistic and it is but keep in mind you are placing your resources up against a beaver's and the beaver feels your property is his/hers. My only suggestion is that if you see any beaver activity on your property, work fast and don't delay. Protecting your home, out buildings, equipment, lawn, gardens, fields, crops and livestock is important.Give it some thought.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where 7 blue jays just arrived at the feeder by my office window. It still looks like heavy rain before too long.

Best Spring Wishes!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Crows At The Compost Pile

Thursday, March 29, 2013

34.5° now, windless, as the sun struggles to get through the clouds. Sugar snow fell briefly last night and the close-to-freezing temperatures after midnight allowed the snow to cling to everything above ground like a kid's hair to a party balloon. 

A sat here a while ago cruising along through email and thinking about how much easier it has been to write on Facebook and Twitter than on this blog. I have neglected the faithful and seem to return with an excuse like a person of religion returns to church on Easter but not again until the following year. I have been disappointed with blog readership and have yet to figure out why when I link blog posts to Facebook, many fewer people read the posts than read regular posts. Perhaps notice of a blog posting suggests something too long to read and folks allow their brains to redirect themselves to reading that which requires less concentration. I don't know but maybe one of you who understands social media metrics better than me can share some thoughts.

I went outside earlier to dust off the bird feeders and replenish the breakfast buffets. The red polls are in their glory and their numbers are the largest I have ever seen. Over two hundred were here earlier this morning and I just did a quick count out the kitchen window and stopped at 239 on the feeders on that side of the house. While outside I heard the conversations three crows were having from the maple that hangs over the compost pile. I don't speak crow very well but I do know that these were conversations of spring and the happiness that it brings to all critters, humans included. The crows talked for quite some time excepting the two pictured above who have been in that maple, quiet and motionless since I screwed their plastic bodies to a limb years and years ago. They are crow decoys that some people actually use for hunting. But to me crows are the scavengers of the world, the clean up batters who clear bases and win games. The decoys are well known to the real birds but over the years the phonies have conjured up a lot of  "Heh, look at those birds!" as visitors have toured the gardens.

I'm still thinking about blogging and social media. I like it all. I started yesterday morning with a phone call from a FB friend in Erie, Pennsylvania who reported it was snowing there and spring was not quick to arrive. An hour later I received a call from an incredible cypripedium grower in Germany and we started by comparing weather issues across a very similar latitude. That grower is Michael Weinert, owner of Frosch Exclusive Perennials  Michael grows lady slippers like you have probably never seen before. I fully intend to begin to grow these at Vermont Flower Farm in another year after I raise up a guard dog to stand post because Michael's hybrids are beauties!! Check out his site if you get a minute.

The clock is moving faster than I am this morning and I have promised Alex we will leave for Hanover and West Lebanon by 10:30. I better get going! Be well and enjoy today. If all else fails today, find a maple sugar house that is boiling and go taste a fresh crop of the best syrup the world has to offer. Vermont is the best!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens and also as George Africa
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Always here to help you grow your grow thumb.... and remind you "Social Networking Works"!