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The Wildlife Tax

June 29th, 2016

This year the wildlife tax has been really high for the strawberries. We have a large patch of berries, they are one of Mr Chiot’s favorite fruits. There are two, 70 foot long rows that are 3-4 four feed wide. Last year we froze around 40 quarts for winter. This year we lost the first flush of berries to waxwings. A flock of about 15-20 of them came in and gobbled up about 12 quarts of berries in one night.
cedar waxwing
We realized what was happening and covered the berries with row cover to protect them. The few nights later, the raccoons came in and ripped holes in the cover and ate the ripening strawberries. Thankfully we aren’t keeping pigs this year, so we have just enough electric fencing to surround the big garden.
homegrown strawberries 1
After building Fort Knox around the strawberries, we were finally able to harvest a few quarts. We celebrated with shortcake for dinner that night and the next night as well. Generally we love to share our bounty with friends and neighbors, but there hasn’t been enough berries for that.
homegrown strawberries 2
Overall we lost about 50% of our harvest this year to wildlife. Since there has been a drought this spring in Maine, the harvest was already reduced as well. Luckily we have a large patch and are still getting a few for the freezer and a few for eating. At least we have a large enough patch that we are still getting a few berries for the table. Next year I will definitely be covering the berries really early to protect them from the birds and the electric fence will most likely go up around the garden first thing in the spring.

What methods do you employ to protect plants from marauding wildlife? 

3 Comments to “The Wildlife Tax”
  1. Misti on June 29, 2016 at 8:26 am

    We had a heavy strawberry tax this year, too. Bad weather and birds attacked them. Chris is planning on building something to put over them next year. We’re already dipping into the fig tax, too. I just found two ripe ones yesterday but the birds had already been sampling! And we always lose all of the mulberries before we can even think about harvesting them. Squirrels and birds love those!

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  2. Nebraska Dave on June 29, 2016 at 8:32 am

    Susy, I’ve been gardening at Terra Nova Gardens for five years. Each year it seems the wildlife devastation has increased. It’s like the raccoons, deer, and other critters have sent out invitations to an ever increasing number of relatives saying, “The buffet is open. Come for a visit and we will dine on garden delights.” This year the raccoons invaded the sweet corn the earliest ever. Even before the ears were forming they were knocking down the stalks.

    The six foot wooden fence has prevented the deer from eating the strawberries plants. Last year they ate them all right down to the ground. Only five survived out of 30 planted. This year not so many strawberries but the plants are sending out multiple runners so perhaps next year will be better. The sweet corn fortress with four foot high chicken wire fence, fortified bottom of the fence and three strands of electric wire has been activated. So far no more corn damage.

    We are behind on moisture here as well. We just had a nice shower last night but what is needed is a long soaking rain for a couple days to replenish the moisture in the soil.

    Have a great raccoon zapping day.

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  3. Chris on June 29, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    We rarely see waxwings but maybe I should be glad we don’t now! :) We have a motion activated thingy called a Scarecrow that shoots out a rotating heavy stream of water. It works very well against deer, and mostly anything else that happens to wander in front of it…even me!
    They are made in Canada and are a little pricey but worth it if you have heavy crop loss. I guess it’s better to pay for one or two of those than paying a heavy wildlife tax! :)
    I also use a foul smelling spray called Liquid Fence on some things for extra insurance. The smell does dissipate after awhile but the animals can still smell it. Just be upwind of it when you spray!!

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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