On the matter of my mice problems, particularly their nasty girdling
habits, the history of the orchard is that mice were controlled by the
previous owner through the use of mouse bait. Mouse bait obviously worked
as girdling was not a problem then. However, I contend that mouse bait,
which causes a slow and agonizing death to the mouse also poisons mouse
predators i.e. raptors, fox, coyotes and wolves. So, since we have owned
the orchard the mouse population has likely exploded and the predator
population is somewhat lagging. We will next year protect the trees with
guards which we do with the newly planted trees. The natural balance will
return but it will take time. So too will the bridge grafting.
On the issue of the economics of sustainable agriculture (I can't believe
I'm wading into this and I apologize). Why is success measured in terms of
economic impact and, by the way, what is economic viability? I would think
that the success of a sustainable farm is measured on two distinct levels
1) to have the least amount of negative impact on the natural
order/ecosystem and 2) the level of prosperity it brings to the unit and
those directly serviced by the unit (economic speak). I do not believe it
is necessary to adopt the "success" measures used by corporations and
economists to determine the viability of sustainable agriculture. Why is
it that economists decide whether certain practices are viable (?) or
deemed to be viable on the basis of meeting some arbitrary standards that
they establish? Furthermore, do we have to prove something to others (i.e.
conventional farmers, corporations, economists, etc) in order to feel and
acknowledge the worth of our practices? I truly hope this is making some
sense (it is in my head - but sometimes the words betray me). I don't
expect to change the world nor do I expect that conventional agriculture
will embrace my practices as sound. I certainly don't expect an economist
to sanction my practices as economically viable. I do know that quiet
persistence and demonstrated successes, using my terms, do turn some heads.
Will sustainable agriculture ever reach the mainstream? Maybe not, but it
will always be there and will have to be reckoned with on our terms and not
on the terms of economists.
In answer to your question Greg "Is sustainable and organic agriculture
doing its job of creating better
economic opportunities"? I dunno! It does however allow me to appreciate
the simple pleasures of life, teach my children the values of life and
nature, express those values to my customers and students,
draws the curious to have a closer look, and puts money in our pocket and
food on the table. I'm not sure whether it has to create better economic
Log Cabin Orchard
> From: Argall Family <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: of mice and mumbles, traps, fences and snakes
> Date: Sunday, March 28, 1999 6:17 PM
> I think you have to have discussion. Sustainable agriculture is just an
> aspect of sustainable human occupation of the planet, a large subject,
> both depend on two major things, observation and thought.
> The best thought requires conversation, and I have found that the best
> often come from the promptings of virtual irrelevancies on the mind, not
> from tight discipline at a town meeting. And it does not help for another
> person to slag those who express ideas as never having done anything
> practical. Otherwise others in turn will get into the same rut and damn
> practical people for being poor thinkers.
> I have some thoughts on the mice; pardon if I mention things you know
> I'm trying to be thorough.
> I do not have problems with deer, but I do have some problems with mice
> with a deer equivalent, wallabies - not to mention the fruit competition
> from parrots and bower birds. And I used to have a major problem with
> neighbour's cows. And briefly in the eighties I was stupid enough to have
> goats and fruit trees on one property. What I do not have is a problem of
> spring emergence from a snowbound winter.
> I take it that the problem is on the annual regular scale, rather than
> sort of mad breeding in odd weather/crop circumstances that saw millions
> millions of mice marauding south eastern Australia in the early nineties,
> driving cows and people insane, and to which governments responded with
> air-dropped poisoned wheat, which may or may not have been the reason why
> the plague fell away. It is also not clear whether you are trying to do
> something new in your region, in terms of the orcharding or particular
> tree types. Here we might try traps with food lures for mice, from which
> mice fall where they cannot escape. It may be still too cold in Ontario
> have them fall into water, on which I imagine even mice might walk at
> time of year at night up your way, but a barrel with slippery inescapable
> sides might be otherwise contrived below a food lure on a pirates' plank.
> Is this a brief annual mouse problem of predator numbers rising a bit too
> slowly in spring, or is there a serious lack of predators? Longer term,
> you need to provide more accommodation for raptores, etc? Are there local
> ornithologists to advise you? What allows the mice to breed up before
> feed is sufficient?
> My mouse problem is modest/non-existent in the orchard, control of which
> share with the pretty and shy red bellied black snake and the occasional
> glamorous python (but I do try to remove death adders (which wait for you
> quietly as a cow pat) and tiger snakes (which can jump at you from
> Kookaburras (large kingfisher) are wonderful, and have been known to ride
> bulldozer blades going to the hunt.
> Shed problems (electric insulation attracts the protected marsupial mice
> too) require good building closure, building away from forest, trapping.
> Poisoned rodents must not be able to escape to where they can be eaten,
> am sure you appreciate. Do you have snakes in your area that deal with
> Are mice breeding up on stored or spilled grain, heading out across
> in early spring? Keep a python in the shed? Blame neighbouring grain
> open barns?
> The deer-taking-new-growth is much like the wallaby (small kangaroo)
> we have, but it is interesting that both birds and wallabies are
> about what they take, and favour, notably, plum over peach or nectarine,
> pear ahead of apple. My approach is to allow to some extent, the
> to select themselves: e.g. early on, apricots made their own decision to
> turn up their heals in the local micro-climate. Some apples do much
> than others, similarly. I don't try hard to protect the plums from having
> their shoots taken; they have to hack it or go. The pears have gotten
> the wallaby reach, for the most part. Do the deer discriminate, or is
> damage wholesale? Where that kind of problem exists here (cattle, goats
> the loose), the answer is either adequate fencing (and I have found fat
> white [for horses] electric tape useful - yellow may do better with snow
> the ground*) culling or removal of the pest. That I can't do with the
> wallabies, nor are they easy to fence out. I have established some good
> pasture for them away from the orchard, in an open reserve giving them
> access also to the creek. Also a dog helps, but you need to be there at
> right time with the right dog. Piddle (human, dog) on the trees may or
> deter deer, but it's cheap to try, and may help the trees, if not put on
> young leaves themselves. Put a little in a milk bottle each night; maybe
> could make a sub-snow piddle cache over winter - think of that bottle
> collection growing!
> To get really depressed about deer in spring (among other things) read
> Updike's 'Towards the End of Time'.
> Dennis Argall
> Mount Eurobodalla
> Bodalla NSW Australia
> *FENCING:: I have had a flood problem which has made it unwise to have
> fence around the orchard. If deer are bad, a strong piece of galvanised
> wire, snagging logs going through the orchard, is worse. I use fibreglass
> posts, with multiple strands of tape attached to one post, and attached
> a breakaway tie at the next post. This system may work if you are needing
> put out fence quickly and have to adjust to snow levels, new plantings,
> It won't stop a charging animal, but what will. The 'breakaway'
> is made by having a curtain ring - the cheap kind like a simple key-ring
> attached to the post and tape, so that the loose end from the next post
> looped to go through the double part of the curtain ring, being held with
> small piece of stick. You can get a reasonable strain by using trees at
> corners to brace such a system. You have to wire the thing so that the
> that falls to the ground is not live.
> (Maybe a device detecting a fence break, or sudden earthing, could let
> bark or some other deterrent sound.)
> Where neighbours with fancy fences have lost the lot in big floods, I
> put mine back together, 400 metres all broken through, in an hour or so.
> Same system might be helpful in snow areas. With a fence like that you
> run it through the orchard too, not just around it, to make life
> for intruders. It must be very visible and identifiable and you need to
> check it daily. If your orchard is small, you could use a product sold
> but imported, I think, from the USA, called Electranet, which is 50
> long and 1.8 metres high multiple strand electric fence, easily moved,
> tread-in posts, which is primarily used here to keep chickens safe from
> foxes and dingoes, and does that well. Can you run poultry in the
> or is it still too cold for that? They might reduce the cover for mice
> get some of them, if allowed to forage in the litter during the day. They
> might also attract raptores.
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