Once you settle in to your personal version of Superman’s “Fortress of Solitude,” one of your priorities as a prepper ought to be sizing up how to improve the local environment to make it “friendlier.” For wildlife now and for dinner in a pinch.
Birds eat bugs – the more birds the merrier —except snakes like birds and other small critters so you need to keep the birds away from the home a bit. Except guinea fowl because they eat bugs like crazy.
The birding process begins with a four-seasons view of your property. When do the birds arrive? Leave? What are the winter predators? Summer? Are there animals around that will keep down real dangerous critters? Important questions, these.
Here at our little slice in the woods, there are several projects in place that will help the local ecological balance and tilt it more “human-helping birds friendly” next year. Think Zika and mosquitoes and now you’re tracking.
Airmail: While back I told you about the old mailbox that I’d taken the plasma torch to…and welded (however poorly!) a couple of small pieces of rebar for birds can alight to enter. There’s baffle in the middle to two “families” can roost in it.
The main thing about birds is they like altitude and they don’t like animals that make house calls.
Other than revealing my predisposition to being a “slumlord,” notice that 5/8ths rebar keeps this thing a good 10-12 feet off the ground. Whether this is enough to keep down predatory snakes remains to be seen.
Elaine’s been researching this and has found that if we put a sheath of 1″ PVC around it and then slather on a good coating of tractor grease, that will stop most everything. Even raccoons don’t like greasy paws – and they are the worst.
One other thing, notice there are not a lot of big branches where this birdplex is sited? The birds are fairly safe as long as predators can’t jump down from an overhead branch.
The next thing is planting more “bird friendly” plants. This is simply done. The cheapest, by far are the sunflower seeds. You can get these just about anywhere – even Walmart has ’em. Make sure when shopping you look for sunflower seeds for sprouting, though. Otherwise you’ll be sick of eating ’em pretty quickly. No, C-slicker, salted seeds don’t sprout so good!
These are cheap enough you can just toss out handfuls into a rough-mowed field and you’ll be bound to get something next spring. I’m looking at September or October…
Let’s look at the other flowers. As you know they come in two types: Annuals (replanted yearly) are a waste of energy and money. What you want are perennials. Plant them and mow the area once in the winter to keep other stuff down (trees will seed into the area if you don’t watch ’em). Yee-hog! (*a farmerly bush hogging yell, please)
This part of summer (and yes, it’s on my list ) is ideal for “ground mapping.” What you want to do with natural seeding is to find places in your yard of property where things will take off. To find out what works?
The “magic quad thing” is a new project of mine. It involves living a couple of years on your property and taking a few pictures each year.
You take pictures of the property as things begin to brown up in the summertime. About now or as the month burns on…
Notice especially which areas stay green the longest. These will be the areas that have the most moisture. Usually, it will be at the bottom of a “wash” or what we farmer types would call :”bottom” (as in creek bottom) land.
When you are property shopping you can’t get enough “bottom” land. Garden magic. This is where generations of nutrient run-off from hills and all that fertilizer “liquid tea” has steeped and seeped into. Not that you want a house on “bottom land.” Local folks will give you some idea of how much vertical elevation your home site would need to get off the 500-1000 year flood plain if it’s possible.
Our “bottom land” is thoroughly overgrown (30 feet in elevation down from us) and I won’t do anything about it until/unless the crap hits the fan. Because it’s full of everything (including the deer and odd wild hog that comes through) I don’t have much inclination to mess with that natural food supply!
OK, we get the pictures. Yellowest land gets the most sun, probably has the weaker soil, and it’s holding less water. Next to it, though, you can often find a place where the terrain concentrates water and maybe has some shade. This is your quad site.
A quad site is a 50-50 piece of land that you’re going to naturally modify a bit. The four 25×25 quadrants are sunny/dry, sunnier/moister, partly shaded dry, and partly shaded moister. (2,500 SF) would be partly full sun, partly shade.
Then the idea is to plant a mix: 25 X 25 patches with maybe two kinds of perennial seed mixes. First the first year spending $40 a pound, or so. Shop Amazon because there are all kinds of wildflower mixes.
The application rate runs from 1 pound per 5,000 SF to 2 pounds per 5,000 SF. My plan is put about $100 into mixed seeds which ought to be two to four pounds worth. I’m figuring a pound and a half per quad.
At the end of the experimental planting of the quads, we will put in 25-foot wide borders of sunflowers.
Year 2 of this plan:
Assuming we get a bunch of seeds that come up next year, then it’s a simple matter to go back to your “old farmer’s notebook.” Which is digital which has the pictures of the quads and where you marked them. Now you just extend where the favored growing mix is.
See which seeds are doing well and then extend along whatever the quad information tells you. I’m figuring to plant the second year more lightly and if the perennials are doing their thing, year three should be free, or nearly so. Just annual once-over rough cutting so everyone gets a view of the sky for sun and rain…
Obviously, if things are working “according to plan” at the end of Year 1, then it’s time to look at a small apiary project and bring in a few honey bees…
Winter Deer Feed Planting, too.
Oh my, do deer love two things: Corn and rye grass. We will likely put in a patch of rye – a couple of acres? Again, rough mow and overplant. Rye is pretty harder but we will put it fairly close to the house.
Lately, the local deer are bedding down very close to the house at night. Going out in the morning on the front deck and having half a dozen animals look up from the lawn with the “Who invited you?” look – is amusing.
That tells us something: Predators are looking for the fawns. Last week Elaine saw one that was no higher than 14- inches tall. Said for a minute she thought it was a cat…it was that small.
The other reason to feed the animals (give them grazing) near the house is so crazy people on the county road won’t shoot them. We’ll be adding more 4-barb this year – hunters aren’t even slowed by the 2-barb variety wire. Thinking through razor/concertina wire, too.
Speaking of which, don’t know if you have checked out the Wanxiang Concertina Wire Company, but they have some dandy products that will provide the ultimate in perimeter protection. Not sure how our tree farm property liability insurance treats razor wire. I will have to go through the fine print. Normally, we’re “easier to ask forgiveness than permission people, but when lawyers are involved, that’s a foolhardy policy.
The planting of wildflowers for the birds (and rye for the fawns) should reveal, we’re not anti-social. But, given how crazy the world is becoming due to online mental disease, we’re just trying to keep ahead of the game.
Why, next thing you know, I’ll be thinking about digging up our land mines….decisions, decisions. Seismic intrusion alarms, anyone?
Write when you get rich,