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Posts Tagged ‘pond’

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I took a jaunt around the farm yesterday morning with the pups. It was the first morning this spring that the temperature had been above freezing. It was beautiful, with just the earliest spring buds in evidence.

There are quite a few clumps of wild daffodils that pop up each year along the creek, vestiges of a long ago flood that left someone’s upstream garden bereft of flowers. This creek is named Gooney Run. The legend of the name comes from a time long ago when all of our section of Virginia was owned by Lord Fairfax, as a land grant from the king of England. This section of the Shenandoah Valley was his favored hunting grounds, and he had a lodge here. Supposedly, his beloved dog, Gooney, drowned in the creek and hence the creek was named in his memory.

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One of our favorite spring arrivals are the Marsh Marigolds. They get thicker and thicker each year and are a yellow carpet along the creek. I keep forgetting the real name of the flower and have nicknamed them the Gold Marshmallows.

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This forsythia is another victim of a flood. We originally planted it with 2 others about 15 years ago a quarter mile upstream from where it now sits. One year a big flood washed out about five feet of bank and took out the 3 forsythias. This one landed here and took root.

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And finally, after a vigorous romp, a nice cool down in the pond. Our cherry trees are a couple weeks behind those of the renowned Washington, DC Tidal Basin, but, sure enough, they are just starting to bloom. Maybe spring will arrive after all.

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Having a bear wreck our chicken coop a few days ago, reminded me of a funny bear story that happened several years ago. This was right after we dug our pond and stocked it with fish. When we bought the fish it was a virgin pond. Well that’s not quite true, cause about a million frogs had sex down there. A billion eggs hatched into tadpoles. Now it’s a cacophony of frog song in the evening, everything from the deep bruppppp of the bullfrog, to the high ddrrtttttt of the tree frogs. Anyway, there was nothing for the fish to eat, so we installed an automatic fish feeder.

I did a lot of research online to find this thing. Now there are a lot of automatic deer feeders. These are for the intrepid hunters that set one of these up in the woods to train the deer to come every day to feed. Then they sit in a tree and blow Bambi away. These could work as a fish feeder, but they are designed to throw the feed in a 360 degree pattern. We were mounting it to the front of the dock and didn’t want the food spraying on the wood, but I finally found one that had been designed just as a fish feeder and had a directional sprayer. It wasn’t cheap, but was compact and not too ugly. The food container was made of a heavy grade plastic, and the lid just slipped on the top. No positive lock. So the first modification was to install spring lock screen door latches on each side of the lid to keep raccoons, etc. from opening it. We knew it would never withstand an onslaught from a bear, but hoped we would not have to prove it. It worked great for a couple of months. It had a solar eye that sensed the time of day and dispensed food an hour after dawn and an hour before sunset. Then one day……

The plastic container was mangled. The motor mechanism was metal and unharmed. So we started thinking about food boxes that would be bear proof that we could attach the motor to. While pondering on this, we stopped by the co-op, and saw that they had one of the deer feeders for sale. This one was a simple 6 gallon metal bucket with a metal lid that crimps down, just like a big paint bucket. This one was a stylish camo design, to boot. We examined the lid and decided that there was no way the bear could pry the lid off short of carrying his own screwdriver. So we bought it.

Next came the second of many modifications in the creation of a bear proof feeder. Tim mounted it on the original 4×4 post (somewhat chewed), but since this was a deer feeder, it sprayed food in a complete circle. Tim devised a deflector by attaching a curved piece of plastic to keep it from spraying on the dock (actually half of a Clorox bottle). The next day the bear came back. He couldn’t open the pail, so he chewed the post some more, and pulled the deflector off. It was floating on the pond. Tim retrieved the deflector and put it back on. This scene repeated itself for several more days. The post getting smaller and smaller, and the deflector eventually getting lost. Meanwhile, we hit on the idea of an ammo box to hold the food.

Bear Proof Fish Feeder with Bonus Attack Owl

Modification 3. Tim cut a hole in the bottom of the ammo box, mounted the original directional motor, installed a slide in the box to direct the feed into the shute, drilled holes in the side to mount to the 4 x 4 post, speaking of which, was now only about a 3 x 2. So mod 4, Tim sent me to the metal salvage yard where I found a 3 inch diameter iron pipe. He mounted it with U shaped brackets to the dock and then to the ammo box. Perfect. Solid. No way a bear is getting into this. So we sat back and waited. Next morning we’re standing in the kitchen looking down at the pond, and lo and behold, there is the bear standing on the dock examining the new puzzle box. He’s just a young guy, maybe 2 years old. I’m watching him through the binoculars, and Tim is watching through the 10 inch telephoto lens on the camera snapping pictures.

The bear seemed to be very gentle while we were watching him. He’d put his paw into the slot to try to retrieve any pellets that may be sitting in there. But after about 5 minutes, he moseyed on. Next morning, however, we noticed that the bear had rotated the feeder on the pole so that the dispensing shute was directed right onto the dock. Pretty clever bear. Tim had to use all of his body weight to shift the feeder back around. Every morning, we would find it in the same position. So we had to put our heads together to find a fix for this new problem. It obviously takes 2 of our brains to outsmart “the av-er-age bear”.

Mod 5. Tim drilled a hole through the iron post and into the ammo box and inserted a huge bolt. Eureka-The invention of a bear proof fish feeder!! The bear was never able to raid the food box again, but he apparently got frustrated over the situation, and on 3 occasions, tossed our metal benches into the pond in an act of revenge.

The same day we photographed him down on the dock, he paid his first visit to our chickens. He climbed the fence into the back yard where we keep the coop. He wasn’t interested in the chickens, thank goodness, but he wanted the food that we had stored in a large Rubbermaid deck box where we keep the chicken supplies. Again, we had used one of our screen door latches to keep the lid closed, and he couldn’t get it open, so he rolled the box until the hinges popped open. He couldn’t get the lid off of the smaller food box, so he just took it with him.

We then installed an electric wire along the top of the fence to keep him from climbing over.

Various fish feeders and modifications —cost $275
1 Rubbermaid storage box and 50 lbs of chicken feed —-cost $50
Electric wire installed around top of back yard fence —-cost $195
Mental image of bear’s expression when he puts his paws on the hot wire —-priceless

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Goodnight Irene. My sympathies go out to everyone in the path of Irene that suffered damage or loss. It was a powerful and terrible storm. We are about 150 miles inland and were, fortunately, just on the fringes. We got a couple of inches of much-needed rain and winds of around 30 mph. For that we are extremely thankful.

The morning after the storm, I stepped outside to survey the damage. Immediately around the house everything looked fine except for bushels of leaves and twigs. Looking down the hill toward the pond, I was disappointed to see that our young willow tree had taken a hit. Planted on the pond bank five years ago, it was an extremely happy and robust tree, and I was shocked that it had been blown down. It was cracked off about 12 inches from the ground. My husband grabbed the chain saw, and we headed down to clean up the mess. As we neared the downed tree, my husband commented that something looked strange. Then he said, “That was done by a beaver”. Sure enough, the trunk of the tree was carved to a point, and wood chips were all around the base of the stump.

Beaver vs. Willow

When I believed that the tree had been destroyed by the hurricane, I was disappointed, but resigned. It was an act of nature. But a beaver…. Now I’m angry. This is an act of war!

I remember the first time that we discovered beavers on the property. The house was under construction and we were driving 100 miles out here on the weekends to check on progress and were clearing a path around the bordering creeks through the impenetrable jungle that were our woods. My husband was using a DR Brush Mower to power through the tangle, and rounding a bend, he saw the dam. And a fine engineering marvel it was. Being a nature lover, I was ecstatic. Beaver’s are cute… Right? “Busy as a beaver; eager beaver; work like a beaver” ….all very positive connotations.

If we were going to share our home with these furry creatures, I wanted to learn all about them. This was back in the 90’s and the internet was still young. We had AOL, but they hadn’t developed all the filters that we take for granted today. I typed in the search term “beaver” and I was shocked and appalled by the articles that came up. So I gave up on the internet and went to the library. I checked out a couple of books and an excellent video on beavers by National Geographic.

I learned many fascinating facts about beavers. They have an excellent work ethic. They will toil all night long to repair a hole in their dam. Believe me, over the years, we have torn down dozens of their dams, to awake the next morning to see them back in place and stronger than before. They have a nurturing family life. Pairs mate for life. Adolescents live with the family for a couple of years, and babysit the kits while the adults go out and cut down trees. In a natural environment, they actually perform a valuable ecological function in creating wetland habitats for other species. And they are cute… Right?

I soon fell out of love with them after we found an ancient oak tree with a girth that would take 2 people to wrap their arms around, destroyed, after a beaver had spent the night gnawing all the bark off of it before determining that it was too big to fell and left it to die.

We have often encouraged them to move on by continually ripping up their dams. One year, they had built such a strong dam, that we even had the local welding company fashion a huge grappling hook, and even with the hook and the tractor, we were not able to break the dam. That year we hired a trapper to come and take the beavers. He got 3.

But coming out of the creeks and into our pond is a personal invasion. Cutting down our willow tree was the first volley. Take heed, Beaver. The battle lines are drawn.

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