Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Deer Fence

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Already past 8:30 PM and the sun is down and there is a red hue over Peacham Pond. The forecast for the balance of the week is not encouraging but work goes on at the new property....so much so that this blog as well as The Vermont Gardener both suffer.

Although I have been trying to purchase 10 foot metal t-stakes from the new Tractor Supply on the Barre-Montpelier Road, I have to say they are an interesting bunch learning their new duties with a curious attitude. They haven't gotten to the lesson plan on customer relations and follow through and as of today can't tell me if and when my order from the end of June will ever arrive. In my mind I have set the bench mark of this Friday. No stakes, goodbye Tractor Supply.

Years ago while studying the restaurant business I learned that an unhappy customer tells at least 10 people of his problem. A customer who had a bad experience but received some kind of satisfaction from the offending party was said to only complain to 4 people. With those kind of ratios, people were taught to avoid things that caused problems but if problems occured, seek quick resolution for obvious reasons. I have never forgotten that lesson. The Internet has obviously changed these figures but the lesson should remain firm with any business person.

I purchased 30 pressure treated 4X4X10's and Michelle's friend Mark was available for two days and we got 660 feet of fence up. There's still cement to pour in places for added strength and some wires to tighten and staples to add but the part that benefits from another helper is underway. We have mapped out the balance of the Route 2 fence and I have finally figured out how to deal with the Winooski River boundary.

Folks keep asking what is deer fence so I figured I better explain via a couple pictures. This is plastic extruded fence available wholesale from a Connecticut company for about $175 a 330 foot roll plus shipping. It's also available retail from a number of suppliers who promote themselves as deer specialists.

The rolls are about 7.5 feet tall and are manufactured by a company in Israel. I am sure it's not used for deer fence there but I'm not up on Israel's agriculture and economy. A lot of US growers protect their fields, vineyards and orchards using this fence and it has a good record with deer control if properly installed. That means that the bottom has to be secured tightly to the ground and the top really needs another top wire at about 8.5 feet as deer are jumpers that make Santa proud.

If you are interested in pursuing any agricultural endeavor where deer are a potential problem, don't call the Vermont Fish and Game people for assistance. They listen well but are very clear that the deer are your problem. You are permitted to make a complaint of deer damage, call in the local warden and gain permission to do some deer disposal if you are of that persuasion. I don't know if you can use a hired gun or archer and I don't know how many you could take before someone would complain. I guess until the deer stop bothering your crops. Make sense?

I recall one time there was a very hard working man who took over twenty at a Shelburne, Vermont orchard and it didn't set all that well with the local people. My theory is that if a business was a real business, not a hobby, and if the state paid to have fence properly installed, then the taxes that business would pay the state the very first year would more than pay for the fence. Vermont isn't too good with how it handles small business and with fence you not only buy it yourself, you pay sales tax on it to protect your investment from the deer the State controls by law. I'll always remember hearing the male employee laughing in the background when I called to the government deer folks to try to get some help. Made me feel like new business was really wanted in Vermont.

Anyway we have two of seven rolls pretty much up and wish there was a way to levitate the other 5 into place. Once this is up, we'll check for tracks and probably start planting. Just the thought gets me tired!

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where a barred owl continues to call for company while the outside temperature reads 62.7.

Many thanks to people I don't even know who honk encouragement as they pass by the new project!

George Africa

Thursday, July 12, 2007

6 Feet and Rising

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A beautiful day today but not so beautiful yesterday or even this morning. The rains have been falling for several days and last night around 4 PM the skies opened. At a little after 5 PM I put a water glass on the outside railing and at 6 PM, some 50 minutes later, the glass had well over 1.5" in it. Now understand me, this is no expert metering device but it helped confirm the +6" of water in all the 5 gallon watering buckets this morning.

I've had a bad time in my life with water. There's either been too much or too little. When we moved to Vermont in '52 my dad forgot to tell us there was no running water at the house. That took him 3 years to remedy. Once in Shelburne I came home from work and opened the cellar door to find a swimming pool lapping at the top step. The hot water heater had sprung a very big leak. Then back in the early 80's I was asked to help with a FEMA family relief program after several counties were ravaged by a flood. Since then when it rains heavily, I wake up and listen for the phone to ring with someone asking for help. The phone didn't ring last night, but I still layed there thinking it would. Conditioning is an interesting thing.

By daybreak I could wait no longer and I got in the truck with a fresh coffee and headed for our property to check things out. Karl the wonder dog does not like rain and he buried himself in the quilts on the couch and wished me farewell.

I had left the tractor parked on high ground but "high" can quickly become "low" in terms of floods. It was a 100% humid and foggy morning and the rivers along the way already looked as if they were receding. There was instant relief when I reached the property. The Winooski River had not breached any of the banks and the tractor and implements stood tall on the high ground. I drove down to the front corner near the river and looked both ways. The water had risen more than 8 feet but it appeared to be leveling off. I don't know when the rain stopped but typically the water rises for some time after the rains cease and then the flow catches up with itself and recedes.

The grass squished as I walked along and it was clear that we were now a week away before we could work the land again. The 24-50'X12' plots I had repeatedly rototilled looked very clean and neat and the new grass looked more like uncut lawn that the hayfield it was a couple months ago. Progress is slow and interruptions such as this rain storm will delay our planting a bit.

I returned home and prepared for a trip up north. I expected to see places where the storm's influence had messed things up and I was not disappointed. Farming is difficult work and the best of days are often followed by troublesome times.

During the next few days I'll be installing the deer fence around the perimeter. I bought a gas operated earth auger and will use the pressure treated 4" X 4" X10 ' s. I need a gate by the river and another one half way up the river side; then there are the double wide 12 foot gates on Route 2. I have offers to help with the installation so for a few bucks and a lot of sweat, I can get the fence up and then monitor the land for a couple weeks for deer and bear infiltration before the planting begins.

It feels like I have been working on this land forever. Today in the mail was the first tax announcement. The Town Clerk called yesterday to report that someone had forgotten to send our bill out so we had two weeks to appeal the decision of the appraisers. This is something to keep in mind when you buy a piece of land for a business. We paid $49,900 for the land, cleaned up a major amount of brush and dead trees and added a $4600 entrance road. The appraisers listed it at $32,000. Without additional information, I don't know how this figure was arrived at. I'll catch up with one of the clerks later this week but I think the decision is fine where it stands.

If you are en route to the Groton State Forest or want to stop by at Vermont Flower Farm, take a quick look at our property and you'll begin to visualize the new gardens. They will be special. If you get to Peacham Pond Road, you'll notice that the hostas are glorious with all the rain and the hundreds upon hundreds of daylilies are bursting open in abundant color. Liliums, especially the martagons, Asiatics, and LA hybrids are in bloom in the gardens and in the pots and they will catch your attention. If they don't a few short Oriental lilies probably will. And if you want to see a neat plant, look at the cimicifugas, renamed actea. We have Atropurpurea, Pink Spike, Hillside Black Beauty and a couple more. I'm tired and am blanking on the names but the beautiful foliage remains clear in my mind. Once you see them, you'll want to give them a try. Need other recommendations? Give Gail a call or send her an email lilies@hughes.net She loves to garden and she likes helping other gardeners too!

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where a large willow, now prostrate, floats limbs and leaves in Fr. Lively's pond waiting for me to fire up the chain saw and clean up the mess. But that will have to wait for another day.....

George Africa

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Garden Tilling

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The day is about over for me but I wanted to share a picture of the new property as it looked this afternoon. I started the day at a warm 44 degrees and right now at 9:15 PM it's an even 50 degrees. My face is still burning from the wind which blew most of the day as I rode around on the tractor.

I started mowing last night and got going early this morining to finish the mowing and begin rototilling. My goal was to spread manure over all the sections I have rototilled. Although I was interrupted a few times, the goal was accomplished.

We call this weekend Hosta Days at Vermont Flower Farm. Gail figures out a hosta to give away with certain level of purchase and she makes her blueberry coffee cake and a couple other delectibles and hopes for a good crowd. Michelle was here to help both days so I was able to get down to the new property in between times....and a great crowd did appear!

Hosta Days should have started last week but we just have too much going on. I put up a road sign on Route 2 and between that and about $400 in newspaper ads we had quite a group of visitors. The rewarding part was that many returned from last year but even more were newcomers this year. Everyone took home hostas and at the end, Gail and I said how inpressed we were that people came with lists from our website and went home with very complimentary choices.

Gardeners used to be afraid of mixing a lot of yellow in their garden--probably because some neophyte garden writer mentioned that yellow flowers suggests flowers about to expire. The plant industry dealt that concept a serious blow and has been producing yellows for several years now.

The hosta world has plenty of yellows. It used to be said that a new hosta collector started with yellows but I doubt that's true any more. There are some beautiful yellows out there but they comprise only a small portion of the +4000 hostas available. I personally think that many of the best hosta in the world are still in people's back gardens....... hybridizing successes that haven't made it to the front of the house yet.

Although hundreds of hostas left here for three days in a row, there are thousands left if you are interested. If you have any questions, give Gail a call at 802-426-3505 and she'll provide an update on availability and have suggestions for alternatives if we have sold out of something special. If you haven't been by in a few years, you'll be surprised. One couple mentioned they got to the lower garden today and thought they were in a different nursery. They couldn't believe what had happened in three years. Some days we can't believe it either.

Writing from my office on the mountain above Peacham Pond where Karl the wonder dog is snoring and dreaming at the same time and quiet suggests I might try the same.

Happy gardening!

George Africa