what do you make of this?

Tammy KennedyAugust 30, 2010

I'm flummoxed. I have an asian pear tree a grafted one with a couple varieties. The thing is, we've had fruit about 5 years now, and it's fairly easy to take care of. Watch for fireblight in spring, and if we get to it, spray to keep the bugs from deforming the fruit. Even deformed, it's edible and yummy. About 8-9' tall. We've never had an issue with anything except the occasional bugs getting into it. It's been a week or 3 since i'd looked closely at it and i didn't think they were ripe yet, but asians are sweet before they are all the way ripe. I was just out there and something or someone took every last fruit. There are no dropped fruits- this is not storm damage, and the iris that are planted beneath it look like something's stepped on them. Not hoof marks, like deer did it- and anyway most of the fruit would have been beyond their reach. No stems or cores left, as if a bird had done it. I need to look closer to see if it looks like the stems were twisted or cut off. When the squirrels get into my patio nectarine, they take one bite but don't eat the whole fruit usually, and when they do, they leave the pits. Would a coon, possum or squirrel take every last fruit neatly like that? It's been a week or 2 since i'd looked before and i didn't think they were ripe yet, but asians are sweet before they are all the way ripe. I'd chalk it up to animals, but this is like the 3rd thing that has wholesale disappeared out of my garden in the past month- which makes me strongly wonder if it's a 2 legged thief. For the last bush of blueberries (late crop) the same thing happened- there one day, gone the next- and i chalked that up to birds. Then our ripe figs disappeared the same way (we only had a few). Usually if birds do that they leave the base- these were just gone. At the same time, nothing has touched what few maters i have. Any thoughts? I sure don't want whatever it is getting my persimmons. I'll happily share the keiffer pears, kiwi and pineapple guava but i swear all heck's breaking loose if the persimmons or pomegranate get gone. If you think it's critters, what would deter them from stealing fruit? I can maybe net the persimmon, or the indy fruit, but that's really the only one left i can do that with.

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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

I'd suspect raccoons but is the tree strong enough to support the weight of a decent sized raccoon?
Opossum is an omnivore and between them at night and squirrels I've never had any ripe pawpaws to harvest and the back forest is full of the trees.

Squirrels I don't think forage at night. They're prey animals for owls and the four-legged predators.
If it's not a two-legged thief then most likely it's a gang of young raccoons..dexterous to remove the whole fruit,especially figs.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 12:00PM
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If it is a two legged animal - my guess would be someone that lives nearby (not 10 minutes away like me) and someone that knows what you're growing. I doubt its a human tho.

Back when I lived closer to you I had the same thing happen with the kiwi's. Two long fence rows loaded with fruit all completely gone in one night. I vote for raccoons with maybe a little help from opossums. If they are in a group they can clean up the carnage pretty efficiently.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 12:44PM
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Tammy Kennedy

Well, the blueberry bushes definitely wouldn't support any sort of an animal down to the twigs- but that still could have been birds. I've seen & heard it happen at other's houses. I didn't net them this yr b/c nothing was bothering them, and i only lost the last few pints of berries, so while i'm bummed, it isn't the end of the world.

In a way i do hope you're right that it's coons. In another way- how do i deal with them? They are so tough to handle, esp if i have a gang! Let's hope they disperse if they are a family and don't all settle very close. We've had coon problems before with garbage and the porch. I know they have long memories are are incredibly dexterous and clever. Thoughts on protecting the persimmons? And the rest of the fruit for next year? I think it's a little odd that they'd have stripped the asian pear but left the easy pickings of the keiffer pear (it's loaded and dropping pears all over), but perhaps the keiffers aren't as sweet before they are ripe. It's 5' from the figs that got stripped (they are low and it would have been easy for a coon to do those). The asian pear would probably support a 5# young coon, but no, there's no way a full grown one would be able to get up there, or for that matter into the persimmon.

I'm glad if it isn't human because quite frankly, that thought creeped me out. I have had bad neighbors before that i wouldn't have put it past, or for their very disturbed teen then, who's a young man now, to come back for a twisted sense of revenge or whatever, but that thought is just beyond creepy, frankly. The only other person i could think of is my hispanic neighbors, but they've always seemed very nice. We share the figs in their backyard and i happily give them some of my extra stuff so i can't imagine it could be them, but i suppose you never know. One of our bikes did mysteriously show up over there the one time....

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 3:41PM
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Check around any fence posts or a place nearby where an animal might bring the fruit to eat it. Lots of mornings I'll find half eaten pears on the top of the fence about 30 feet away from the tree. It wouldn't surprise me if it was a two legged thief. I've had neighbors come over taking figs and they thought nothing of it. Also their kids picking bouquets of daffodils in the spring.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 6:17PM
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This sorta leads into a problem I have when I read articles supporting Edible Landscaping or mixing your edible crops in with your ornamental plants. It all sounds so easy and it sure looks beautiful in the photos... but if you are actually eating the stuff from your plants they don't look so great post harvest. If space is limited, you won't be able to easily get to every fruit on every branch if the tree is mixed in with the perennials and you sure can't net it or spray it or erect some sort of barricade to keep wildlife from joining in on the harvest. I'm rearranging some of my choices - if I like to eat what it produces then I plan on growing it in two places, one where it will look good mixed in with the flowering plants and one where I can get maximum harvest, someplace kinda out of sight.

Back when I lived in a cabin way out in the woods you couldn't grow anything or keep chickens in a casual way. If it mattered to you, you had to keep it in an absolute fortress otherwise you'd never taste it. Kinda stinks that you have to go to such extremes. It definitely takes some of the "charm" out of the garden view.

Even when I was a tiny kid and snuck onto neighbors property to pick an apple I wasn't all that careful where I stepped and what evidence I left behind.

I always say that wildlife like raccoons have nothing better to do than thwart your attempts at raising food. It's not like they have to get up and go to work every day.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 9:33AM
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Dear tamelask z8a NC,
Have you thought about buying an inexpensive security camera, rigging it somewhere on high, and catching the culprits red-handed? Lights, cameras, action!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 3:55PM
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mad_about_mickey(**7* *N.C.)

We had a problem with the golden delicious apples last year. Poof they were gone at night! No branches broken no leaves munched on.. nothing. And there was a 6 ft fence around it to keep the deer away..
So this year I put every apple into a piece of pantyhose and stapled it shut, was told this would deter the animal.
The tree looked ridiculous. It turns out it was squirrels in the daytime and still no thought at what it is at night.
Like John says, it 'sorta ruins' the garden view. Our property backs up to woods and farmland, so we didn't get any corn or beans this year. There is one solitary apple out there now.
Next year I am going to net it. Although I think they will chew their way in anyway.
We thought about a trail camera too. Some of those apples were pretty high and no evidence of hoof prints... The brances certainly don't look like they could support even small coons .
Would just like to get something out of the effort....

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 4:28PM
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Tammy Kennedy

Well, that does make me feel a little better, mad@mickey. I was contemplating doing exactly that with the persimmons, and may still. In my experience with our patio nectarine, they will chew through netting to get to fruit if it's close to the netting. But if you net a whole tree it should protect some of the fruit. But, like the asian pear, nothing's bothered the persimmon til now, so i'm going to hope hope hope. And, like you, i can't figure out how much of anything got the higher fruit in the pear. It was up pretty high- it takes a ladder for me to get to it. So far, small coons is the only thing that makes sense, but i guess squirrels maybe could, too. They usually have left messes and haven't stripped stuff when they've stolen before, though.

Jay, yes that occurred to me. It also occurred to get one of the motion sensor hose sprayers. We'll see what happens, but if it continues to happen with the other fruit it may be time to do something along those lines.

John, i totally agree. Ed landscaping is a great idea in theory but you have to be really careful in siting or it becomes difficult to harvest or protect. And you're also right in that some of the fruit bearing stuff looks nasty once it's done (my apples for example). In the backyard i'm not going to try to do as much mixing- it'll be more room and easier access. 'course it's a bit harder to protect too. Wonder how much one of those batting cage screens cost? :) In all seriousness, we were at siglinda scarpa's place this past weekend and she had her whole garden netted over. I've also seen it done with large blueberry patches- you build a frame & attach the netting and have a door you go in. I really do wonder if that would be smart for a concentrated area?

Hosta, i'll keep my eyes peeled. I hope it is critters and not people. A little here & there i wouldn't mind for people, esp if they asked, but wholesale stealing is just ugly. Why do folks feel so entitled?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 6:18PM
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I am semi rural with lots of deer and rabits so I have an electrified fence. It usually works but of course it isn't much of a deterant if it isn't turned on. It hasn't been on recently since the garden is depleted of almost everything; but I did have an apple tree with ~20 apples that had a blight so my protection wasn't real high. The apples all disappeared one night 2 weeks ago. I assume it was the deer who had realized they could lean against the wires.

But re: two legged critters; Many years ago in California, I had a prune-plum tree loaded with fruit that I was hoping would ripen soon. One night all the fruit was gone. I found out a year later that the best friend of my teenage son had been thrown out of his house by his father. He was foraging for food. He probably got a stomach ache for that particular choice.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 5:45PM
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Tammy Kennedy

Man! A stomach ache and case of the runs, no doubt! I adore prune plums, but ya gotta watch out. Bet he never, ever made that mistake again.

Definitely not ready to go the route of an electric fence. I grew up rural and they are a pain in the drain to keep running. Not to mention, getting zapped isn't much fun.

It's good to know that lots of folks are having issues with a tree getting stripped wholesale on one night- makes me think it's more likely critters.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 8:21PM
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I think that wildlife responds to different cues than what we see or smell. Out at my place I have very little munching, which is odd since you routinely see herds of deer (3 groups along the road that runs through the neighborhood. The group around my house is only 12 - 20 deer depending on the season. The other two groups are from 20 to 40 animals each!) When they do wander through my place they only snip a leaf here and a twig there. One plant out of a whole row of the same plant. Makes no sense to me. I plan on putting up a deer proof fence and possibly a hot wire about mid way up to try and keep raccoons from climbing over. Nothing I do will be fool proof but I am not opposed to caging individual trees or bushes if I have to. My garden isn't on view from anyone but the nearest neighbors and they can just look the other way if it bothers them. When talking to them they all mention how much they hate fences ("ruins the view"). They would rather sit outside all night with a loaded gun and a beer.

I've seen animals climb up tiny branches and bend it over so that the whole group can get at all the fruit on the ends. And I've seen one group clean out the tops of a tree (squirrels) while another group cleans up the ground (raccoons). In the end there was no evidence that anyone was ever there. Humans aren't that clever, they usually leave tracks.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 9:24AM
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Yipes! My Asian pears are gone too!!!! There were at least a hundred last week and only 4 left yesterday!!! No stems, no partially eaten fruit, a few rotten on the ground! The other pear tree is still covered with fruit! This is the second year my Asian pears have "disappeared" practically overnight! On top of losing my peaches for the six year in a row (for various reasons) without getting any, I am about ready to give up on growing my own fruit!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 6:49PM
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Tammy Kennedy

So sorry, country girl! I guess all the critters have decided this is a good year to pillage. Wonder if that means something about this coming winter?

John, wonder if i can get your neighbors to sit at my house with a loaded gun and beer? :) We had a possum getting the last of cleo's food last night. That's one of the reasons i sit with her- to make sure she finishes so we don't have critter problems. Skeeters chased me in last night. Little booger.

I totally believe it about critters working in concert to raid. Wouldn't it make a great video?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 9:36PM
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I really approach growing food plants the same I feel about having chickens for eggs or meat - to get the most out of it you won't be growing things the way the photos in the books and magazine show it. Wildlife will always be a major force impacting production (with dogs and cats being a major force on chickens along with all the wild creatures). You have to build a fortress with all sorts of barriers to keep things safe from munchers. It doesn't end up looking like a Currier & Ives print. Chickens frolicking in the driveway? only if you stand there and protect them with a shotgun!

Once upon a time I lost all of my sheep to a neighbors psycho dogs. They didn't bite them, they ran around the barn and pen on the outside of the fence and the sheep ran around on the inside and ended up exhausted and beaten up banging into walls until they were dead. After solving the dog problem I called in sick to work and proceeded to process the sheep into meat by hanging them in the trees to gut them and bleed them out. This made an incredible mess even tho these were tiny Barbados sheep. At the time I was living without electricity so I drove the fresh meat off to a friends house to put in the fridge. I was only gone for like 2 hours by the time I got back to clean the place up it was if nothing had ever happened. Someone had come by and licked all the blood out of the grass and hauled the carcasses off to the woods. I never found a bone or skull anywhere on the property when out walking around. I have no idea who or what came by and cleaned up behind me. It could have been a mixture of wildlife.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 11:12AM
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Holy Cow John, you go the full middle ages (except for the neighbor's refer). I should re-define our property as slightly urban (two to six acre lots). We get 5 deer every couple days, not 30 deer. Yes, an electric fence with gangly wires is not Currier & Ives. But since I'm guessing a lot of us are less rural then your description I would suggest that many of us can get some picturesque food. Specifically, I do get to see chickens in my driveway visiting from across the street. They cross the street to peck in our woods and grass rather than their woods and grass! Generally, this area restrains free range dogs. The actual chicken rangler has 4 dogs and a cat. They have all been trained not to mess with the chickens, so it can be done.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 9:06PM
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So that's why the chicken crossed the road!!!

The grizzly adams life style was years ago in a different state. Now I live inside the city limits on a measly acre and a half. My neighborhood is kinda rural and there are woods right up beside me but I can walk to a grocery store if I want.

The problem with carnage involving chickens is that it only seems to happen on the morning you don't have time to deal with it. That extra busy day when you are dressed up in nice clothes - that's the day the stray dog digs his way into the coop and masacres the flock.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 9:25PM
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I have to say.. You really know how to put living off the land into perspective. It's all fun and games until something runs off with your freshly gutted and carved sheep carcass and leaves no trace of the carnage. And I poke no fun nor joke when I say, I have this odd feeling that you have some mad survival skills.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 1:11AM
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