Arghhh! Squirrels have discovered strawberries!

2ajsmamaJune 27, 2013

I was thinking it could be mice eating the berries along the outside of the row (covered with hoops and 1" bird netting). But I saw a squirrel sitting there the other evening and I realized that was the culprit. DH asked me if I wanted to put out a trap but I said no, the berries are almost over for the season. It was there last night too and he chased it away. But this morning as I was making strawberry jam, I saw it again, ran out, had to do it a second time, and the 3rd time as the jam was in the canner I glanced out the kitchen window and saw FOUR squirrels stationed at various points along the row! Of course chased them off but found lots of caps (no puree) along the stone wall - NOW they're eating the green berries!

They figured out that if they push on the netting, they can reach the berries along the edge (even after I got wise and started pushing ripening berries toward the center of the row as I picked and re-covered). One as even sitting on top of the netting and eating berries in the middle of the row that happened to be near the top (about 3" away from the netting, but there's enough give that its weight can get it right down to the berries).

May be too late for this year, but before I renovate and expand, what can I do to keep them out next year? I was thinking chicken wire but that has some give too, and I need to be able to easily uncover the row(s) at least once a day to pick. Would they smell the berries and chew right through floating row cover? So far they haven't made any holes in the plastic netting.

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myfamilysfarm

You're right, they will push the netting and chew thru if they get hungry enough. Could you get some type of fencing and install it about 6" or more away from berries, and make like a tunnel to protect from them and birds with your covering?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 5:30PM
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2ajsmama

The row is about 3ft wide and I'm going to narrow it as I make it longer when I renovate (by moving plants and filling in with runners) but it's along the top of a stone retaining wall very close to the house garden, with the lawn on the lower level. So I can't really do a double fence. I either have to move ALL the berries to a more suitable (but less convenient) location, or narrow the row so it's about 2ft wide and keep the 3ft wide hoops? But need to cover with something more rigid? That's the problem, what is more rigid that is still easy to remove and replace to pick?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 9:01PM
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boulderbelt(5/6)

A cat patrolling the area would be a big deterrent (though they can do great damage to row covers and might pee/poop in the berries if they are not mulched)

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 6:32AM
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myfamilysfarm

We always had a good dog that guarded the entire garden.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 6:44AM
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2ajsmama

DD would love to get a cat or a dog but I don't know where I'd keep a dog during the winter (I was told when we wanted to adopt an Australian shepherd that the basement was too cold and isolated, and I'm not the kind of person who wants a large animal in the house). Neighbor has free kittens and I was so tempted (I had a cat when I was growing up, all the way until college) but we have a pet bird - and the cat was kept in the basement except when I snuck her up to my room, my dad hated cats. Plus how do you keep a cat around the yard?

We also have bobcats, coyotes, hawks, etc.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 7:11AM
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myfamilysfarm

We don't keep cats, they keep us. All of ours are outside cats. I give them a dog house inside the porch, which has plastic on the 2 sides with the most wind. Plus they LOVE the greenhouse during the winter. bad side is I need to teach them that the beds are NOT litter boxes. we have one corner of the plastic that isn't completely connected and they go in and out there. Good thing is the 'garden' mouse has left after the cats got into the greenhouse. Darn mouse liked to re-arrange my seeds, especially liked to move the squash seeds into other flats. I never knew which seeds would end up where.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 12:22PM
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2ajsmama

"We don't keep cats, they keep us" - how true! But I don't have a nice warm greenhouse (or barn) for them in the winter. I don't have a problem keeping a cat in the house (if it's going to be a mouser - errr, squirreler? - she have to have claws, so I'd have to keep door to LR with leather sofa closed). Just a kitten will have to be in the house to begin with, don't know how to teach it to hunt without mom?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 12:30PM
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myfamilysfarm

I would guess, playing with it with a mouse toy. Our dogs and cats think the mice are 'squeak' toys. Their not interested in them after they quit squeaking.

Some cats are just mousers and others forget it.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 1:27PM
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2ajsmama

Uh oh. Yesterday as I was making jam, saw squirrel by strawberries, ran out to chase it and it wiggled under the netting, got cught, but then finally pulled up a corner at the end and got out. Told DH to put the trap out. This morning he went out to check it, not a squirrel in it but a skunk! He went back out with a long pole (from the roof rake?), haven't seen (heard or smelled) anything yet so I guess he released it w/o being sprayed.

Any other solutions?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 6:58AM
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myfamilysfarm

Our dogs got skunked last night, poor skunk might not have enough stink for a long time. Either that or there were several, as bad as the smell still is. Poor dogs even feel bad about the stink.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 1:05PM
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randy41_1

an electric fence may work (not for the skunking).

Here is a link that might be useful: electric fencing

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 2:13PM
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2ajsmama

Poor dogs (and poor you!). DH asked if he should reset the trap but I didn't want to have to deal with skunk if it's dumb enough to get caught again overnight.

He says maybe we should just convert the whole house garden area (app. 14x50) to berries but I hate to tie it up all year in 1 crop.

Might have to use electric fence to protect brambles and blueberries from bears - I ran into 1 the other night by the side of garage. Had an electric fence charger from my great uncle but it didn't work.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 7:31PM
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myfamilysfarm

I wouldn't limit myself to 1 crop, too much of chance of that crops' failure and have nothing.

Good we don't have bears, I don't think I'd know what to do, except scream (probably the wrong thing).

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 9:32AM
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2ajsmama

Yeah, you're not supposed to run either but since the pickup was between me and the bear (up on the hill with the blueberries and raspberries) I figured I could scoot into the front garage door - but I hit the keypad to close as I was running under, of course it stopped so then I had to get to back of garage and hit the button there. I guess shouldn't been in that much of a hurry since it would have had to come down hill and get in between the 2 cars in the garage before I got into the house, even if it happened to get under the garage door as it was closing. But that's the closest I've come (about 25ft) - though 1 night a few years ago I opened the back garage door when I heard trash can banging, that was probably also about 25ft (width of garage) but since I just poked my head out I didn't feel as exposed.

Took the bear spray with me when I picked wild raspberries yesterday.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 9:41AM
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myfamilysfarm

Wow!

Hubby going out now with 3 ice cream buckets for WBR (tired of typing out the entire name). I'm on pickle making duty. Then Splenda Strawberry Jam (sold out), then Peach Jelly, Jam and maybe Butter depending on how many peaches we have processed. Also need to pick more and process. Peaches might wait til tomorrow. Should be picking up Blueberries on Friday. Shopping on Wed, who knows for Thurs, probably more berries and peaches.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 9:50AM
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