How do I keep squirrels and rats from eating my grapes?

My beautiful picture

I’m running an experiment this summer on our grape arbor. Using our CritterCam, I’ve photographed both squirrels and rats munching on grapes. I decided to see if either paper bags or plastic clamshell containers would deter the daily and nightly mammalian fruit buffet. Preliminary results:

  • Clamshells don’t work. The fruit fermented, and not in a nice way.
  • Paper bags seem to work, but probably only because I left a lot of the fruit exposed in the hopes that they would eat that first and leave the bagged fruit alone. It’s also hard to tell when the fruit is ripe when it’s in a paper bag.

I’m thinking the long term answer is to make custom fruit cages out of hardware cloth. If the grapes were neatly tended on a vine it would be much easier to net them. Netting is not an option on our arbor.

Look carefully in this image and you can see one of the “perps” reaching out to grab a tasty grape:

My beautiful picture

Have you tackled the mammalian grape buffet issue? How did you deal with it?

So Cal Alert: Polyphagus Shot Hole Borer

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Polyphagus Shot Hole Borer, from UC Riverside’s Eskalen Lab

Seems the greater LA area is ground zero for the introduction of yet another exotic beetle which is killing our our beautiful native oaks and sycamores, our landscape trees, even our beloved avocado trees.

The good news is that the fungal disease propagated by the beetle can be treated if detected early. You’ll need the services of a professional arborist, but the cost of treatment will likely be less than the cost of tearing out a mature tree.

Look at this link to UC Riverside’s Eskalen Lab. Here they have several PDFs on identifying and treating the disease. They also have a map showing the spread of the disease. Of course, these are only reported infections–it could be much more widely spread.

(Note: a separate invasion was recently detected in the commercial avocado groves of San Diego county, so folks further south should be on alert too.)

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049 The Fierce Green Fire: Natural Beekeeper Patrick Pynes

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Our guest this week is organic beekeeper and gardener Patrick Pynes. I met Patrick through a comment he left on a blog post I did about Africanized bees. We talk about this subject as well as top bar hives and what it means to keep bees, as Patrick puts it, “beecentrically.” Patrick’s website is Honeybee Teacher. During the podcast we discuss:

  • Les Crowder
  • The language around beekeeping: “beecentric” vs. anthropocentric approaches to honeybees and “Bee-having” vs. “beekeeping”
  • Dealing with swarms
  • Golden Mean Top Bar hive, which you can see at backyardhive.com
  • Africanized bees
  • Aggression vs. defensiveness
  • Top bar hives and Africanized bees
  • Inspecting bees
  • Advantages of top bar hives
  • Eight frame¬†Langstroth hives with foundationless frames
  • Diseases

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Our Phoebe is gone

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We had to put Phoebe down last night. She was born with serious heart defects, but despite that, was able to live four good years before finally succumbing to kidney failure. The reason she lived so long is because she had a remarkable will to survive. Even at the end, that fire still burned in her eyes, and it killed a part of us to have to put it out.

Making the decision to euthanize a pet is one of the most difficult of decisions to make. We’ve never had to do it before, because our previous pets having been lost in other ways. My heart goes out to all of you who are now remembering putting down your own pets, or who are contemplating that future possibility. Ending suffering is the right thing to do, but oh, it is a hard, hard thing.

I also wanted to thank all of you have given us and Phoebe so much support and love over the years, as you’ve followed her unlikely and miraculous progress through life.

We’re knocked off our feet today. Erik is hurting especially badly, because he and Phoebe were very close, so please forgive us if we go into radio silence for a bit.¬† I should add, too, that Erik is going into surgery for his kidney stones this Friday. It’s been quite the week!

If you listen to our podcast, you can expect it to go up on Thursday or Friday, instead of Wednesday.

Thank you all again, all of you, for your support.

I’m going to going to eulogize Phoebe a bit after the break, more for my own sake than anything else, since I don’t keep a diary. Expect it will be long and maudlin. Bring tissues.

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