Saturday, May 15, 2010

tis the season...

After having Bonzo-Bear do a neighborhood walk through this evening and manthing seeing another one of our seasonal pals the other day, I thought it might be a good time to do a repost on bear awareness.
It reminded me that soon  our "bear season" is upon us. By bear season I do not mean  hunting them  but  rather the season that we are more likely to encounter  them both at our homes, especially those of us that are rural, as well as  while we are out and about enjoying mother nature. It  also reminded me that while they are wonderful creatures that there are a few things that we need to remember during bear season in order to  keep ourselves, our homes and homesteads , and our outdoor adventures safe from  the wild life while at the same time hopefully  giving the wildlife  a better chance at remaining wild life and not  just another casualty of  the "stupid humans." 

I use the saying "to feed a bear is to kill a bear" because  here in Ga atleast  any bear that becomes a nuisance bear is  killed if it is in a residential area or puts people at risk. The DNR used to  move them once from the area and  put a collar on them to monitor but in the last year or two it has been decided that our estimated  population of 2500 bears is plenty for the state thus they enacted the kill policies.This includes  cubs that are left motherless for whatever reason. 

problems that arise from  fed bears   
 A fed bear can become aggressive (bolder) in seeking more food and may injure the person hand-feeding it.   

Problems can arise when a person uses food to lure a very hungry half-tame bear closer than it feels comfortable.

Often, fearful people jerk their hand back each time a bear opens its mouth to take food from it,some bears just give up and leave, but very hungry bears will become aggressive and go after the food.   

Or, the bear might feed calmly from the person's hand until the food is gone then suddenly feel crowded and might be too fearful to turn its back and leave, and it might lash out defensively giving someone a slap with one of its paws.Those paws are very strong and have very sharp  claws in them by instinct  when a bear swipes it sticks its claws out and pulls inward with  a lot of strength. Ask me how I know.:)

Bears are naturally afraid of humans, but may become "habituated" or accustomed to people along popular hiking trails, camping areas, tourist towns in the mtns, subdivisions being built, etc. Keep the area safe for humans and bears by never feeding or approaching bears. Should a bear come near you he is most likely curious or smells something interesting. A bears nose is  over 7 times  stronger than that of a dog.  If he stands up, he is not going to attack but is trying to get a better look or smell. Bear attacks are extremely rare and by comparison a person is about 70 times more likely to be killed by a dog.

 Extra caution should be used around a mama bear and her young. Much like every other type of mother out there, when it comes to her babies she is very protective and will become aggressive when  she feels they are in danger.

   Bears are powerful and strong animals, they should always be treated with caution and respect

Bears that become comfortable near people and communities are also more likely to get involved in a traffic accident and this could possibly cause injury or death to both the people in the vehicle and the bear.

around the homestead

  The most common food attractants are bird feeders, garbage, and pet food, but grills, livestock food, compost, and beehives can also attract bears.
 Residential bear problems may occur at any time of year, but are more common when natural food supplies are limited, usually in spring or in years when nut and berry productions are low.

 Most common bear problems have simple solutions. The typical problems involve turned-over garbage containers,trash littered across the yard, bears entering dog pens or coming onto porches to eat pet foods, or damaged bird feeders. However, bears that learn to associate food with people can cause property damage in their search for food around houses. Again, ask me how  I know.

If addressed quickly, problems are often resolved immediately. After a few failed attempts to find food, bears will usually leave the area and return to more normal wild food items.

If problems are ignored, property damage can not only get worse, but bears may lose their fear of humans. Bears habituated to humans pose public safety concerns and end up dead.

Black bears have a natural fear of humans, are shy, and usually avoid people. However, bears may be attracted to food sources in residential areas.

 Secure your garbage: Store garbage indoors,in a shed,in a garage, or in a bear-proof container.
  Put garbage out in the morning of pickup, not the night before.
   Take trash to the dump frequently.
    Pick up pet food: Feed pets only what they will eat in a single feeding or feed them indoors. Remove the food bowl soon after pets finish. Pick up uneaten food. Do not leave food out overnight.
  Remove the bird feeder! Bears consume seeds and nuts found in the wild, so bird feeders become a favored target for bears. Bears eat about an 85%  vegetarian diet. Use bird feeders that have special clips so that you can bring them in at night.
  Clean the outdoor grill often.
  Do not put meat scraps or any other strong-smelling food in the compost pile. Consider an enclosed compost bin.
   Pick up and remove ripe fruit from fruit trees and surrounding grounds.
  Install electric fencing to protect beehives, dumpsters, gardens, compost piles, or other potential food sources.
  Talk to your neighbors: Make sure your neighbors and community are aware of the ways to prevent nuisance bear problems. One person not following the simple preventive measures in a neighborhood can cause the entire area grief.

If a bear is on or near your property, do not escalate the situation by approaching,crowding around, or chasing the bear. This also applies to bears that have climbed up a tree. The best thing you can do is leave it alone. Because bears are naturally afraid of humans, a bear that feels cornered will be looking for an escape route. By keeping people and pets away from the bear, you give it the best chance to come down from the tree and leave your property on its own.

Camping and hiking  tips
  Familiarize yourself with bear behavior and signs.

If camping, learn various ways of hanging food out of bears' reach, including counter-balances.

 Be sure tent, sleeping bags, and your skin are free of any lingering food odors.

 Avoid packing odorous food and nonfood (fragrant cosmetic, toiletries, etc.)items. Use bear-proof containers, doubled plastic bags or airtight canisters to seal in odors.
 Bring extra bags for leftovers and for packing out garbage, if necessary.

 Avoid taking a dog or keep it leashed

Remain on trail and never hike at night.

 Always stay alert.

 Discard garbage in bear-proof trash containers or pack out in sealed plastic bags. Leave no trace.

 Don't surprise a bear, especially a mama with cubs! Use caution when traveling in windy weather,down-wind, approaching blind curves, dense vegetation, and noisy streams, where a bear may not see, smell or hear you coming.

 Circling birds and/or offensive odors may indicate an animal carcass - avoid this area or use extreme caution.

 Never leave any food or backpack unattended.Hang all food stuff and toiletries etc atleast 10 foot in the air between two trees  12 foot apart.

Choose an open site away from dense vegetation, natural food areas, forest cover, or natural pathways Avoid messy sites and areas with bear sign: torn apart logs, tracks, trampled brush, scat, claw marks on trees.

Wash dishes and utensils immediately. Dispose of waste water downwind,100 feet from sleeping area or use a grey water pit and cover your thrown out water with soil.

If you  encounter a bear
     If a bear approaches you, stay calm.
 ABSOLUTELY DO NOT RUN (running may elicit a chase response in the bear).
 Pick up small children so they don't run, scream or panic.
 Gather the group together and restrain your dog.

 Let the bear know you are human; talk in a soothing voice. Lift arms overhead to look bigger.

 Slowly back away and avoid direct eye contact with the bear.

 If the bear lunges, snaps his jaws, slaps ground or brush with paw, he feels threatened. You are too close.

 The bear may also suddenly rush forward and stop as a "bluffing" tactic to intimidate you to leave; momentarily hold your ground, then keep backing away and talking softly.

 Don't crowd the bear; leave him a clear escape route.

 Retreat from the area or make a very wide detour around the bear.

  If he continues to follow you, stand your ground and yell, clap your hands, wave your arms, or throw something toward him. Repeat until he leaves.

 As a last resort - drop something like a hat to distract him but avoid tossing him food or your backpack as he will quickly learn to confront other humans for food rewards.
Remember enjoy the wild life but remember they are still wild. Lets keep them that way!

for more info check out
 And if you live in an area with venomous snakes be mindful of where you walk  and stick your hands

2010 garden- a walk through -5-13

pea pickin

Some would call the process of pea pickin frustrating.  Searching out all the just developing thin green pods from the plants themselves is much like trying to solve one of those "what is different" pictures or at least for me it is. I look at the plants as they all blend into huge piles of pea  greenery mess because those dang tendrils never grasp on to the trellis you provide for  them, instead they grasp the neighboring plant (now that I think about it, it is much like the hair dreading process). The flowers do stick out   amongst the greenery unfortunately where the flowers are is not where the ripe harvest is as the flowers drop off just before they are ready. Needless to say pea picking means scanning the vines, plucking the ones that stick out ( and then repetitive scanning and very gently moving the plants around to look down in the mess. Of course this itself is a chore not only because of those dang tendrils but pea plants are incredibly wimpy and fragile and  will snap off with the slightest bit of movement in the wrong direction. It doesn't matter how long  we sit n stare into the green we always miss a few to come back the next day to a fully developed behemoth size pod that we look at  and wonder how we happened to miss THAT.

Over the years rather than be frustrated with  combing the pea vines I have learned there is something  magical about it. I suppose I could insert the word zenful  but we live in a zen free zone here on the homestead (don't ask why),so it is simply magical. The key to it is relaxing and concentrating fully on the task at hand. I liken it to a meditation of sorts where I completely lose myself into the task at hand enjoying the scents and sounds coming from with in the mass of plants. It is relaxing, stress relieving  and comforting to me and has become my excuse to go play in the garden at any given moment in the early summer months.

We have just begun harvesting peas in large enough amounts that I can begin dehydrating them along with having some to throw in our meals.  I don't tend to weigh things since we don't   have a scale and I find it easier to measure things by the meal rather than weight. I find that it gives me a better idea on things when I know I have 64 meals preserved in some fashion as opposed to 27 pounds of something preserved. Three pounds of greens is much different than three pounds of  carrots. Most of the peas that we are not eating fresh this season will be dehydrated. Although  I prefer frozen peas over dehydrated, we are trying our best to eliminate the freezer (again) this year. It was a goal we failed miserably at last season  and are really trying to accomplish this one.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

garden 2010-stir fry greens

Yesterday I decided to harvest the remainder of the stir fry greens as they were all beginning to go to seed and doing so in a hurry. I had harvested a couple grocery size bags full the prior day and was hoping to be able to let the rest grow a while longer and continue using them fresh rather than freezing because  frozen greens  are not one of our favorite dishes. Unfortunately I can't force the plants into anything and harvesting them became necessary.

I froze 8 gallons of the greens and kept a couple meals out for the week.  All total from the hot tub full of greens we got about 30 meals or significant portions of meals.Not too shabby for a 4x4 plot or there about.  After pulling the greens I worked the soil  and direct seeded some "tiny tom" tomatoes that were gifted to me and carrots in it.

The greens were nice but not  something I would want an entire hot tub full again any time soon. I am not a huge green eater to begin with and one of the greens in the mix was stringy when  stir fried. I actually preferred them in a salad mix or as a wilted green dish rather than in a stir fry or on their own   The mix also had too many mustard greens in it. We grow them on their own  and not exactly something I would think of in an Asian  stir fry mix.  I should have planted  a month or so earlier than I did  and then cover on the coldest nights. These were planted mid march and were going to seed already, I think  if I planted earlier we would have probably doubled the production from the plot of them. I  do think they would make a good GH crop for over wintering so will  probably try a  small plot of them in there this fall.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


If we could judge progress by the messes we make, I think we are quite progressive!

Monday, May 10, 2010

I am so cheap-old fan/ wick garden

A while  back I posted about  wanting to make a garden of tin cans and old clothes.   The other day the fan in the GH crapped out and while trying to decide what to do with it I had an idea! Scary ain't it? I could take the innards out,  put the grate back on and make a  small wick garden of it.

It was really simple to make and took all of about 10 minutes to put together or would that be deconstruct and put together. It cost absolutely nothing to make as the bed is the fan box, liner and wick were old tarp and  rags, the cans  have been sitting here waiting to be recycled for years as was the bleach bottle waterer   and the compost  and leaves were from here. Even the seeds were from some I saved. This would make a really good project with a group of kids as it doesn't take much time yet  can teach them so much.

To make it  all  I did was take the motor and blades out of the fan and replace one grate . I lined the bottom with an old piece of tarp and then laid the rags on top. I tossed some bent up old cans in and then  drilled one hole in the bottom of the bleach bottle and  placed it in one corner of the bed.  I then  spread a thin layer of compost and soil,  mulched with leaves and planted some basil seeds. To finish it off I filled the bleach container with water. If I wanted to pretty it up I suppose I could paint it with something cute.

Just when you think I have disappeared off the face of the earth, here I am.  I am a terrible blogger personthing but not as bad as I am as a diarist or letter writer. I have no real good excuse for not writing a peep over the last week  and a few days other than I had better things to do. No offense  meant of course, it is just how life on a homestead is.  We have our down times  where we spend most of our time parked inside the shack plugged into the world and then there are times when we are busy  nearly  from sun up to sun down followed by dinner and evening chores. We have also been paying quite a bit of attention to both the oil spoil and the horrific weather across the country over the last week  or so and quite frankly  the spoil has me in a sour mood and wanting to go on a big rant but I am trying to spare anyone having to read my feelings on the whole thing.

  Being that it is planting and garden tending time we were most definitely running at full bore for a few days. Everything is now planted but the tobacco,we will begin planting that in the  next week and stagger plantings over the course of a month or so. When we have needed a break from gardening there have been other normal chores to do and we have been working on trashing out the old 5th wheel camper and gleaning what we can in the process.What a nasty job! When I needed a break from all of that I  day dreamed, plotted, schemed and built a couple new gardens from garbage.

Thankfully today we are having just enough of a rain to call it  a rain out and I can get caught up on a few things, download pics and post about some of what has been going on around the homestead  over the last several days.