Osage Orange or Hedge Apple

This fall we’ve noticed Osage Orange fruits for sale in grocery stores and roadside stands. They are fascinating and have a delightful fresh citrus scent.

These are often called Hedge Apples, and many people call the tree they grow on Hedge. More properly the tree is called an Osage Orange and the fruits are Osage Oranges. To add confusion some people, call the tree Bodark because its springy tough wood was once used to make bows.

The Osage Orange once lived in a relatively small area of Texas and Oklahoma but because it is tough, drought resistant, and thorny it was commonly planted in places outside its native range. The tree’s branches twist in many directions with thorn-studded twigs. When planted in a row, the trees created a living fence that cattle wouldn’t cross. In the days before barbed wire was invented millions of Osage Oranges were planted for fences.

The wood is hard and heavy and is outstanding for firewood, but cutting it is challenging because of all the thorns.

Does a Hedge Apple in the basement keep insects away?  Many people think so and annually buy or collect a few. We think it’s an ineffective way to keep out insects and find caulking entry points better for excluding bugs from our home.

In recent years an oil extracted from hedge apples has been used in shampoo and hair conditioners, and many people love the product. It is marketed as POMIFERA in honor of the tree’s Latin name Maclura pomifera.  Todd Johnson, a native Bloomfield, Iowan, has cashed in on the Hedge Apple industry.   

Hungry squirrels sometimes eat the seeds hidden inside hedge apples and livestock sometimes dine on them but they are inedible to humans.

There’s no harm in putting a few hedge apples in the basement but don’t count on them to keep away bugs.

Possum visits

Below is a guest blog by Arianne Waseen about a visit by an opossum.  Thanks, Arianne!

Possum

“Possum come aknockin’ at the door.”

“I went out in the afternoon a few weeks ago to look for eggs.  I opened up the large door on the front of our coop, and in the nest box was something grey and furry and curled up in a little ball.  My first thought was that it was a cat, but looking more closely it was definitely possum fur.  I yelled and jumped a bit, and ran in to tell my husband and mother-in-law to come take a look.  By the time we got back the possum had woken up.  We opened up a little door we have at the back of the nest box and my mother in law encouraged the possum to jump down by prodding it with a broom from the front of the nest box.  It jumped down and ran off.  The opossum has come back a few times, and while it has not harmed our chickens, we are getting fewer eggs than we should be, and the possum has suspiciously glossy fur.”

Ringneck Pheasants Give Lesson to Landowners

This fall thousands of hunters will bring millions of ringneck pheasants home to be converted into delicious meals. Pheasants have been around so long that many people think of them as native birds. They’re not but they provide a lesson on how to structure a modern yard to attract wildlife.

In the 1880s Judge Owen Denny was stationed as a government agent in China. He and his wife took a fancy to colorful and tasty pheasants, which are native to Asia. They had some captured and shipped to Portland, Oregon where Denny’s brother released them on the family farm.  They reproduced like crazy, and just ten years later Oregon opened the nation’s first pheasant season. About 50,000 were shot.

Pheasants began spreading out on their own and people speeded the process by capturing many and releasing them all over the country. The birds never took hold in the hot humid south but thrived in northern farmland that was a patchwork of grain and hayfields separated by brushy fence rows. By the mid-1900s they were abundant in the Midwest and eastward to the Atlantic wherever farms provided the right habitat.

Pheasants live near human activity. They love farmland yet shun forests. The bird did well until enormous changes in agriculture took place in recent years.

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Keeping Bugs Out of the House

At Winding Pathways, we take joy in fall’s colorful leaves, cool days, and clear air, but we know insects are on the move.

Box Elder Bugs, Asian Beetles, other insects and spiders, and mice all sense that frigid air is on the way and seek shelter from the cold. Houses offer secure nooks and crannies to hide in and central heat to keep them toasty warm. Houses also imitate natural wintering places. Asian beetles, for example, naturally winter in the cracks of rock outcroppings. So, a house makes a perfect substitute.

Caulking Tool

Filling a Crack

Homeowners have options for reducing winter insect infestations. Many turn to insecticides when they spot beetles or bugs clustering on interior windows and walls.   We avoid poison and opt for nontoxic solutions.

At Winding Pathways, we simply make it hard for bugs and mice to enter.  We can’t keep all of them out but we greatly reduce their numbers.  Here’s what we do before the first frost:

 

  • Load a tube of exterior caulk into our caulking gun and inspect our house’s exterior. We squirt caulk into every crack and hole in the siding. Likely bug entry points are where wires, cables, and pipes enter the house and around door and window frames. Often old caulk has split or fallen out, so we replace it. We also inspect thresholds to make sure there is no space beneath doors for bugs to enter. Sometimes we need to replace weather stripping around doors and windows.
  • Keep most firewood outside. We used to bring several days’ worth of firewood inside to make feeding our woodstove convenient but insects, like mosquitoes, hitchhiked on the cordwood and then roamed around the house. We now keep the wood in the cold just outside the door and only bring in a few pieces at a time when we need to feed the fire.
  • There’s an added benefit to excluding insects and mice. The holes and cracks they use to squeeze into the house also invite in winter’s cold air. Sealing them up keeps the house warm and lets us use less fuel in our furnace and wood stove.
  • Cleanse houseplants. We move some houseplants outside for the summer and bring them back indoors before the first frost, but insects can ride the plants into our home.  To prevent this, we carefully clean and repot plants. Master Gardener, Tina Patterson, had an excellent column in The Gazette, Living Section, Sunday, October 1, 2017, that describes in detail ways to safely clean your plants and keep them healthy inside all winter. We have reprinted this with permission of the Gazette, Linn County Master Gardeners Program, and Tina Patterson.

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Managing Deer and Deer Hunters

Many landowners face challenges caused by abundant deer. This animal evolved under heavy predation by wolves, bears, mountain lions, and Native American hunters. Their survival strategy, in addition to being well camouflaged and fleet, is to have many babies. A healthy doe normally bears one fawn when she is just one year old and twins or triplets in subsequent years. Wild predators have been extirpated but deer continue to reproduce at a rapid rate. When they are too numerous, over browsing of crops, trees, shrubs, and wildflowers devastates ecosystems. Deer numbers need to be kept in balance with their habitat to protect natural beauty and devastation.

Modern hunting is an effective substitute for predators. Deer hunting is popular but many hunters, or potential hunters, lack a place to hunt. Many landowners suffer deer damage but don’t hunt.

Successful match making between hunters and landowners can work toward their mutual benefit. However, the relationship is most successful when hunters are managed by the landowners with expectations clearly articulated BEFORE permission is granted to access property.

Most hunters are ethical but they sometimes stretch understandings, especially verbal ones.  For example, if a landowner gives permission for one person to hunt, he/she sometimes assumes that gives them license to invite their relatives or friends to hunt the property.  And, they may assume that this is perpetual permission and that they can hunt any species at any legal time without additional permission.  Also, to control deer populations it is essential to harvest does, yet many hunters seek only big bucks. Landowners using hunting as a management tool may need to insist that does be taken.

Attached is a sheet of expectations that a landowner might present to anyone wishing to hunt.  It articulates expectations and clarifies the relationship between landowner and hunter.

 

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Harvesting Deer for Meat Series

This week Winding Pathways will feature two blogs that cover the “ins and outs” of harvesting deer, landowner responsibilities and a sample agreement between landowners and deer hunters. This blog includes The Law, Equipment, and Ways to Process a Deer. The next blog on this topic will cover how landowners can manage hunters on their land and a sample agreement form.

Eating Deer

Frustrated homeowners often discover their landscape plants, flowers, and vegetables devoured by hungry urban and suburban deer.

Although we can find them annoying, deer are amazing. Deer are resourceful and adaptable. In many rural areas, their former habitat has been transformed into seas of corn, soybeans, or other crops. The hedgerows, woodlots, and brushy patches that once offered deer shelter have disappeared. So, they moved into town.

Many suburban and even urban areas offer a perfect place for deer to live. Parks and protected natural areas have secure places to live, and vegetable gardens, flower beds, and fruit trees are outstanding deer food. It’s no wonder so many towns are home to robust deer herds.

Although most people love seeing wildlife and enjoy having a few deer around when the garden is raided attitudes change quickly. In response, Winding Pathways and many garden books and blogs offer tips on how to protect trees and plants from hungry deer. Some hardly work, while others, especially secure fencing around gardens, keep deer out. Unfortunately keeping the hungry animals at bay is a never-ending and sometimes expensive task.

Many gardeners are proud to produce local organic vegetables. They might consider the deer that raid their garden a local, organic, free-ranging source of delicious meat.  When done according to state and local laws, converting a deer to family food in no way threatens deer herds. They rapidly reproduce, making deer a perpetual and sustainable food source.

Killing, dressing, and preparing deer meat is an unknown and somewhat mysterious process for suburbanites who have no experience with bows or firearms or converting a live animal to a meal. This blog will give them a basic idea how to do it.

To us shooting a deer is food gathering, much like picking spring nettles or mulberries.  We view deer as an opportunity to harvest local, organic, free-range meat.  

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