Monday, January 19, 2009

How To Deal With Problem Raccoons

There has recently been a discussion on our gardening forum about how to deal with problem raccoons. There are plenty of gardeners who feel that the only good raccoon is a dead raccoon. Now I know that (at least in Florida) there is an over-abundance of raccoons, so many feel that the best thing to do is to kill any problem raccoons that they encounter. As long as someone has compassion and consideration for the animal and makes sure that it has a quick and painless death, and it doesn't suffer undue stress (too many people don't consider that causing an animal fear is cruelty in itself), then I will turn my head and say, "To each his own."

When I worked in my past job in property management, I dealt with many employees and residents who complained about raccoons getting into their garbage. I heard horror stories of residents trapping raccoons, and then drowning them in the lakes. I told more than one that you can't say that raccoons are just stupid, valueless creatures that deserve no consideration and to which you can do anything you wish, and yet say that they are so smart that there is nothing that you can do to prevent them from getting into your garbage and to protect your garden. You can't have it both ways-- it's one or the other. You have to be smarter than them.

For those who wish to take a more patient and understanding approach, here are some suggestions for handling raccoon issues. These suggestions come from the book Total Critter Control.
  • Make garbage less accessible. Store cans in a secure garage, use bungee cords to secure the lid onto the can.
  • To further dissuade coons from your garbage, you can also make it less appetizing by spraying the compound like Ropel on the plastic bags. It is foul tasting, is relatively inexpensive, and is harmless to animals and the environment.
  • Some have found that by offering pet food, they were able to persuade the coons to leave the garden and lawn alone.
  • Coons like grub worms that infest the lawn. An old remedy to keep them off your lawn is to spray the lawn with a mixture of shampoo and ammonia (Hinder is a liquid concentrate that contains the ammonia soaps of fatty acids. It is approved for use on edibles. It can be obtained through a farm supply store or catalog.)
  • Also for grub worms (which is what the coons are after), you can apply milky spore to kill the grubs. Or alter the watering of the lawn, as grubs can't survive in dry soil.
  • Fruit trees: If the tree is isolated so that the coon can't jump from one to another, you can "flash" the tree trunk by putting a collar of slippery metal around the trunk.
  • Coons love dining at small ponds-- they corral fish into a corner of the pond and then grab them. Keep the pond deeper than 2 1/2 feet deep, and they can't do this.
  • Another pond solution is to put 16-18 inch pieces of terra-cotta pipe in the bottom of the pond to give the fish somewhere to hide. After the pipe is in the pond for awhile, the pipes become moss-covered and blend right in.
  • For birdhouses, you can try using a "Bird Guardian", which is a device that is added to the opening of the birdhouse and used to dissuade egg-eaters like coons.
  • To help prevent a coon from making its den in your yard, get a dog or listen to rock music-- many small animals dislike rock music. An outdoor speaker at their nest site can convince them to move on. And they don't like "unnatural" noises in general.
  • To keep coons from using your deck as a nesting or play site, spread mothballs on it or douse it with ammonia. Coons don't like strong odors.
  • If a coon gets in your home, usually you can just leave the windows in the room open, and the coon will find its own way out.
  • Make sure that chimneys are capped to keep out unwanted guests.
  • Trapping is a last-ditch effort, when all other avenues have been tried. Sometimes there is only one problem animal, although many may be joining in, and once the one instigator is removed the others move on. (Keep in mind that only about 50% of relocated animals survive. Once they are relocated, they find themselves in some other animals territory, and must suddenly fight for their own territory, seek out new food and water sources in a strange area, and try to find a new den. Many can't survive this.)
I hope that someone may find these suggestions helpful, and maybe it will spare both a raccoon and a homeowner some pain and heartache. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all learn to coexist?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Trying to avoid Monsanto seeds? Good luck...

I was checking out Freedom Gardens network, and came across a discussion about Monsanto, which I posted about earlier. They have found that there are a LOT of Monsanto seeds out there being sold under names you are familiar with, like Cook's, Burpee and Spring Hill's.

If you are avoiding Monsanto seeds, you may want to stick with purchasing seeds through Seed Saver's, Seed's of Change or other seed-saving networks.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Name, Same Goal

I've renamed the blog from "Survivalist Gardening" to "Freedom Gardening". This blog began because of a forum posting on the GardenWeb that referred to "Survivalist Gardening" and which had a big response by users on the forum. It became apparent that this struck a chord with many users.

However the term never quite fit me. After all, I'm not really a "survivalist"-- at least not the vision that such a term conjures up. I've always been interested in survival techniques and pioneering tactics. As I've grown older and the world has become less stable and secure, I've become quite interested in empowering myself however I can; in making myself less dependent however I can. But survivalist? Not really...

Towards this end, I've become more and more interested in growing my own food and working towards becoming less dependent on modern society. I've been seeking the freedom of independence.

So, in trying to think of a more suitable name for the blog, I came up with "Freedom Gardening" as the term that most suited how I feel about this process.

Then I decided to Google the term, to find out whether this had already become a popular term without my knowledge. Were others feeling the same way that I was?

Sure enough, I found a number of references to it. The most interesting of these was to a website called "Freedom Gardens". No way! There is a whole website full of people who are seeking the same sort of freedom through growing their own food?

Thousands of members from around the world, various groups like Vegetarians and Vegans, Florida Gardeners, Homesteading Newbies and Compost Nuts, as well as a forum. It appears to be relatively young in its growth, but seems to have great potential for the future. I've joined up, and hope that others may follow in my stead.

And, in the immortal words of Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart: "Freedom!" (through gardening)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ohio Family Home Raided By Government for Their Food

An Ohio family who runs a food co-op out of their home has found their home invaded by agriculture officials who confiscated their computers and much of their food supply, including the families own personal food store.

See the full story here and a video made by the homeowners John and Jacqueline Stowers about the incident on the Buckeye Institute blog.

Thanks to Goodness Gracious Acres for turning us on to this story.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange Tree Sale

The Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange (CRFE) is holding their annual tree sale on February 14, 2009 at Terry Park off of Palm Beach Blvd in Fort Myers.

The CRFE has monthly meetings on the first Tuesday of every month at 7:30 PM. The group meets in the meeting rooms at the back of the Lee County Extension Office at 3406 Palm Beach Blvd in Terry Park. Parking is in the back.

Meetings consist of speakers on different topics, there is an exchange table for swapping plants with other members, and a tasting table where you can try unusual fruits. The group also goes on tours of nurseries, member's gardens, parks, etc. They also have a monthly newsletter sharing recipes, tips, advice, etc.

Membership dues are $10 per year, plus $5 the first year for your name tag.

If interested in joining or if you have any questions, you may contact the CRFE at 543-9910.

The tree sale will run 9 AM until 3 PM on February 14th. I believe that representatives from ECHO may also be in selling plants at this show.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Far-Reaching Arms of Monsanto

You may not be familiar with the name, as I was not, but I'm sure you are familiar with some of their products. Most familiar is their weedkiller Roundup. They also have developed seeds that sprout plants that are unaffected by Roundup, so that farmers can use the product on their crops.

Vanity Fair
has done a great article on this company, and their heavy-handed and bullying ways. They trounce upon people's liberties left and right, and it seems they can't be stopped.

It's a long article of about six pages, but it is well worth your time to make yourself aware of this company's business practices. Boycott, boycott, boycott!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Florida Arbor Day

Florida celebrates Arbor Day the third Friday of January. This year we will be celebrating it on January 16th. We all know of the national Arbor Day that occurs later in the year, but Florida trees need to be protected from the heat during establishment. Therefore Florida celebrates Arbor Day in January, taking advantage of the cooler temps.

Arbor Day reminds us of the importance of trees in our environment. Trees are very important in helping to reduce air pollution, conserve energy, regulate climate and beautify.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide (we've all heard the problems with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and greenhouse gases), and in turn release oxygen into the atmosphere.

They are also very important in regulating rainfall and climate.

So why not do your part and plant a tree or shrub on Florida Arbor Day or Arbor Day weekend? When planting take into consideration:

  • The eventual size of the tree or shrub. Be careful of planting too close to cement or the home or other trees if it will grow to be a large tree.
  • The location: Will it get too much sun or too little? Will it be a large shade tree? If so, be sure to place it where you hope to someday have shade. If it is a shade tree, are there other trees nearby that may suffer in coming years under its shade?
  • Water requirements: Try to go native, or at least plant a tree or shrub that will be drought-resistant. If it needs watering, make sure to plant it near an available water source. Don't plant it in the front yard if there is no hose to water it with!
  • Root aggressiveness: Be wary of root aggressive trees like ficus benjamina, weeping willow, bamboo and Cypress. They can damage concrete, foundations and septic systems. I found a pretty good article from New York about planting around septic systems. Trees with aggressive roots should be carefully placed.
  • Deciduous vs. Evergreen: If you are planting a deciduous tree, you may want to plant it around evergreens, to give it more attractive appeal in winter.
  • Invasive vs. Non-invasive: Avoid planting invasive trees or shrubs, which are harmful to the local environment and native species. Seek out natives or non-invasive species to complement your yard.

If you are, like many of us, working on Arbor Friday, please don't let that stop you. Arbor Day continues through the weekend. Get planning and get planting!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rain Barrel Workshop

Are you interested in starting a rain barrel at your place, but aren't quite sure how to get started, or perhaps want some ideas for making your rain barrel a little more "interesting"? Check out your local extension for possible classes. The Lee County extension regularly holds Rain Barrel Workshops. I've added the workshops to the calendar on this website.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept, a rain barrel is just what it sounds like. It is a "barrel" (or some sort of collection system) designed to collect rainwater for use in watering lawns and gardens. A rain barrel can save a homeowner a substantial amount of water use during peak summer months.

Check out Wikipedia for some information on how to build your own, or attend an upcoming workshop to learn more about rain barrels. The next weekend workshop in Lee County will be March 28th. See the calendar for further details.

1st Meeting of the SE Florida Survivalist Gardeners

Claudia (ibelieve on the GardenWeb) will be hosting the first gathering of the SE FL Survivalist Gardeners (okay, so that isn't necessarily the official name, but it's what I'm calling it) on Sunday, February 1st at her place. There may be someone on hand at the meeting to discuss planting a raised bed.

Please contact Claudia at for further details or directions.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Gardening Calendar

I just wanted to mention that I put together a gardening calendar for myself, based on the recommendations of the Lee County Extension, and I have shared it on my other blog Weedy Garden. If you have a hard time remembering when to complete certain projects in your garden, maybe my calendar will be helpful. It is based on Zone 10b, but is probably useful to most of South Florida.

The calendar may be found at the lower right-side of the Weedy Garden blog.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Food Swap

I was thinking about my mango tree, and the possibility that it could produce much more than I could ever eat. I was thinking how great it would be to be able to swap excess food for things that I was lacking. A "food swap", of sorts. A group of people get together, they each bring produce, preserves, plants, crafts, etc., and then they swap. Is there such a thing? Surely there must be?

I did a Google search and did turn up an article about some people in England who did this. A group of 160 people met, all of them bearing foodstuffs of some sort, to trade and barter. Fruit and vegetables, tartlets, beer, chutney, sausage-- all sorts of foodstuffs. No money is permitted at a swap-- it is purely bartering.

A woman is quoted in the article as saying, "“We are trying to find alternative ways of people getting food in a way that fosters a sense of community. Our box scheme is a pick-up scheme, not a delivery one, so people can meet and talk."

Now they've got the right idea! My mouth is watering just thinking about a gathering where everyone has brought homegrown produce and goodies like homemade bread, pickles and preserves. Yum!

I'm all for this idea. If I can become a successful gardener, I'll next be working on my skills of persuasion, and seeing what I can do to convince others of the merits of a food swap. Do I hear a second?

Independence in 2009

I came across this article on Casaubon's Book, and thought that it was very well written and inspiring. She issues a challenge for herself and everyone to work towards independence, which I think is what my own blog is all about. It is what all "survivalist gardeners" are striving for: independence from supermarkets and waste and modern convenience. To live life with purpose and true freedom.

I came across a quote the other day that I found personally moving and profound.
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.  Ralph Waldo Emerson
So, while I am going to try my own Independence Days challenge inspired by Casaubon's Book (although my goal is to do one thing at least weekly, as I work full time and don't have a large homestead, and am still unpacking, so daily would be a real strain), I am also extending myself a personal Purpose Challenge: To continually work towards a more purposeful life, a life of honor and compassion, and to live life well. I want to continually work on becoming a "better person": More patient and kind and well-tempered and understanding.

I issue a challenge to myself to not only be independent of modern society, but to be independent of my modern self. To rise above the strife and stress and rushed hours, and stop and think before I speak, to remember that Golden Rule to treat others as I would like to be treated, and to learn the patience that I have lost over years of life's stresses.

And I issue a challenge to everyone to challenge themselves, in whatever way that best suits them. We all have certain "challenges" in life and in our personalities, and I issue each of you a challenge to work towards recognizing them and overcoming them.

Happy New Year, and let's make 2009 a year of purpose and success!