Thursday, July 8, 2010

Caging the Fruit Trees

My land has a new name: The Berry Farm. Not really new for the land, but new for me. I was recently talking to the woman from whom I bought the land, and she said she called it the Berry Farm, because there were so many berries growing wild there. I was going to call it The Junipers because of the large old juniper trees growing around the old farm house, but my husband thought that sounded pretentious. I suppose it might, a little, even though it's an accurate description. But the Berry Farm sounds very wholesome.

My husband has never seen the Berry Farm and never wants to. He is, he says, a creature of the city. Still, I value his opinion, and after all the land is half his under the Texas community property law.

So ... back to the saga of the Lone Woman against the Voracious Grasshoppers

I couldn't bear the thought of letting all the fruit trees be killed by grasshoppers without at least making an effort. About 6 weeks ago, I made a screen cage to fit over a young fig tree that had been completely defoliated by the hoppers, its stem eaten down to a nub. Here's what it looks like now:

The screen cage was such a huge success, it seemed worth trying on the other fruit trees. So I made cages for all the apple, pear, and peach trees.  Here's a poor little apple tree, with the girdled branches and top removed:

The poultry wire frame was already in place. After I shot the photo, I wrapped the wire frame with aluminum screen (fiberglass would have been easier to work with, but the f---kers would chew right through it. I had some clothes hanging to dry the other day the other day, and found a hopper eating a hole in a silk shirt.)

Here's a photo of some of the young trees in their protective cages:

The trees are placed so that there will be a little space in between the crowns when they're mature (if the poor little things live to grow up).  The soil is loamy sand that drains quickly. I don't want the trees competing too viciously with each other for water, so I've planted them a bit farther apart than one might place trees in a standard orchard. The cylindrical sliver object in the mid-foreground is an upside down garbage can I was using as a portable table for my supplies.

I've been living the lawyer part of my life in San Antonio since Tuesday. I'm eager but also a little scared to go to the Berry Farm tomorrow. Will there be new leaves? Or will the hoppers have found a way in to continue their destructive work?

Just for fun ...

Here's the view from my shady chair where I sit and eat watermelon and toss the rinds for the hens to gobble down:

See? There are still some pretty spots here and there that the hoppers have not destroyed. They don't like impatiens and vinca. They'll nibble on the hoja santa and datura but don't eat them all up. They don't like castor bean at all. Maybe it's as poisonous to insects as it is to mammals. Some people say that if you plant stuff the hoppers hate, they'll leave your other stuff alone, but I have not found that to be true. There was a little pear tree planted close to a castor bean tree. The latter is now lush and beautiful, while the pear tree has been stripped bare and many of its branches girdled.

And, as an antidote to a horrible video I watched last week about factory-farm hens kept in cages so small they can't even stand up ... here's one of the Berry Farm hens going about her business.


  1. I love reading about your life on The Berry Farm!

    Your husband reminds me of my sisters. They won't visit my blog. He won't visit your farm.

    Although maybe he can read your blog ABOUT the farm. That would count for something ; )

    I hope your visit to the farm brings good news, and not images of grasshopper destruction.

    We had a cute one hitching a ride on Tim's car. As Tim often says of any creature is cute. Masses of them are creepy.

    Anyway, I send well wishes to all your fruit.

  2. Dina! Thanks for stopping by! Yes, my husband does look at my farm blog. He likes to hear what I'm doing, and see photos. He just doesn't want to BE here, with the snakes and mozzies and grass burrs and other things that are not human-friendly. I agree with Tim about the cuteness of one creature and the creepiness of masses of them. I would have to include humans -- one, or even a few are lovely, but masses of them can become very ugly.

  3. My husband also suffers from terrible neck pain and headaches from riding in a car for more than 15 minutes or so. If we had train service between Luling and San Antonio, I think he'd probably visit the Berry Farm from time to time.

  4. Blankety-blank. I didn't know grasshoppers would GIRDLE tree limbs. You must have a plague of them. I've seen a lot of them in our part of the Hill Country and had a some damage but nothing like you're talking about. You need a swarm of birds to keep grasshopper balance.

  5. I definitely have a plague! The chickens keep their population way down in the area near the hen house, but they don't seem all that interested in moving over to where the fruit trees are. Maybe I should build a new hen house in the orchard.